Do Your Remote Workers Have Effective Communication Tools?

Stats on employees working from homedowload a printable PDF of this article: Eliminate MPLSIn a recent survey conducted by research firm Inavero, hiring managers predict that 38 percent of their full-time, permanent employees will primarily work remotely in the next 10 years. The survey, conducted on behalf of freelancing website Upwork, found that 63 percent of companies today have remote workers, and more expect to embrace flexible workstyles. This can provide key benefits—as long as remote workers have effective communication tools.

More than half (52 percent) of hiring managers surveyed said that talent shortages are the key driver for adopting more flexible workforce policies. By enabling employees to work from home or a small satellite office, organizations gain access to a larger talent pool. Remote workers tend to be more productive than their office-bound peers, and are able to serve local customers better. They also tend to be happier and more satisfied in their jobs, reducing turnover and further relieving talent shortages.

But it’s not enough to simply allow employees to work from home—organizations must provide remote workers with the right technology resources. Effective communication and collaboration tools are especially important, particularly for workers who interface directly with customers. It’s not realistic to expect remote workers to use their cell phones, personal land lines or consumer-grade collaboration solutions.

Voice over IP (VoIP) and unified communications (UC) platforms make it possible to extend the headquarters phone system to small office / home office (SOHO) workers. However, the vast majority of these workers are going to have basic broadband Internet connections. The Internet is a “best effort” transport medium, meaning that data packets are delivered when they’re delivered. When you connect to VoIP and UC systems via the Internet, you often get garbled calls, echoes and other Quality of Service (QoS) issues.

case study of insurance nonprofit having trouble with VoIPInsurance Group Ensures Call Quality and Reliability for Remote Employees

That was the problem plaguing the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group, a group of nonprofit insurance organizations that provide reasonably priced property and casualty insurance exclusively to other nonprofits. The Santa Cruz, California-based group has approximately 100 employees serving more than 17,000 nonprofit organizations in 32 states and Washington, D.C.

Half of those employees work from remote locations across the U.S., and they were struggling with unreliable, poor-quality VoIP services that made it difficult to deliver high-quality service to their customers. The problem wasn’t the group’s ShoreTel phone system—it was connectivity between headquarters and the remote sites.

The group decide to test InSpeed Quality Service (IQS) in the remote offices of several employees. The difference was night and day. IQS is a unique software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solution that was purpose-built for business communications. A small onsite appliance automatically connects to the InSpeed cloud and begins monitoring and streamlining Internet traffic. InSpeed’s patented technology prioritizes voice and videoconferencing traffic to ensure high-quality communication over any Internet connection. And the solution is so cost-efficient and easy-to-manage that it can be used for SOHO workers.

The group’s management team was so pleased that they immediately placed an order for 31 IQS sites, and have continued to add sites since then. You can read the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group case study here.

As organizations struggle to fill the growing skills gap, they’re implementing flexible workforce policies to get work done and create happier, more productive employees. However, remote workers can only provide high-quality customer service if they have effective communication tools. InSpeed overcomes the drawbacks of broadband Internet connections to ensure high-quality voice and video conferencing over any connection, every time. Learn more.

 

Is Intent-Based Networking Really the ‘Next Big Thing’?

Is intent based networking the next big thing?
Is intent based networking the next big thing?
Is intent based networking the next big thing?

When Cisco announced its new intent-based networking solution last June, the IT industry took notice. Suddenly, a concept that had been around for several years was making headlines.

Intent-based networking allows administrators to define through software the business goals to be realized by the network infrastructure. The software then configures and operates the network in a way that achieves those results. It continually monitors network conditions and uses machine learning and advanced analysts to adapt in real time.

Until Cisco’s big announcement, intent-based networking solutions were being developed by niche players, including Apstra and Veriflow Systems. However, Gartner thought enough of the concept to publish research on it, and offered a definition that includes four key components:

  • Translation and Validation. Users input higher-level business policy which the software translates into network configuration and validates for accuracy.
  • Automated Implementation. Configurations are automatically generated and applied across all network infrastructure without manual intervention.
  • Awareness of Network State. Intent-based networking systems are protocol- and transport-neutral and thus capable of monitoring the entire network in real time.
  • Assurance and Dynamic Optimization/Remediation. Continuous validation ensures that business intent is being met. If not, corrective action is taken automatically.

Gartner analyst Andrew Lerner said intent-based networking could be the “next big thing” in network technology, and that IT leaders should keep an eye on developments.

Intent-Based Networking Vs. Software-Defined Networking

But what is it really, and how is it distinct from software-defined networking (SDN) and software-defined WAN (SD-WAN)? How does it differ from policy-based networking?

With intent-based networking, administrators still define application, user and network policies, but the software correlates those policies into business intent. It includes an SDN-like component that provides automation and orchestration capabilities. But intent-based networking goes beyond SDN by incorporating artificial intelligence and analytics at a foundational level. The system can learn to identify traffic patterns and security threats.

Monitoring is the third component of intent-based networking. The network must be continuously monitored, with real-time verification that it’s doing what it was told to do.

Security is considered a core benefit of intent-based networking. Organizations can not only segment their networks but automatically create and destroy connections as needed. Intent-based networking also improves security by minimizing the risk of human error and interpreting potential threats based on context.

In addition, intent-based networking can benefit multi-cloud environments. Today’s multi-cloud management tools use overlays to mask network complexity. Intent-based networking promises to integrate clouds at the network level, potentially enabling automated management of multiple data centers and disparate cloud resources.

At InSpeed Networks, we are intrigued by intent-based networking and closely watching its evolution. We have had spirited discussions around the technology, with some of our experts agreeing it’s the next big thing and others dismissing it as so much hype. We all agree that something like it is needed—indeed, we built our SD-WAN product on similar concepts.

InSpeed Quality Service (IQS) monitors the WAN constantly, and makes configuration decisions in real time based upon actual network conditions and application requirements. This enables us to ensure Quality of Service (QoS) for voice and other interactive applications and provide faster access to cloud applications.

IQS shares another key characteristic with intent-based networking—automation. It automatically prioritizes latency-sensitive traffic without the need to define and manage rules. It creates a self-driving network that relieves operational headaches and adjusts to changing business needs.

Is intent-based networking really the next big thing? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, InSpeed is leveraging the same principles to optimize WAN connectivity while reducing costs and complexity. With InSpeed the intent is clear—ensure high-quality business communications over any WAN connection, every time.

Contact us to learn more.

Internet Service Providers that Support Net Neutrality in the United States

"Internet Service Providers That Support Net Neutrality" over Circuit Board background

"Internet Service Providers That Support Net Neutrality" over Circuit Board background

Now that the FCC has abandoned net neutrality protections, many consumers want to switch to Internet service providers that support net neutrality. However, though there is a lot of agreement over which companies don’t support net neutrality, there are few resources on those ISPs that do. Often because of the near-monopoly of broadband in many areas, consumers assume they don’t have any choice. That’s why we created this list.

To be clear, the posts below are not a general endorsement; an ISP may have terrible customer support, slow speeds or other issues (if slow speeds are a concern for your business, we humbly suggest you consider InSpeed). We don’t want this to be a space for us to advocate for companies we like (though there are certainly some of those on this list), rather it is limited in scope to companies that don’t throttle or censor. We are still collecting data so please share your experiences with ISPs and net neutrality.

Below is our best effort to compile a list of companies that really do want an open and free Internet, beyond the empty gesture of a press release.

If you know someone who could benefit from switching to one of these providers, please share this list!

Pro Net Neutrality ISPs (and the Cities they Service)

5Nines

Serves high speed Internet to Wisconsin, especially Madison.

A Better Wireless, NISP, LLC

Provides high-speed Internet in rural Minnesota: Henning, Deer Creek, Leaf Lakes Areas, New York Mills, Rush Lake, Vining, Ottertail, Almora, Battle Lake, Clitherall, Eagle Lake, Amor, Underwood and surrounding areas.

Brazos Wifi

Brazos, previously known as Kurten WiFi, is an ISP that’s coverage area is College Station, which is in Texas between Austin and Houston.

Burlington Telecom

A locally owned fibre network in Vermont.

Cablevision (Optimum Cable)

They offer cable Internet in New York, New Jersey and in some of the surrounding states like Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

CityLink Telecommunications

Citylink provides Internet to over a million people in the state of New Mexico. They also have fiber Internet in limited areas.

Coastside.Net

CoastSide.net is a small ISP in Half Moon Bay, California.Their phone and Internet package is called Surflink.

Cruzio

Cruzio is a fiber broadband network in Santa Cruz, California.

Data Foundry

This Internet Service Provider serves business companies only. They have data centers in Austin and Houston, Texas.

DC Access, LLC

DC Access is available in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill, as well as in Adams Morgan and select buildings in Arlington, Virginia.

Digital Service Consultants

This company only provides Internet for businesses, no residential service. They cover the metro Atlanta, including Buford and Gwinnett (DSL, T1, T3).

Full Channel Labs

Full Channel offers Internet, and digital TV and phone. They cover Bristol, Warren, and Barrington, Rhode Island. However, CountryWide Broadband has agreed to acquire Full Channel and we don’t know Countrywide’s position on throttling or net neutrality. Please let us know if you have net neutrality information on Countrywide.

Gorge.net

Gorge Net is an ISP that is located in NE Oregon and SW Washington state.

GWI.net

GWI is a privately held telecommunications company providing Internet and phone services for residential and business customers throughout many cities in Maine.

Hubris Communications Inc.

Hubris.net is a provider of business and residential Internet and digital phone services to customers across Kansas. They offer Ethernet and ADSL in Garden City, Liberal, Newton, and Wichita.

Islesboro Broadband Committee

The Islesboro Municipal Broadband (IMB) is an Internet access utility for the benefit of the residents and businesses on Islesboro, Maine.

LMI.net

LMI.net offers fiber connection in San Francisco, Kensington, and, Emeryville, and is rolling out fiber Internet service in Albany, Berkeley, and Oakland in 2018. They offer DSL and point-to-point wireless Internet in most areas of the San Francisco Bay area of California.

Monkey Brains

Monkeybrains.net is an Internet service provider for the San Francisco Bay residents in California.

Mother Lode Internet

Much of Tuolumne County and Calaveras County, California can receive wireless coverage through Mother Lode Internet.

NetBlazr Inc.

This ISP offers broadband for the Boston, Massachusetts metropolitan area.

Northwest Ohio Broadband

Northwest Ohio Broadband is a family-owned wireless Internet service provider. Based in Coldwater, Ohio; they serve Mercer, Darke, Van Wert, Auglaize, Shelby, and Miami Counties in Ohio.

Om Networks

Om Networks offer bundled landline voice and broadband Internet in Davis, Woodland and Sacramento, and throughout areas of northern California. They also provide point-to-point fiber connections for network services an WiFi Internet access in some of these areas.

Pacific Internet

Pacific Internet provides broadband, as well as traditional home phone service in the Ukiah area of California.

Public Access Networks Corp. (PANIX)

Panix offers Internet access through T3s, T1s in the metropolitan New York areas. They offer DSL Internet Service available in “most of the United States” In practice, this means most urban areas where DSL is available in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. They can service farther distances, for example areas like Pennsylvania and Massachusettes, but note that the farther you are from their headquarters, the greater the latency is (this is true for many DSL providers).

RCN

RCN provides high-speed Internet to Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois, Washington DC, New York City, Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

Router12 Networks LLC

This ISP is currently offering Internet Service in and around the following Iowa communities: Mason City, Sheffield, Manly, Plymouth, Hampton, Cartersville, Rockwell, Chapin, Thornton, Latimer, and Beed’s Lake.

Smarter Broadband, Inc.

Smarter Broadband provides wireless broadband Internet to Western Nevada inclduing North Auburn, Nevada City, Colfax to Smartsville, and parts of North San Juan.

Sonic.net

Sonic primarily provides DSL in northern California and Los Angeles, cities such as Oakland, San Francisco, Mountainview and Berkeley. They have recently launched fiber, but it is still only available in parts of San Francisco.

Spiral Internet

Spiral Internet is a local community Internet service provider in the Nevada County, California region.

Stephouse Networks

Stephouse.net offers local high-speed Internet for home, business, and events in Portland, Oregon.

Tekify Fiber & Wireless

Tekify offers fixed-wireless services available to most businesses within Fremont, Hayward, Newark, and Union City, California.

Telnexus

Telnexus telecommunications is an Internet service provider in the East Bay of California offering wi-fi and fiber in Berkeley, Emeryville and Oakland. Their ISP services are provided by Unwired ltd. (they are also on this list).

Ting Internet

Ting Fiber Internet is in Holly Springs, North Carolina; in Westminster, Maryland; and Charlottesville, Virginia. In 2018 Ting Fiber Internet will also become available in Sandpoint, Idaho and in Centennial, Colorado.

Unwired Ltd.

Unwired provides Internet and broadband voice and data services to customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Visionary Communications

This ISP offers residential and business broadband services throughout Wyoming.

Wave Broadband

Open peering and no throttling broadband services available in Washington, Oregon, and California.

Wicked Broadband

Wicked provides broadband wireless to rural and urban communities across Kansas.

Wilson Creek Communications

Wilson Creek Communications provides fixed wireless broadband Internet and has coverage in 12 cities and towns across Southern California, primarily  Creston County.

InSpeed Networks Remains Committed to Net Neutrality

The service that InSpeed provides is business class Internet, irrespective of your ISP. But the ISPs would like you to believe that they, too, are a service, rather than a utility.  The Internet needs to be a public infrastructure. We can’t have private entities owning utilities. That requires regulation, fair and equitable access for all.

Help Us Improve Our List of Pro Net Neutrality ISPs

This is a complicated issue. Net neutrality is so popular among the public that even companies actively fighting it claim to be for it. Thus it can be hard to determine where ISPs really stand. This page is only the beginning; we hope to find more Internet service providers to include, or exclude. If you cab suggest improvements to our list of pro-net neutrality ISPs, please get in touch with us via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or email.

Business Innovation Needs Net Neutrality

Fight for Net Neutrality image from BattlefortheNet.comNet Neutrality Might Go Away, but Business-Class Internet Performance Shouldn’t

Net neutrality—the idea that ISPs should charge a fair price for allowing consumers and businesses to access and share whatever content they want from any device and from any location—is being voted on today, and odds don’t look good for it to continue.

On Thursday, the FCC, led by its new chairman and former industry lobbyist Ajit Pai, will likely vote to reject the classification of ISPs as carriers. In effect, the FCC will surrender its ability to enforce previous FCC guidelines mandating that all consumers and businesses have equal access to all Internet content for a fair price. If an ISP prices its services extravagantly and limits access to Internet content, customers would still be able to complain to the FTC, though it’s not clear that the FTC has legal authority to do much about ISP infractions. Otherwise, consumers and businesses will be stuck with whatever service—however arbitrary and limited—and whatever pricing—however complex and exorbitant—ISPs care to provide.

At InSpeed, We’re Dedicated to IT Innovation, and Useful IT Innovation Depends on net neutrality

"Fight for net neutrality" flavor text via Battle for the Internet
Forever loading—don’t let ISPs selectively slow down sites.
(Thanks to kasuminews.com for the image)

Today start-ups and large businesses alike are working hard to create solutions that genuinely help consumers and businesses. Without net neutrality, much of that labor and brainpower will likely be diverted to redesigning applications and IT architectures to avoid ISP surcharges. IT vendors and internal IT departments will be forced to spend long hours redesigning solutions once plentiful network bandwidth becomes a scarce and potentially heavily-priced resource. Markets will likely become inhospitable to start-ups lacking big war chests and powerful friends. ISPs might win, but businesses and hundreds of millions of consumers will lose.

Freedom, According to the FCC

Don’t take our word for it. Take the FCC’s. In 2004, FCC Chairman (and Republican) Michael K. Powell articulated four freedoms that must be preserved for the Internet. The four freedoms are:

Freedom to Access Content

Consumers should have access to their choice of legal content.

Freedom to Use Applications

Consumers should be able to run the applications of their choice.

Freedom to Attach Personal Devices

Consumers should be permitted to attach any devices they choose to the connection in their homes.

Freedom to Obtain Service Plan Information

Fourth, consumers should receive meaningful information regarding their service plans.

As a start-up serving SMBs across the U.S., we at InSpeed would like to propose a fifth freedom:

Freedom to Deliver Content

Consumers and businesses should be able to deliver content at any speed to any consumer using any device at any location.

Start-ups and small businesses should be able to deliver whatever content and services they like without worrying that their network traffic will be deprioritized or throttled in any way. Start-ups should be able to bring innovative solutions to market, even if they haven’t paid duties to Fortune 500 ISPs or struck alliances with the incumbents they’re trying to displace.

We believe in a neutral, equitable Internet where:

  • Physical connectivity is priced as a broadly available commodity.
  • Access is regulated just as access to other public utilities is regulated.
  • Financially disadvantaged consumers are not shut out from Internet access.
  • Consumers and businesses alike can choose whatever ISP they like, knowing that they’ll always have access to all services and all legal Internet content.
  • Businesses can pick the level of service they want and can adopt whatever networking solution they like for optimizing performance.

No matter what happens in Thursday’s vote, we’ll remain committed to delivering business class service that works over any ISP—InSpeed is Over-The-Top (OTT) whatever underlying infrastructure ISPs provide. But we would prefer to do so on a neutral Internet that is being managed in accordance with the guidelines the FCC has been espousing for over a decade.

If you’re interested in switching to an ISP that is dedicated to preserving the principles of net neutrality, see our forthcoming list of ISPs supporting net neutrality.

If you’d like to voice your support for net neutrality, you can call the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at (202) 418-1000.

 

Yes, You Really Can Eliminate MPLS with the Right SD-WAN

eliminate old MPLS phone systems with SDWAN and the cloud

eliminate old MPLS phone systems with SDWAN and the clouddowload a printable PDF of this article: Eliminate MPLSYou Can Eliminate MPLS

 

The folks who sell MPLS and other types of telecom circuits are starting to get questions from their customers who have heard about SD-WAN. “Why should I pay so much money for MPLS? Won’t SD-WAN do the same thing for a fraction of the cost?”

And those fine folks who make their living selling MPLS typically answer with a “Yes, but.” Yes, SD-WAN is great for a lot of your Internet traffic, but you still need MPLS for your interactive applications. You can maybe offload some of the non-interactive traffic to a broadband Internet connection, but that connection won’t give you the quality of service you need for voice, video conferencing and other latency-sensitive apps.

To a certain extent that’s true. Most SD-WAN solutions weren’t designed for interactive applications. Gartner said so in its recent SD-WAN report.

But InSpeed was. Our solution was developed specifically to solve the problem of poor voice call quality over Internet connections. With InSpeed, your interactive applications work perfectly, every time. Without MPLS. Without high costs and complexity. No ifs, ands or buts.

Find out if InSpeed is right for you. Drop us an email or speak with one of our sales experts at (650) 597 6430.