30-Mar-2011 20:22

Experiencing Broadband Problems?

Nowadays, we all pretty much take for granted that we are able to sit comfortably on our leather sofas in leafy Surrey, Yorkshire or Manchester watching exciting Cricket World Cup matches beamed live & uninterrupted from Mumbai, Dhaka & Bangalore or the American Super Bowl Finals live & direct from the US via Satellite communications which support TV and video services…

However, the same cannot be said for Internet services...
Recent tectonic movements causing earthquakes and tsunamis both on land and under seas have brought about the realisation of how easily services and best-laid plans are laid awry.

The Internet, and international telecommunications to a degree, is supported by an enormous, snaking network of copper & fibre-optic cabling. For efficient internet connection, some form of cabling infrastructure must be in place.

Much of the world’s fibre-optic cables are submarine. The cables are laid, often at significant expense and toil, under the sea; most are reinforced & encased in nine or more component layers to ensure as little disturbance and guard against as minimal breakage as possible.

So why do we all, at times, experience outages, slowdowns and internet service interruptions?

There will always be ongoing service & compression issues & poor internet speeds but periodically, there may be major problems when cables become detached.

As an example, cables running under the Mediterranean recently become severed. The broken cables connecting Egypt & Italy resulted in major outages with Broadband Internet services disrupted in Middle-Eastern countries including Iran, India and Egypt.

Of larger concern was major disruption to telecommunication services in those countries - including India which sadly affected many thousands of outsourced call-centres and thus much UK out-sourced company services.

Happily, contingency plans were fairly swiftly initiated by large providers including BT & others to re-route networks to avoid disruption.
Although there was a marked reduction in telecoms provision & services were not Tier-1 quality, reports showed the telephone network remained in operation.

In Taiwan, 2006, following an earthquake which destroyed seven of the eight main cables connecting mainland Asia, Broadband and telecommunication services were disrupted for many consumers.

The problem remains however; that the many rather smaller companies often cannot support these expensive contingency plans and thus their clients - be they business or residential – can and do suffer.

So the next time you are happily ensconced in your comfy chair hitting the keypad or playing an online game, Blogging, sharing on Facebook, watching missed episodes on BBC iPlayer or Tweeting inane thoughts to the world, remember that the, taken for granted & reliable internet, may not be just as stable as you may have thought…

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Contributed by Russell Henley on 01-Apr-2011 08:56
Err...hate to say it, but redundancy isn't that expensive in network design for the SME.


Purchase 1 Dual-WAN router and either a 3G Card (so you can switch to wireless) or a seperate ADSL line (admitedly you can't specify a seperate path or use a different exchange for the latter).

Dual-WAN routers are becoming much more common - Draytek, Netgear and a few other manufacturers have had them out for a while and they aren't that expensive.

Or as you go up the scale in cost, a simple ADSL line as a backup to your leased line (this is what we have).

Internal networks:

Link Aggregation is on most mid-range switchs, which lets you use two network cards and make them appear as one for your servers or critical infrastructure. Some mid-range switches even support Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP), which does the same thing without configuration and across multiple switches (so you can create a resilient network).

You can also mix wireless and wired easily so PC's can use both.

Server hardware:

Finally as you go up in scale a little you can start using an internal cloud (again this is what we have) so you can even have hardware failure and still carry on working.

Most of these also provide faster connections or other benefits as a result as well.

You'll also find that most of the internet is designed for some level of resiliency (so one link can break) and diversity (so there are different routes for the same connection), and part of the nature of the design TCP/IP allows this to work (protocols like BGP for instance).

Note that resilience and diversity are seperate things sometimes as well - two links in the same plastic pipe are resilient - they aren't diverse (Mr Digger can still go through both with one chop...).



Russell Henley
Managing Director
Henley Software Limited
T: 01628 550030 | M: 07770 380004
Contributed by Jeff Mowatt on 31-Mar-2011 09:28

You'll find this on an old version of the P-CED website:

"The Internet came from DARPA, created by US Department of Defense as a direct response to the USSR launching Sputnik in 1957. (NASA, and all that came from NASA, was also a direct result of the Sputnik launch.) The communications protocol developed to enable the internetwork of computers is called internet protocol, or IP All of those factors go into why you are able to read this now, almost anywhere in the world. Microsoft, IBM, and DARPA are three key factors -- two public corporations and one US taxpayer-funded agency -- and they are just that: key factors, but far from the only players who have made this possible. There are Intel, AMD, and other chipmakers who employed yet another new technology, VLSI (very large scale integration) to reduce computer circuits to microscopic dimensions. The corporations involved in this almost fantastical deployment of the machines and communications infrastructure that we now rely on profited for themselves and their shareholders, and certainly produced social and economic benefit around the world. Those efforts were and are so profound in influence as to transform human civilization itself. That is the Information Revolution, and it is nothing short of astonishing.

"So it is safe to say that all these players in the Information Revolution -- the enterprises that created it -- have engendered almost immeasurable social benefit by way of connecting people of the world together and giving us opportunity to communicate with each other, begin to understand each other, and if we want, try to help each other."
Contributed by Norman Feiner on 30-Mar-2011 20:56
I'm impressed..

You have a pretty decent memory Derek...

What dy'a take?
Horlicks, Bovril or simply a frequent drop of decent amber nectar?

Whatever... it works mate :)
Contributed by Derek Sorensen on 30-Mar-2011 20:55
IIRC (I'm going to do this without google, just for fun) ARPA-net (Advanced Research Projects Agency network) merged with a number of academic networks e.g. the UK's JANET (Joint Academic Network) and others whose names I forget. This created the entity which we now call the internet, but it still supposedly followed the same design principle of massive redundancy.

The fact that the engineers got it working again quickly suggests that at least some of these design principles worked, my surprise was that it had to be done manually. It was my understanding that it was supposed to be automatic.

Contributed by Norman Feiner on 30-Mar-2011 20:45
As far as I am aware Derek, the original arpanet is indeed now what we call 'Internet'.

I believe Arpanet is no longer in existence.

However, I also think (& I may be totally wrong) that in 2011, & for security and defence purposes only, the US Department of Defence still maintain their own, fully secured 'internet-style' network today..

Contributed by Derek Sorensen on 30-Mar-2011 20:39
That's interesting.

ARPA-net, upon which the internet was at least partially based, was designed to maintain communications even in the event of a large scale nuclear attack; redundant circuits were designed to be used automatically if the faster routest were unavailable, and this design philosophy was supposedly applied to the design of the internet.

What this report appears to suggest is that this redundant design has failed (or someone failed to implement some part of it properly). This comes as a bit of a surprise to me.

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