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How Much Does Your Work Depend on the Internet? 322

Posted by Cliff
from the connectivity-required dept.
malord asks: "I work for a small company that has recently had problems finding a stable internet connection. It started when we moved our office in order to upgrade our connection speed. We decided to go with cable internet through Comcast, since they offered the best speed for the price and told us that it would be available before we moved. Unfortunately, Comcast did not provide any service for two months after we moved, so we piggy backed on an existing (slow and unreliable) wireless account with another company in the meantime. When Comcast finally came around, the service that was provided was far from adequate with a consistent 30% packet loss and multiple disconnects everyday, which was confirmed through Comcast's tech support. Throughout this process, we have realized that having a reliable internet connection is more important than having a phone line and almost as necessary as electricity. What would you do if your internet was suddenly like dial-up for weeks at a time? How much money would your workplace lose if it was out for an hour or an entire day?"
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How Much Does Your Work Depend on the Internet?

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  • How timely! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Southpaw018 (793465) * on Friday September 01, 2006 @06:31PM (#16027639) Journal
    On Monday, 8/14, we were due to hook up a T1 line with our new ISP. We hadn't had any severe problems with the old one, but our contract with them was up and they seemed apathetic when looking at negotiating a new one. So, we were going to cut over the lines, run the services concurrently for 2 weeks, and then terminate the old one on 8/28. On Saturday morning, our line went down at 1:01 AM. I was in the office at 6 AM Saturday, and I was NOT HAPPY to say the least. Tech support, however, seemed happier beating off than trying to help. They told me they'd give me a call back. The line was down all weekend. Monday was an exercise in frustration; instead of taking 2 weeks to do a changeover to avoid any interruption, we did the whole damn thing at once. We were up and running, completely changed over, DNS and all, by 4 PM.

    You may think: hey, that's not bad. You only lost one day - really less than a full work day. Oh, but that's where the pain comes in. I run all our services in house: Goodlink (a Blackberry-like system), Exchange 2003, DNS, everything. Plus, while the lines were down, anyone who called our office heard five rings and was then disconnected. The loss in customer service is irreparable to one major client, and three unbelievably important emails were lost forever - the kind where the intended recipients weren't really in a position to say "Hey, can you resend that for me?" We'll never know exactly how many emails were lost. In a world that works 24/7, business never stops, and an important email that comes in at 3 AM is just as critical as the important email that comes in at 9 AM sharp.

    Direct answer to your question: Our T1 line is beyond essential to the daily operation of the organization. It's absolutely mission critical that we're connected at all times, without interruption or major packet loss.
  • No big deal (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 01, 2006 @06:37PM (#16027659)
    In my role, Internet access is extremely useful for looking up information. For example, it can point to a vendor fix, software updates, howtos, etc.. We could conceivably get by without Internet access for a few hours, but invariably there's something that's online that we need whether it's pricing information, manuals (thousands of systems, impossible to locate a particular dead-tree manual), software (wget for AIX, for example), etc..

    At home I need reliable Internet to do work (just VPN'ed in to make a change a few minutes ago), check work email, contact vendors (stupid Dell laptop), and do remote administration.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 01, 2006 @06:42PM (#16027677)
    You laugh, but I've had to fight tooth and nail to get my boss to get us off SBC, and on to a real bussiness class ISP.

    *all* of our customer service reps work on a remotely hosted server. If SBC goes out, no one can work. If someone's uploading a file (the development team routinely has to upload 100 MB+ files -- and of course, with a tiny upstream, that can lead to extended idle time on their part), the connection becomes slow as dirt for the duration of the upload.

    He knows all this, and these things keep him from working as well. And yet he's reluctant to spend more than $40/month on our most critical resource.
  • Irreversable Damage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AjStone (743464) on Friday September 01, 2006 @06:43PM (#16027684)
    My company would almost cease to exist if the Internet went down locally. I mean, it would be the end of life as we know it. That's why we are going to invest (in the new office building) in two seperate connections to the World Wide Web, with two completely independant companies.

    Using two ISP's is a relatively untapped resource today, much like mirroring hard disk drives in a RAID array was a few years ago. Today, nobody will build a server without at least one redundant drive. I believe Internet connections should be the same way. How often do businesses complain of "sorry, our network/Internet is down" and lose customers? Do a Google search on a "Dual-WAN" router and see there are a few products around. I love my HotBrick LB-2 router that I use at home. There are about half a dozen people that can easily stress a standard RoadRunner connection. Using my friend's DSL connection going to the same house, it both load-balances and has failover capability. I don't even think twice before unplugging my cable modem. Without any downtime, the router will use the DSL line to pick up the slack.

    Is it affordable? Well, that's the same question people were asking about mirrored hard disk drives years ago. The question becomes, is it nessesary? I'm not willing to move into a house that doesn't have the availablility of having two ISP's.

    Aj
  • Re:How timely! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Southpaw018 (793465) * on Friday September 01, 2006 @06:45PM (#16027695) Journal
    Dang, I was trying to share my experiences as part of an underfunded one man IT department at a nonprofit organization. I wasn't fishing for snide comments!
  • Same here (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mir@ge (25727) on Friday September 01, 2006 @06:52PM (#16027731) Homepage
    We had the same problem with Comcast here as well. They were largely unresponsive to our requests for assistance. After suffering with it for about 3 months, I finally convinced the boss to dump the money on a replacement. I called Comcast and explained to them that their service was unsatisfactory and we would be stopping it, breaking the contract and no longer paying them anything. It was fixed within a few hours and we have not had trouble with it since. Get tough with them. I think they save all the good technicians for when the customers threaten to leave. Typical.
  • Re:How timely! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jeffmeden (135043) on Friday September 01, 2006 @06:55PM (#16027750) Homepage Journal
    ACs are modded -6. I don't read you, I don't mod you, I don't see you. Don't like it? Don't be a coward.

    Uh huh. Meanwhile, he made a good point. If you need guaranteed services, you have to realize what it takes. Hosting web services in house has some mythical attraction that i've never grasped. Get this, host at a colo that has multiple very fast very reliable incoming connections, and you then only worry about your internal people.

  • Not much (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NineNine (235196) on Friday September 01, 2006 @07:11PM (#16027829)
    I own a retail business, and although we do use the Net for several things (credit card processing, music, web site sales), I would never depend on it. It's still several order of magnitudes less reliable than electricity and a land line. We use it every day, but I have backups for everything that we do with the Net, and Web sales aren't going to make or break us. I think that making your entire livelihood depend on an Internet connection is very foolish at this stage in the game.

    I'll give it another 10-20 years, then *maybe* it'll be reliable enough that I would bet the farm on it, but not yet. The Internet is still the Wild, Wild West, complete with tons of criminals and people looking to tear shit up. It's all just cobbled together between ISPs, and of which could get a hair up their ass and ruin you instantly. Ever get black holed by some pimply, self-important spam fighter? It's happened to me before, and could happen at any time, at the whim of one annoyed person at Spamhaus. How about the ever-changing laws, regulations, and fees?

  • by Crisses (776475) on Friday September 01, 2006 @07:15PM (#16027848) Homepage
    I run my own company from a home office. I do web & print design, php/mysql coding, app installations and customizations for people's sites.

    I've lost power -- 2 hours this week, one friday for 24 hrs into saturday, etc. on several occasions. Losing power is disasterous.

    I have lost internet without losing power, but far less frequently. There's only so long the cable modem stays up on a UPS ;)

    Without power, my laptop battery goes from 2-4 hours. I can still usually code and design for a bit, wrap up to a good pause point, etc.

    If the power is out, and I don't want to waste my laptop battery, or if all my projects are live web installs, I'm pretty screwed.

    There's a caveat though -- when a nasty thunderstorm rolls through, we power everything down, unplug my laptop, unplug the cable line from the cable modem etc. I've seen a lightning strike on Long Island NY take out EVERY ethernet card on the lan -- and if it was on the motherboard, it took the motherboard with it (not to mention the damage it did to the phones and TV in the house). So when a storm rolls through, anything metal connected to outside (we have overhead power and cable) is unplugged...might as well have a power or cable outtage. I wish I were kidding about the LAN damage, but I helped replace every NIC card on that network and helped replace the fried computer...
  • Re:How timely! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by techno-vampire (666512) on Friday September 01, 2006 @07:18PM (#16027858) Homepage
    In some areas, two lines aren't enough. I worked for an ISP with a data-center near a major fault line. They had six different OC48s going out in different directions to make sure that if the data-center survived, it would have at least one connection to the outside world. Of course, most places don't need that much reduncancy, but putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good idea.
  • by FST777 (913657) <<ten.keebneets-nav> <ta> <naj-snarf>> on Friday September 01, 2006 @07:29PM (#16027902) Homepage
    Too bloody much! The company where I work for now has moved in January. Since we were told (too late) that there was not telephone available at the location, we were offered VoIP. That's where the trouble started. The VoIP ran over ADSl, for which you need a phone-line, which wasn't there. We've fought our way through four months of ZERO connectivity (and a few lawsuits). Count the losses.

    Currently, I'm in the process of setting up a new company. We will rely on the internet even more, since we will develop web-apps. My biggest nightmare? "Sir, the datacenters with your servers in it burned down to the ground. We will provide you with new connectivity and new servers in about a month... Now go tell YOUR clients!"

    Needless to say, the first earnings will be used to rent space in other datacenters. And we will be sure to never rely on one single internet-connection / phone-line again.
  • Verizon FIOS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by greenlead (841089) on Friday September 01, 2006 @07:37PM (#16027933) Journal

    We've been using the business class of Verizon's FTTP service for a few months. Their entry level is $100/month, and they give you a solid connection, no nonsense, and 5 public IP addresses. They do the install and everything.

    We've been pretty happy with it, but recently Verizon seems to have been doing maintenance, and connection speed has gone downhill. This is not typical, however.

    An added advantage of using Verizon for the connection is that they also provide residential connections. This allows those in the local area to have faster access to videos that are hosted by us.

    Another disadvantage of FIOS is that Verizon, being a large corporation, isn't very good at providing quality and timely telephone customer service. I waited an hour once, being transfered all around the country, trying to get instructions for using the free dial-up from anywhere service that is included free with the package.

    Overall, I've been happy with FIOS, and would recommend looking into it if it is available in your area.

  • by CFD339 (795926) <andrewp@noSPAM.thenorth.com> on Friday September 01, 2006 @08:30PM (#16028123) Homepage Journal
    I no longer have a T1 to my home office server room. I have a consumer cable modem. I moved my public facing content to a machine at ServerBeach. It's faster, more reliable, and about 1/10 the monthly cost (I live a LONG way from any reasonable POP so a T1 was very expensive).

    Now, the stuff clients see is 100% reliable (I have a failover server). The cable modem for my own use works fine -- in fact has been more and more reliable as the cables companies are now trying to compete for phone service and discovering people don't tollerate phone outages nearly so well as cable tv outages.
  • by Stonent1 (594886) <stonent@stonent. ... t ['poi' in gap]> on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:20PM (#16028285) Journal
    then why are they not fixing it? I've had comcast for years and have had numerous issues relating to my connection going down when it rained. It took them almost 2 years to come out and reassemble the stupid box in the yard but that still didn't fix anything. Turns out the only way I was able to get it fixed was to move to a neighborhood with brand new wiring (there are houses still being built). Since then, there's been no issues that I can think of.
  • by JoeZ99 (999617) on Friday September 01, 2006 @09:56PM (#16028355) Homepage
    I'm a developer who works for an european company, and I'm abroad.

    Well, that's not too much as to say, but interesting things arises when you look at the type of work, the connection needs, and above everything else, the country I live in.

    Although I'm european, I'm actually living in a country where internet is highly restricted. Only foreigners can access an unbelievable expensive connection at an unbelievable low speed (dial-up connection). Just to give you the picture: 150 hours/month at 4.5 Kb/s at a cost of $100 per month.

    And everything that through a phone line which is shared with the neighbourh

    The kinkd of work? well, classical stuff, I do a lot of web-programming (ajax apps, php, mysql and so) for my company, and I also do some administration stuff on my company's network (in europe), and some in our customers production servers, also.

    Besides that, my boss needs me to be online most of the time, and I also do some "help desk" of our web applications for our customers through gmail chat.

    What I've found is that linux (I'm using it from 11 years ago) had helped me a lot on this. A fair use of cvs, sendmail, retchmail and a lot of crazy combinations of network/utility programs helps me a lot to overcome all the difficulties I have to face just to be 'online'.

    Well, I guess this is not much of an 'answer' post. I think the only thing to say is: "there's always a way" and "you better bet your soul with linux".
  • 100% Essential (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Isarian (929683) on Friday September 01, 2006 @10:07PM (#16028385)
    I work at a ISP/WISP - continuous connectivity is not only essential for our ability to do our work, but when a connection fails ANYWHERE (be it a break in our Canopy network, our DS3 going down, or a dialup number being routed improperly) it creates hell for the phone techs in the office (who then proceed to field hundreds of calls relating to it) and our NOC department (which has to try and fix it as quickly as possible with all of the phone techs breathing down their necks. Yeah, it's not the most efficiently managed office.

    The internet IS our business, so either it works and we have jobs or it doesn't and our business would go under very quickly.
  • $130 000/hr (Score:4, Interesting)

    by swordgeek (112599) on Friday September 01, 2006 @11:36PM (#16028570) Journal
    Yep. A hundred and thirty thousand dollars per hour, 14 hours per day. That's a major player in the oil and gas commodities trading industry. That's why...

    Servers are clustered.
    Spare desktops are available.
    Floor switches are redundant (and on separate power feeds).
    Internet service is redundant (through two major carriers).
    People have backups who know their job.
    All service contracts have specific performance requirements.

    If Comcast isn't meeting their stated performance, then they'd better FIX IT NOW! It's their job, after all. Mind you, if they haven't guaranteed anything to you, then they don't have to worry about any more penalty than losing you as a customer.

    Get the SLA it in writing, hold them to it, and if they fail, legal action may be neccessary as a last resort.
  • The military does... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by n3tcat (664243) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @01:39AM (#16028789) Homepage
    The military is becoming so dependant on the internet that when the net goes down, many combat support units are unable to do large portions of their job effectively. Combat support does not include the guys kicking in doors for launching artillery rounds downrange. It's all the guys who make ID cards and fill out insurance forms and fix the soldiers financial problems and such. Without the internet we can't connect to the databases we need to get to in order to modify Soldier's data.

    Now this doesn't mean we can't do the job at all. It just means we have to switch back to the old paper and mail methods. This is significantly slower obviously, but it works.

    It's interesting to me how the military doesn't do this for money, but rather for this idea that a Soldier's life is at stake. So does that mean that these companies that abandon paper methods don't take their work as seriously as the Army? Or just that the risk of saving money by abandoning these methods is worth it in the long run?

    Does a day without net really matter? Or as the parent post mentioned, do months really matter?
  • by Spiked_Three (626260) on Saturday September 02, 2006 @07:17AM (#16029261)
    I have been programming for 20+ years. The last 5 or so was done from home. One day I had the brainstorm that since I worked at home I could move somewhere less expensive and with less traffic, so I packed up and moved to east Tennessee.

    Guess what I found? They barely have internet here. I had to pay $600 a month for a T1 from Bell South and then found out the infrastructure and/or local workers could not make it run reliably. I had SLAs which were totally ignored. Monthly credits were usually close to the cost. And finally the line went down completely for over a month. I was forced to switch back to dial up, and if I got a 2400 baud connection I felt (feel) special.

    Needless to say, I have lost all of my clients, all of my work, they take my car in a month. Moving is not an option for unrelated reasons, but the bottom line is there are still places in the country where internet can not be reasonably obtained (i put satellite in the unreasonable group - it sucks - try VPNing with a dish) and it cost me everything. No this is not made up.

"'Tis true, 'tis pity, and pity 'tis 'tis true." -- Poloniouius, in Willie the Shake's _Hamlet, Prince of Darkness_

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