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Bandwidth, Pop’s, Content Delivery Networks and Network Providers

When you decide to outsource your IT needs, your host will provide you with a finite amount of monthly data transfer


You’re  the CEO of a growing firm and just decided to outsource your servers to a managed dedicated server provider, however you have no idea what that actually means? All you know is that every time you speak with someone in IT, your eyes glaze over and a nauseous feeling creeps into your stomach. Not to worry. If the terms bandwidth, POP, CDN & network providers scare you, this blog will alleviate that nauseous feeling in the pit of your stomach.

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Bandwidth

Bandwidth

Bandwidth – According to Wikipedia Bandwidth, “refers to various bit-rate measures, representing the available or consumed data communication resources expressed in bits/second or multiples of it (kilobits/s, megabits/s etc.).” English translation: the amount of data you can use on a monthly basis, i.e. your monthly data transfer rate. Think of this in terms of your monthly Verizon cell phone bill. Per month you’re allowed to use a certain amount of data however if you go over that limit, Verizon charges you the overage. It’s the same thing with bandwidth.

When you decide to outsource your IT needs, your host will provide you with a finite amount of monthly data transfer and a port speed (how quickly your information travels). For example 400GB with a port speed of 10Mbps (Megabits per second). As with most managed web hosts, customers are able to customize their bandwidth and port speeds. For example instead of 400GB with 10Mbps, a customization might be 8000GB with a port speed of 1,000Mbps. So how do you determine how much bandwidth you need?

The answer to that question varies yet, needed bandwidth is normally determined by what type of data your company is pushing out. As you might guess, video carries more data than text does. So, if you’re a site using WordPress dealing in words and photos, a lower bandwidth and port speed rate might work. However, if you’re a site like Youtube or Vimeo constantly pushing out rich media content, a higher amount of monthly data transfer and bigger port speed is for you. What you chose really depends on what you need.

To determine your need for bandwidth visit the DedicatedNOW unmetered bandwidth page. A less technical way to determine how much you need is looking at your historic bandwidth usage. Most servers have this information available via a monitoring system such as Cacti. By knowing your historic usage, you can accurately predict how much bandwidth you will need in the future.

Now you might have noticed I have been using the term “pushing out”. This is a key term when it comes to billing because what you’re paying for is the transfer of data in and out of your server. In a Verizon cell phone contract, if you go over your monthly data plan, Verizon bills you the overage. The same concept applies with bandwidth usage. If you go over your monthly data transfer amount, you will get billed for the overage.

When you purchase a dedicated server, a fixed amount of bandwidth will be included with your server. Most servers these days come with 3TB of bandwidth or more and the vast majority of customers will stay under this bandwidth cap. This type of bandwidth billing is called ‘actual use’ billing and works more or less like a cellphone’s minutes; if you go over your bandwidth allotment, you’ll be billed per GB for any additional transfer. For websites that consume a lot of bandwidth, 95th percentile billing is usually used. 95th percentile billing, sometimes called burstable billing, is a method of measuring bandwidth based on peak usage. This type of billing allows customers to exceed the bandwidth cap occasionally without being hit with severe overage charges. Overage charges still apply however burstable billing aims to not burst the bank.

POP

POP

Regardless of what anyone says, the Internet isn’t everywhere. As FortressITX Director of Data Center Operations Sal Poliandro recently noted, “the Internet is in certain buildings, in certain cities throughout the world. That’s where most of the providers, Verizon, nLayer, most of the big fiber providers come in.” Being that the Internet isn’t everywhere, POP’s (point of presence) act as the middle men in data connection.  So what is a POP? A POP is an artificial interface point between communications entities. In layman’s terms a POP is where you connect to the Internet. As Sal noted, POP’s are in certain buildings throughout the world containing a wide variety of servers, ATM switches (Asynchronous Transfer Mode), routers etc. POP’s allow a managed dedicated server host to be in the buildings where the Internet is located and then bring that fiber connection into their own datacenter. For the customer, the more POP’s that your managed dedicated server host maintains, the better. POP’s allow your host to be where the Internet is – to have a presence at that location making it easier to bring the Internet to you.

Content Delivery Network

Content Delivery Network

A CDN is a content delivery network consisting of a large distributed system of servers deployed in multiple data centers across the globe. A CDN spreads your content, be it articles, songs or videos, across multiple servers in multiple parts of the world. For example, if you live in Los Angeles and you want to read a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald, without CDN’s you would have to pull that content from the original server located in Sydney. As you might imagine pulling the content from across the globe is a slow and clunky process filled with many hops. To get around this, CDN’s allow Mr. Los Angeles to pull the Sydney Morning Herald from a server located in a closer proximity to Hollywood (Ex: Barstow) by duplicating the Sydney Morning Herald within different servers spread across the globe. This allows for higher website performance, quicker content delivery (i.e. low latency). Essentially the more POP’s your CDN provider maintains, the quicker your users get to see your content.

As previously mentioned you’re charged data uploaded to and downloaded from your server, however you also pay for your content accessed by a CDN, i.e. you pay as you go (Ex: MaxCDN). So, the major benefit of a CDN is not in the cost savings, but rather in its speed.

Latency is any kind of delay which occurs in the processing of network data. The higher the latency is in the connection between your end user and your server, the longer it will take for them to access content. Conversely, the lower latency, the quicker users can access content. CDN’s are great because they lower the number of hops your content has to make before it reaches you.

A hop is the amount of connection points or jumps data makes between routers before it reaches you. More hops equals slower content delivery. As previously stated, CDN’s are great because they decrease latency by lowering the amount of hops it takes to connect you to your requested content. All of this is good to know but you’re still asking yourself, “well that’s good, but who actually provides my dedicated server provider with Internet access?” The answer to that is a network service provider.

Network Providers Connect the World

Network Providers Connect the World

A network service provider (NSP) is a business which sells network access to the Internet. For POP’s, CDN’s and bandwidth to work, for you and I to have Internet access, we all have to connect to a NSP (sometimes called a backbone provider). Examples of NSP’s across the globe are Verizon, Earthlink, AT&T, nLayer, Savvis etc. These are major backbone providers. When choosing a managed dedicated server provider like DedicatedNOW, one important detail to look into is what backbone providers they use. If you’re a new automobile company who is looking to target the European market you don’t want to pick a NSP which only provides the Internet to North America, because although your users will be able to reach your website, it will take them longer to do so. In our case, we use Level3, nLayer, and Savvis. DedicatedNOW uses these NSP’s because they provide Internet access to North America, Latin America, the European Market and Asia. Point in case, when choosing a managed dedicated server provider , you want to pick one which will provide you with Internet access globally allowing you to reach the widest demographic available.

So now that you have a basic understanding of some of the core concepts behind dedicated servers and network connectivity, if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to leave a comment, tweet at us or Facebook us.

In the months to come, if you want to know everything about dedicated servers, look to this space for your answers. We will be penning informative articles on everything you need to know about managed hosting. In addition, we will discuss everything from the Cloud, hosting services, company updates/products and the current state of the web hosting and web dev industries.

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