Deciding Between DSL or Cable

by Felice Wu

High-speed Internet access is now available in many parts of Los Angeles through DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) technology and cable modems. But, with all the hoopla around these recent developments in high bandwidth technologies, it can be a little confusing trying to figure out how to get the best mileage out of your connection. These technologies leave ISDN or a 56Kbps modem in the dust, for a lot less money than a T1. Early DSL users and cable modem subscribers have found the speed and the economy a godsend. But, which one will suit your business better?

DSL uses the copper telephone wires that already cross the globe, carrying your voice and bringing you the Internet via dial-up connections. Cable modems utilize the cables that deliver the movie channels and cartoon extravaganzas to your television. Both technologies are always on, eliminating the need to log on or worry about getting disconnected. This means you can get on your computer, run any Internet program, and it'll automatically work, since it's already connected. Both technologies also allow you to use your telephone at the same time you're online, by letting you talk over the same line if you're on DSL (eliminating the need to get another line for your connection like you'd require with ISDN or a T-1) or just by using a different source if you're on cable modem. Ethernet cards in your PC are required for either technology.

Theoretically, DSL sends and receives data at rates up to 8Mbps, while cable modems can offer download speeds up to 10Mbps. DSL providers can give you different actual speeds for different prices. However, cable modems can't give you a steady, reliable speed, due to the fact that your cable line is shared.

Cable modem users are set up as a LAN or Local Area Network to share a single fiber connection among hundreds of subscribers or more, depending on your area. The more people connected to the Internet, the slower your connection, so at peak hours you might not be surfing faster than a 28.8 modem. Check to see what they can actually guarantee at all times.

DSL does not share lines, since it runs on your individual phone line, so the higher speeds can be guaranteed. However, the setup requires that you be within three miles to a telephone company's central office. Fortunately, most business phone customers are close enough to a central office to use DSL. It is estimated that 60 to 70 percent of customers are within range.

Although cable modems don't rely on how close you are to a cable company, it does matter whether or not your business is near a local loop of fiber cable. If you already have cable television at your office, you're in luck. Installation can cost around $100 to $150. If you don't already have cable, you'll have to check with your cable company to see if your area is wired, since laying down a new fiber is extremely expensive and can raise your installation costs up to $5000! DSL installation prices range depending on the kind of speed, service, and equipment you need, but $499 to start is normal for businesses, $250 for individuals.

Another issue with cable modem LANs is security. A home user might not be too concerned with hackers, but this is a big deal for businesses. A LAN does not provide secure connections for electronic commerce, for example, because a large number of computers are hooked up to the same line. With DSL, you have one phone line for your own internal network. Additionally, DSL can come with firewall protection.

If your business needs grow, upgrading your connection becomes a concern. DSL speed can be upgraded over the phone without any new hardware. Cable modem speeds cannot be upgraded because the whole neighborhood or area would have to be rewired.

Consider that if you get a cable modem, your cable company becomes your Internet Service Provider. (Charter Communications Pipeline and MediaOne offer cable modem technology.) You can get DSL service from telephone companies (GTE, Pacific Bell) or existing local Internet Service Providers. With a cable company, there won't be any extra service such as Web design or hosting, and telephone companies tend not to have swift and easy customer service centers. The best bet is probably a one-stop shop, especially if you plan to integrate online communications into your business to any extent.

For this reason, and for its reliable speed, better security, and ease of upgrade, DSL is probably the best bet for your business connection.

A local ISP can get your business up and running for a reasonable cost and with the personalized service you can't expect from a giant telco. Zyan Communications, (www.zyan.com), based in downtown Los Angeles, is one place to start. Their DSL Speed package delivers speeds up to 1.5Mbps (10 times faster than ISDN's 128 Kbps and 50 times faster than most dial up modems), 24/7 connection at one flat rate, 10 POP emails or SMTP service, a 20mg Web site, 32 IP addresses or 256 IP addresses for corporate, and domain name registration. They can also set you up with a VPN, a Virtual Private Network, which allows your employees to telecommute from home since they can tap directly into your company's network.

_____________________

Felice Wu is a freelance writer who has been writing for and about the Internet since 1995. She is based in Hollywood.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.