What You Should Know About Internet Broadband Access


  Business and

  Home Broadband Access

  The primary differences between

  residential and SME/SOHO broadband customers is the criteria they

  use to select their service. For SME/SOHO users, performance and

  price will be key ingredients in selecting a broadband service,

  as well as support for value-added services such as VPNs. Fixed

  price packages versus fixed volume also play a role for large or

  small businesses. For consumers, it’s all about price and


  For those who are planning to

  use broadband services in a business environment, there are

  several differentiators to look out for, particularly in the DSL

  space. Business DSL services for example, can include support for

  multiple users and tailored network configurations, additional

  technical support and a higher level of guaranteed network


  Static and Dynamic IP


  A key factor for business users

  to consider is the static IP address options. To understand why

  there are two different ways of assigning IP addresses, it is

  important to know what an IP address is used for.

  An IP address is the defining

  tag which identifies the host computer on the Internet. This

  includes identifying the network being used to access the

  Internet, as well as the host computer accessing the data across

  that network.

  A good way to understand the

  difference between a static and dynamic IP address is to compare

  a public telephone (dynamic IP) to your home phone (static


  The dynamic IP address is like

  a public telephone, as it provides you with a temporary

  connection to the Internet for you to download information from.

  Once you log off the internet (hang up the phone), you will lose

  that particular IP address (phone number) and the IP address will

  be thrown back into the network and re-allocated to another user.

  The next time you log on to the internet, your ISP will allocate

  you a number from its available pool of numbers.

  In comparison, a static IP

  address is fixed to either or both the sender or receiver of data

  across the Internet (much like your permanent home phone number

  is allocated to you). With dynamic IP, Web servers will only be

  able to locate you through that IP address for that partcular

  Internet session. So, if you want to upload information (eg. give

  Web servers your IP address so they can contact you, such as with

  e-mail or hosting your own Web site), you will need to ensure

  whatever service you sign up for provides you with a static IP


  However, having a permanent

  connection (by giving other Web servers the ability to locate

  you) will pose a greater security risk, so you will need to put

  security measures in place, such as firewalls.

  Around half of ISPs currently

  providing ADSL residential services offer static IP addresses

  with some of their plans, but often the monthly rates will be

  higher than those offering dynamic IP addresses.

  Cable providers in the

  residential market offer dynamic IP addresses only.

  Sharing broadband across

  multiple PCs

  There are a number of ways to

  share your broadband with multiple computers. These fall into two

  categories. The first is a line sharing option provided by the

  ISP. This requires additional outlets to be installed in your

  home or office for each PC. It is a simple solution that requires

  no additional configuration, but is currently only available with

  certain cable companies.

  The second involves running a

  Local Area Network (LAN) in your home or office. It is important

  to note that while most ISPs will allow you to run a LAN from a

  single connection point on ADSL or cable services, they will not

  provide any support for the LAN, and recommend you consult a

  communications specialist to set it up for you. In some instances

  the ISP may be able to refer you to an appropriate consultant,

  but this will depend on the ISP. Some ISP will refer its ADSL

  customers wanting to establish a LAN to a professional

  third-party consultant, but others do not deal with LAN services

  at all.

  The other issue with setting up

  your own LAN is providing each user with their own e-mail

  account. If you want to have multiple user accounts included in

  your broadband service but have only signed up as an individual

  user with your ISP, you may incur a fee for each additional user

  you introduce. For instance, customers who have signed up to the

  service as a single user initially, will have to pay extra setup

  and ongoing monthly fees for each user account they want to add

  on to their service. This means that if you want to have seven

  people hooked up on your LAN with different e-mail addresses, you

  will need to pay an additional $77 per month ($11 per user

  account per month) on top of your monthly service charges to have

  the additional user accounts connected. However, other ISPs do

  not have this restriction on multiple user accounts. Most will

  provide residential subscribers with as many as five e-mail

  accounts on its cable service free of charge.

  If you are going to set up a

  LAN on your broadband service, be it cable or ADSL, there are

  three main ways of sharing the connection between multiple


  Firstly, you can use a hardware

  router, which is arguably the best solution, although it is also

  the most expensive one. Router prices start at a couple of

  hundred dollars, and allow you to simply plug your modem into one

  side and your PCs into the other and you’re away. They handle the

  logging-in, line sharing and security without the issues that

  plague most of the alternatives, which involve specific hardware

  and software configuration, as well as a dependency upon a single

  server PC.

  DSL router Option two is to use

  a proxy server, which is a piece of software that runs on the PC

  that is connected to the modem. In addition to proxy software,

  you will need a network card and cable for each computer as well

  as a network hub. For cable, this requires that the server PC has

  two network cards – one for the modem and one for the LAN. ADSL

  users have the additional option of plugging the modem directly

  into the uplink port on the hub (using a special crossover


  Once you have your hardware

  sorted, there are plenty of proxy server software packages

  available. Many of these are freeware (such as AnalogX at

  www.analogx.com), but most are inadequate if you want to do more

  than just surf the Web and read e-mail. Those that are suitable

  for using with other applications such as IRC, gaming, instant

  messaging, FTP and peer to peer networking will usually involve a

  fair amount of configuration and trial and error to get working

  properly. If you have an old, unused PC, it might be worth

  considering using it as a dedicated proxy server. Using software

  such as Smoothwall (http://www.smoothwall.org/), you can quickly

  and easily configure it to run as a standalone proxy server

  without the need for a Windows licence (as it is Linux based) or

  any other cost, aside from a network card.

  The benefit of using a proxy

  server is primarily the level of control you have over how PCs on

  your LAN connect to the Internet. The downside is that each

  Internet application on each client PC must be configured to use

  the proxy. If you are running Windows 95 or you want to keep your

  LAN secure and undetectable, then a proxy is probably the best

  way to share your connection. If you are running a later version

  of Windows, or Linux, or your PCs are going to be using Internet

  applications such as instant messaging and multiplayer games,

  then using Network Address Translation may be a better option for


  Option three is to use Network

  Address Translation (NAT). This is commonly done using Internet

  Connection Sharing (ICS) built into Windows 98, ME, 2000 and XP.

  Linux users will need to configure ipchains or install something

  like freesco (http://www.freesco.org) to utilise connection

  sharing via NAT. This option is transparent to users on your

  network as it involves each computer being assigned an IP address

  by the ISP. So if your ISP doesn’t allow you to use LANs, then

  this is not really an option. The benefit of NAT is that it

  requires almost no configuration at all and allows you to use all

  your PCs as if they were directly connected to the modem. As per

  the proxy server option, you will need a network card and cable

  for each computer as well as a network hub. You will also need an

  additional network card for the server PC unless you are using

  ADSL and choose to connect the modem to the hub with a crossover


  It is worth bearing in mind

  that of all the options available, the last two are limited by

  the fact that if the computer connected to the modem crashes or

  is shut down, the Internet connection will be unavailable. If you

  use a router or have multiple outlets installed, then all your

  PCs are online all the time, and none are dependent on the others

  working correctly.

  Running a server on your


  Most broadband packages do not

  allow you to run server software from any computer connected to

  your modem, be they Web, FTP, e-mail or other type of server.

  Those that do usually involve your server being assigned a static

  IP address. Essentially, this means that your computer’s online

  location will be predetermined. Therefore, a static IP address is

  useful because it allows it to be mapped to a domain name in the

  DNS. So, for example, if you want to run a Web server for

  www.yourname.com.au from your home or office, you need to have a

  static IP that can be mapped to that domain name in order to make

  it visible on the Internet. If you haven’t specifically requested

  an IP address from your ISP, then you will almost certainly be on

  a plan that dynamically assigns you an IP each time you log on

  with your modem.

  It is possible, though, to have

  a domain name mapped to your computer even if you are assigned an

  IP address dynamically. The general name given to this technique

  is Dynamic DNS, or DDNS. To use DDNS, you need to use a service

  provider such as dynIP.org or cjb.net, which require you to

  install client software on your PC. The function of this software

  is to broadcast your PC’s IP address to the DDNS server, allowing

  your IP address to change without your domain name seemingly

  disappearing from the Net.

  If you run remote access

  software such as pcAnywhere or VNC, then a dynamic DNS service

  such as those mentioned may be quite useful if you want to access

  your desktop from the Internet.

  A back-up plan

  Although broadband operators

  have a scheme to refund their Internet clients for network

  outages, this doesn’t solve the problem of what to do when your

  broadband connection goes down. So if you’re moving from a

  regular dialup modem, our advice is not to uninstall it. Chances

  are it will come in handy when you need to send an e-mail or use

  the Web but you can’t connect because the ADSL network is down.

  Remember, DSL is still a newly installed technology to some

  operators may have a few hitches during their initial roll-out


  If you use your modem to send

  and receive faxes, then bear in mind that broadband won’t replace

  this particular function at all. If you have a second phone line

  that was dedicated to the modem, then you can probably justify

  ditching it and sharing the one line for the phone and


  A good backup plan for times

  when your broadband service goes down may be to find an ISP that

  offers a prepaid dialup account. This way you’re not locked into

  a monthly fee for a service you rarely need, but when you do, you

  only pay for what you use.


  Whenever you are accessing the

  Internet you are exposing your computer to potential risk.

  Because people don’t tend to stay too long on a PC when they have

  dial-up connections, most don’t pay that much attention to the

  threat. Many users are savvy

  when it comes to security, installing not only antivirus software

  but firewalls as well. Zone Alarm is the clear favourite if

  HelpScreen is a judge – largely because it is free (there

  is a Pro version which has more features, but this incurs a cost)

  and very effective.

  The importance of a firewall

  when you are connected to a broadband service cannot be stressed

  enough. Unlike dial-up, where a user can disconnect their

  Internet connection and then in an inadvertent way also secure

  their PC because they are offline, broadband users don’t have

  that luxury. They are exposed to the Net’s nasties continously.

  So when you are not monitoring your computer, why not get

  software to do it for you. It is up to you whether you want to

  use a free Firewall or pay for one – most of the antivirus

  vendors offer some sort of firewall. But whatever the case,

  install it. Having a broadband connection without a Firewall is

  an invite to security incursions.

  Other Questions to Ask the


  Is this service available in

  my area?

  The best way to check whether a

  broadband service is available in your area is via an ISP’s Web

  site. One way to do this, for example, is to enter your phone

  number or postcode in the ISP facilities on their Web sites which

  will allow you to see whether you can receive their chosen


  For a complete list of

  broadband providers in the world, check out the broadband Choice

  Web site: www.Broadbandchoice.com.au.

  How much does it cost to


  Installation prices will depend

  on a range of conditions, including whether you install the

  service yourself or opt for a technician; how long you sign up to

  the plan; what modem you choose (for example,

  if you select a 1 or 4 port ADSL modem, or if you buy a modem

  independently of the ISP) and any additional equipment you


  (such as a Ethernet card, additional phone line filters or




  Several broadband ISPs have

  also been actively promoting self-installation ADSL packages,

  which not only save subscribers from the hassle of waiting for a

  professional technician to come out to their home, but also

  reduce the cost of installing ADSL services.

  To give an example, a new range

  of self-installation packages for 1 and 4 port ADSL services are

  available, which take money off the price of having the service

  installed by a professional. These savings are based on

  subscribers installing the modem and service themselves. Users

  will be charged an additional fee to have the service installed

  by a technician. Prices are again on an ISP-by-ISP basis, so

  check out some of their Web sites for more details on

  professional versus self-install charges.

  ADSL broadband in a box ADSL


  A range of ADSL services have

  now been introduced as bundled broadband packages available from

  retailers shelves. Much like purchasing a pre-paid mobile phone,

  these broadband in a box bundles provide subscribers with an

  approved selection of modems, service plan, and one fixed IP

  address and are targeted at home and SME users. If you’re

  confident you can install the service yourself, or you need the

  static IP address, this option may be a good one for


  What are the download limits

  per month?

  Most broadband services are now

  capped at a certain amount of download capacity per month, which

  means you will be charged an additional amount for any excess

  downloads (usually around 15 cents per megabyte). Some service

  providers, however, offer uncapped plans which do not charge for

  additional usage, but instead reduce in speed as users exceed

  their monthly limit. This is worth looking into if you think you

  are likely to go over your specified download limit.

  The download limit is

  determined by the plan you sign up for. Plans for both ADSL

  services and cable in the residential space range from 300MB

  download limits per month, to up to 10GB (and of course, the more

  download bandwidth you require, the higher the monthly usage

  charge). Make sure you check these limits thoroughly before

  subscribing to a service.

  Note: Some ISPs will also

  charge for upstream traffic. If you are planning to upload a lot

  of data onto the Internet (running a Web site for example),

  you’re best to check out what the ISP’s policy is regarding

  uploading information before you sign on the dotted


  Why are download limits so


  You will find that when you

  exceed a download limit and then start paying by the megabyte the

  normal fee hovers around the 15 cent mark – but this varies

  with some operators charging slightly more. The main reason for

  this is because the most Internet traffic in the world is

  directed at US sites. The problem with this is that the cost of

  sending information undersea is expensive. So these high tariffs

  imposed by the undersea cable operators are then passed onto to

  the broadband service provider who then passes these on to


  What is the acceptable use


  With most Internet services,

  subscribers are expected to sign a contract to cover the usage of

  these services. When signing up to a broadband service, this is

  known as an acceptable use policy. In other words it is a code of


  Some of the conditions

  subscribers must adhere to when signing such a policy is not to

  knowingly transmit a computer virus or disrupt the network,

  illegal acts such as accessing another person’s computer system

  or sending bulk unsolicited e-mail. A copy of the ISP’s

  acceptable use policy should be available on their Web


  What service level

  guarantees (if any) do you supply with this


  In the residential broadband

  space, very few ISPs provide service level guarantees for their

  ADSL broadband service. Business plans will tend to offer a more

  reliable service, and guarantee a certain level of performance

  from the network. This guarantee will be up to the ISP. Most of

  the equipment provided by the ISP will be covered by a warranty

  (the length of which will depend on the contract you have signed

  up for).

  What level of customer

  support do I receive?

  Again, this will depend on the

  individual ISP, as well as the plan you select. Business

  customers can expect a higher level of support than residential

  users, but they will pay more for the privilege.

  How long does it take to


  For DSL services, ISPs suggest

  it will take around 15 working days to have the entire

  installation process completed (this can however, stretch out to

  four weeks depending on the availability of the required modem,

  or the number of subscribers in the queue to be connected). Note:

  broadband in a box customers are also subject to these waiting

  times. Cable customers on the other hand are able to hop onto the

  service immediately after it has been installed.

  Do I get a discount if I

  already have an existing phone account?

  ISPs that offer other services

  such as Internet or telephony often have special deals in place

  for existing customers who want to sign up to broadband, so it’s

  worth checking these out to see what kind of deal you are

  entitled to. For example, customers can receive discounts on the

  monthly costs for broadband services if they have existing

  telephony accounts or cable TV. Other ISPs may waive the costs of

  installing the service if you are already a dial-up


  How long is the service


  The length of the service plan

  you select can also have a bearing on the amount you pay for the

  installation of the service. Generally, the longer the contract,

  the cheaper the cost of installation will be (the difference

  between a three month and 18 month contract can be over $100).

  Bear in mind, if you wish to cancel the service, ISPs will charge

  a cancellation fee (this is usually worked out on the proportion

  of months you had remaining on the contract – much like a

  mobile phone bill).

  What system requirements do

  I need?

  - ADSL

  system requirements

  For a PC connection, you will

  need a 200MHz or higher Pentium processor, with a Windows

  operating system (with the exception of a very few who can

  support Windows 95, you will need Windows 98 S.E. or up). The

  amount of RAM you require to run the service will depend on the

  operating system you use: for example, users with Windows 98 will

  need 16MB – 64MB of RAM, while Windows 2000 and ME users

  will need 64MB RAM. All users will also need between 20MB – 150MB

  of free hard disk space, as well as either a USB or Ethernet port

  (depending on the modem).

  Mac users are recommended to

  have a Power PC or iMac, and require 20MB free hard disk space as

  well as an Ethernet connection. Mac OS users will need 12MB RAM,

  while Mac OSX users will require 128MB RAM in order to access an

  ADSL service.

  Both Mac and PC users need to

  have a CDROM drive for the installation software.

  - Cable

  system requirements

  System requirements for cable

  services are similar, and Windows users will need a system with

  similar RAM specifications as those mentioned above. Cable

  services will require 125MB – 150MB of free hard disk space

  (although some Windows XP users with cable plan will need 500MB

  of free hard disk space). All cable modems for Windows connect

  through to your PC via either a PCI slot or USB port, so users

  will also need to have a spare USB port, while Macintosh users

  will need to have an Ethernet connection.

  - Can I use


  Cable and ADSL providers do not

  officially support Linux, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the

  service with this operating system.

  Some cable services use DHCP to

  allocate IP addresses to users. DHCP is a standard protocol for

  allocating IP addresses on Ethernet networks, and has been used

  in small and large office networks for years. All you need to do

  to switch your broadband service to your Linux computer is

  configure a UNIX DHCP client with the correct DHCP id.You also

  need to ensure your network card is set up correctly for


  Some cable users will need to

  configure their Linux machines for unique home-grown protocols.

  These programs provide user/password login control, as well as

  regular network checks, but was designed for the officially

  supported platforms only – not Linux.

  While Linux is not officially

  supported by ISPs offering ADSL services, the PPPoE protocol

  (more on this below) used in ADSL technology to connect users to

  the service is well supported by Linux. Again, it’s just a matter

  of configuring the PPPoE client to suit your Linux set


  What modem should I choose?

  (ADSL) 4-port ADSL modem

  External ADSL modems are

  available with two network interfaces: USB or Ethernet. USB

  compliant modems allow users to connect the modem to their PC via

  a USB port, while Ethernet-based modems connect up via the PC’s

  Ethernet port. (Note: users will also need a network card to

  support an Ethernet modem).

  While your choice of modem will

  effect the cost of your ADSL installation, modems can also play a

  suprisingly influential role in the security of your high-speed

  connection. Some ADSL modems for example, offer additional

  features, such as built-in firewalls or PPPoE clients.

  If you are going to bring your

  own modem, be wary that ISPs will not let you use any old modem;

  you will need to buy a product approved by the ISP. This will

  also mean that your modem will not be covered by any warranty

  from the ISP. In addition, some ISPs will not allow you to bring

  along your own modem – you will only be able to get the

  modem available at the time of installation.

  Another thing consumers should

  be aware of is that not all ISPs offer modems with their services

  – and in some cases, the use of the modem is on a rental

  basis. This means that if you want to cease services with one ISP

  and join another before your contract is up, you will be expected

  to return the modem to your original ISP. Make sure you check the

  conditions of modem use before signing up to any


  Before we leave this point, it

  is important to stress the importance of the modem as a security

  measure. If possible, do not skimp on the modem. Security is a

  big issue with broadband (see Security) and if you install a

  modem with a in-built Firewall – and there are many

  available today, you are cutting down the risk to your

  information from the outside world considerably.

  Once the modem is connected and

  you have confirmation from your ISP that the service has been

  connected at their end, install the software, enter your username

  and password through the PPPoE client (see glossary for more

  details) and you’re online.

  PPPoE client

  PPPoE (Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet) is a

  specification for connecting multiple computer users on an

  Ethernet local area network to a remote site through a modem or

  similar device. This client is used by ADSL service providers to

  authenticate their customers on the network.

  During an initial exchange

  between the PC and the remote site (or ISP), the PPPoE client

  learns the network address and allocates the dynamic or random IP

  addresses assigned to a user each time they authenticate to a

  broadband service. When an Internet session ends, that IP address

  goes back into the pool and gets allocated to someone


  As the PPPoE client is a

  generic program, users do not have to stick with the client

  packaged alongside their broadband service. A list of PPPoE

  clients can be obtained by doing a Google search. Some PPPoE

  clients are listed at


  Unlike dial-up connections, DSL

  and cable modem connections are “always on”. Since a number of

  different users are sharing the same physical connection to the

  remote service provider, a method is needed to keep track of user

  traffic, including which user should be billed. Once a session is

  established between an individual user and the ISP, the session

  can be monitored for billing purposes.

  Because it is similar to the

  client used for dial-up, PPPoE clients are exposed to the same

  amount of vulnerability to attack.

  About the Author:

  Enrique de Argaez MBA, P.E., is the webmaster of several

  multilingual Internet websites and author of four newsletters. He

  is active in Internet World Marketing, and Internet Market

  Research. Visit his main English websites Internet World Stats and All About Market


  Internet Broadband Glossary

  XDSL: Term used to

  describe a family of digital subscriber line technologies

  (eg. ADSL, VDSL, HDSL).

  HFC (Hybrid fibre coaxial

  cable): A shared broadband access architecture

  using optical fibre between exchanges and hubs in suburban

  streets, and

  coaxial cables between the hubs and customers to carry cable


  ISP (Internet Service

  Provider): Provides individuals and other companies

  access to the Internet and other related services such as Web

  site building

  and virtual hosting.

  POP (Point of Presence):

  Physical access point to the Internet.

  PING times: Ping is a

  basic Internet program which lets you verify an

  IP address exists. Loosely, the term means “to get the attention

  of” or

  ”to check for the presence of” another party online. When it has


  that the IP address is valid, the program will then send files

  to that address

  and can also accept requests. The computer acronym (for Packet


  or Inter-Network Groper) was designed to match the submariners’

  term for

  the sound of a returned sonar pulse.

  Router: A router is a

  stand-alone device (much like another PC) which sits

  between the PC or network and the Internet and determines where

  and what

  information should be sent and received between them. It also

  acts as a

  security device by preventing unauthorised access by other PCs

  to that

  network or PC. As a whole, routers can be found at any gateway

  between a

  network and the Internet, or at the junction between two

  different networks.

  In broadband, a router can be used to share information from the

  Internet to

  a network by simply plugging in the modem at one end, and the

  LAN (Local

  Area Network) connection in the other.

  Get more work done Working Less! See Productivity Video.

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