Buyers Guide / Internet / IT Purchase Process
Telecom Pre-Procurement Checklist: Dedicated Internet Access
Whether you’re in enterprise networking or running a small business, you’re likely aware that Dedicated Internet Access is a must-have when it comes to running a successful business.
But for a must-have service, Dedicated Internet Access can be tricky when it comes to procurement! And there’s a few questions you should ask yourself before even reaching out to your internet service provider (ISP) or telecom agent to buy a DIA circuit.
We wrote this post to walk you through those questions and how to answer them.
Quick review: What is Dedicated Internet Access?
Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) is service level agreement (SLA) backed internet connectivity where the bandwidth is reserved for you (aka “dedicated”, not shared) and symmetrical (download and upload speeds match). For its added benefits, Dedicated Internet costs more than “best effort” broadband, which is likely the connectivity you have in your home.
Dedicated Internet Access Pre-Procurement Checklist
Here are the questions you should ask yourself before reaching out to your telecom provider or agent.
What are your bandwidth requirements?
Feels like a no brainer, but it’s paramount that you accurately define your bandwidth requirements when procuring a DIA circuit.
Your telecom provider or agent can assist in this calculation, but it’s good to have an idea of your needs going into the sales discussions; this will help you avoid under or overestimating your bandwidth requirements (both of which can be costly!):
Overestimating your bandwidth requirements (aka buying a 1 Gbps DIA circuit when you really need 500 Mbps) is costly for obvious reasons; it will result in your business paying for excess bandwidth that you do not need.
Underestimating your bandwidth requirements can be even more costly due to business inefficiencies caused by a clogged network (see our post on the ROI of a high speed network for more detail there). And, unfortunately, if you realize post-installation that you require more bandwidth, you’ll need to initiate a service upgrade with your provider which comes at an additional cost (time & $)!
To estimate your bandwidth requirements, you need to know all of the applications and services your DIA circuit will be supporting and the bandwidth requirements of each. These requirements will vary depending on where you are accessing your applications from: public cloud, private cloud, or locally. You also need to take into account what your users are doing on those applications and what the application use cases are.
While the question is nuanced, here’s some simple math to estimate bandwidth needs for a single office location. First, determine whether or not most of your network uses fall into “low bandwidth” or “high bandwidth” activities. If primarily “low” bandwidth (i.e. Internet browsing, social media usage, email, etc.), multiply the number of users on the network by 3 for a reasonable estimate of Mbps needed. If primarily “high” bandwidth uses (i.e. large file downloading / uploading (or cloud backup), video calling, etc.), multiply the number of users by 10.
For obvious reasons, the more applications and connected devices your circuit is supporting, the more complicated this calculation will be.
It’s recommended that you estimate your bandwidth needs and review them with your service provider when procuring. Additionally, read up on Fixed vs. Burstable Bandwidth!
What Service Level Agreement (SLA) do you require?
Your service level agreement or SLA is a contract with your ISP that guarantees the availability of your network (in terms of 99%+ uptime) and the connection quality of your circuit (in terms of packet loss, jitter, latency, and Mean Time to Respond or MTTR).
It’s important to note that, no matter how high your SLA % is, downtime will inevitably still occur at some point during the life of your contract. When your SLA is broken (aka downtime occurs), you will be compensated via service credits - which is a huge benefit and differentiator of Dedicated Internet circuits! The catch is that you, the customer, are responsible for tracking and seeking remedies from the provider for broken SLAs. Additionally, some SLAs exclude issues that occur over the last mile (which is where the majority of problems typically happen).
For those reasons, you should be ready to talk about the providers’ SLA terms and downtime track record when going into your DIA procurement discussions.
As mentioned above, an SLA does not necessarily guarantee network uptime; the SLA guarantees remedies in the case of downtime. This is why redundancy exists - see the next section!
What is your cost of downtime and what are your redundancy requirements?
Network downtime is inevitable. Internet outages can be caused by a number of factors, including adverse weather, equipment failure, service provider network interruptions, human error and cyberattacks. And, it’s probably not news to you, but network downtime is expensive!
For these reasons, it is recommended that every enterprise has redundancy in their network. Network redundancy comes in a few forms: circuit/provider, geographic/network and physical diversity.
Circuit/Provider: It’s recommended that enterprises procure a secondary circuit to sit behind their primary circuit to take over in the event of an outage at the circuit or provider level (this can be a second DIA connection or even a broadband, satellite or 5G connection).
Geographic/Network: Implementing geographic diversity across your network/providers and ensuring that your internet providers’ peering relationships differ from each other are important for guaranteeing uptime. That way, if one provider’s network is down due to a localized event, your network will have a separate backbone to rely on.
Physical: Physical diversity refers to the path that the actual fiber or copper takes to reach your location. If your primary and secondary circuit both run through the same building entry point (BEP) or minimum point of entry (MPOE), it is more likely that an accidental fiber cut or weather event could wipe out both of your circuits due to the concentration of the network.
If your enterprise has a very high cost of downtime, you should likely secure a secondary DIA circuit from a different provider than your primary circuit and ensure that the circuits are physically diverse. If your cost of downtime isn’t very high, you could likely get by with a broadband secondary circuit.
If you aren’t sure how to calculate it, check out our blog on how to estimate your cost of downtime next.
Do you need static IPs? How Many?
Every device on the internet is assigned a unique IP address, and most business applications require static IPs addresses. Static IPs are sold in “blocks” (ie: /28 or “dash 28”), where the name correspond to the # of usable IPs in the block. Going into your procurement discussions, you should have an idea of how many usable IPs you require.
Additionally, be aware that Carriers require justification for large IP blocks due to IPv4 address exhaustion. If you only need a /29 or /28, you don’t need to worry about your ability to procure static IPs. If you require a /27 or larger block, you’ll need to address the request with your carrier pre-sale. Most carriers require justification for a /27 or larger request, and some carriers are stingier than others.
What contract length do you want/need?
Telecom services are typically structured as annual or multi-year contracts that are billed monthly. Before reaching out to carriers, you should have an idea of what contract term length you are comfortable with (36 months is standard). Typically, the longer the term, the more favorable the monthly pricing; most carrier pricing gets cheaper as you increase your term up to 60 months (but, fun fact, AT&T always provides their best pricing on 24 month terms).
Say you are a startup opening your first office space, even if the monthly cost is more attractive, you might be better off committing to a three year contract than a five year contract. This will help you avoid costly cancellations in the event that your startup isn’t in business five years from now.
Canceling your service prior to the contract termination is a challenge and expensive. You’ll almost always be hit with an Early Termination Fee which requires you to pay 85% to 100% of the cost of the circuit for the remainder of the term. The only way you can avoid paying an Early Termination Fee is if your provider’s performance has been absolutely atrocious (i.e. 3 outages of over an hour within a 30 day period).
When do you need the circuit installed by (Installation Interval)?
Before speaking with providers, you should know when you need your services installed, understanding that it is not uncommon for install intervals to slip. The standard installation interval for an on-net DIA circuit is typically within 15-45 days. The standard installation interval for an off-net circuit is 60-120 days and can be quite unpredictable as most carriers aren’t doing true due diligence on what it’s going to take to install off-net until after the order is signed.
Need your install to happen faster? That is often possible but it might come at the cost of an expedite fee (Lightyear will always try to get these fees waived for you, however).
So you’re ready to buy Dedicated Internet Access?
Now that you’ve answered your “pre-procurement” question checklist for Dedicated Internet Access, you’re ready to buy! But don’t get too excited…Now it’s time to kick off the painstaking process of determining which providers are on-net for your circuit and reaching out for quotes.
This is a notoriously difficult process. Having multiple discovery calls with each ISP is time consuming, and even the best telecom agents can’t promise a vendor agnostic quote.
That’s actually why we started Lightyear! Lightyear’s software enables you to buy & manage your telecom network entirely online. Using our 2-minute, online questionnaire you can now procure DIA with clicks instead of phone calls. Additionally, our telco experts are a phone call away if you need help answering any of the questions outlined in the blog post.
Did you enjoy this post? Check out Does your ISP matter? Is internet connectivity a commodity? next!
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