Are leased lines on their last legs?
By Graeme Wearden
Vendors are touting real alternatives to the expensive leased-line that could eventually render the idea of a dedicated link redundant.
Until recently, leased lines were the obvious and only choice for firms looking for a communication connection they could trust. A dedicated high-speed connection between offices and the wider world made it possible for companies to safely adopt cutting edge technologies such as high-speed Internet, companywide email and even video-conferencing.
There was only one hurdle for the IT manager to jump -- clearing the cost of a leased lines with the boss. But although twenty grand seemed intimidating at first, the lack of a viable alternative technology made for a compelling argument. Today, however, the alternatives excuse may not be so justified. Before making the kind of investment associated with a dedicated link, companies need to evaluate the options that now exist.
Companies that are already splashing out hard-earned lucre on leased lines ought to do the same, as several service providers are offering broadband packages that claim to fill the role of a leased line without doing quite so much damage to the bottom line.
The underlying technology may vary, but the principle is that a leased line provides a guaranteed, dedicated connection -- which could be to your network provider's core backbone or to the local area network at another of your organisation's offices.
Whether it's 64Kbps or a 100Mbps leased line, all the bandwidth should be available to you all of the time. Any problem should be fixed within hours, and if your overall uptime isn't equal, or at least close, to 100 percent then you should be compensated.
Leased lines promises reliability -- and that's why ADSL and its two-way cousin SDSL haven't driven them out of town. Both are contended services, which means your bandwidth could be shared with up to 50 other customers, which means it might not be there when it matters.
As telecoms operator Server City puts it, "Many customers have now reached the end of their first year's ADSL subscription and have also reached the end of their tether," adding that ADSL transfer rates are often "much lower than expected".
Some top-end DSL products are coming onto the market, though, that offer better service levels. Demon recently launched its uncontended Premier Express Gold DSL product, where the whole bandwidth is dedicated to just one customer. It's available from any broadband-enabled telephone exchange at speeds up to 2Mbps downstream, which would cost £7,200 per year plus the cost of a router.
Another option is Easynet's SureStream range. Branded as a "next generation" leased line service, SureStream can give an uncontended connection of up to 8Mbps. Crucially, Easynet also guarantees that the service will be working at least 99.9 percent of the time.
Easynet claims that a company switching to SureStream could save thousands of pounds. A 2Mbps SureStream connection costs £5,795 per year plus a one-off installation charge of £1,995. Easynet says that a 2Mbps leased line would cost £12,995 per year plus a £6,745 set-up fee, so in this case SureStream would save almost £12k in the first 12 months, and a further £7,200 in future years.
A firm choosing Demon's Premier Express Gold would enjoy similar savings, although it wouldn't also have the protection of that 99.9 percent service level agreement (SLA).