How much Internet bandwidth do I need for my home?

Internet Service Providers sell different tiers of service.  These tiers are categorized in terms of speed/bandwidth and sometimes caps gqd8sgc.  But how do I know how much bandwidth I need to buy?

First, one needs to understand bandwidth and caps.  And it is really simple if you think of it like the water supply to your house.  When your house was built, the builder chose to use a certain size pipe.  The amount of water that pipe can carry depends mostly on the pipe’s diameter.  So, a 1 inch pipe will carry more water than a 3/4 inch pipe.  How big that pipe needs to be might be determined by how many showers are taken at the same time.  A 3/4 inch pipe may be able to serve 2 showers at the same time and still give good water pressure for that nice sting and back massage.  But if someone else turns on a 3rd shower, or the washing machine starts up, the pressure drops.  People can still get a shower, but it is less satisfying since it the pressure is lower because the main pipe limits the flow.  It doesn’t matter how many showers are in the house, only how many are in use at the same time.

Choosing a bandwidth option is like choosing the size of the pipe to the house.  Currently, streaming TV & movies is, by far, the biggest user of Internet bandwidth.  Netflix uses around 5 use this link.5mbps (megabits per second) for an full quality HD movie.  If two people watch Netflix on 2 different TVs, that will double the bandwidth usage to 11mbps.  So, our 12m service is just enough for that.  If a 3rd Netflix stream were started, it would work, but all 3 streams would compress more and reduce picture quality.  Also, while 2 Netflix movies are streaming, there isn’t much bandwidth left over for surfing, gaming, etc.  Just like water pressure in showers, it doesn’t matter how many TV’s or screens are in the house, just how many are used at the same time.

Caps matter also.  Most residential ISPs have caps.  AtNex does not.  To use the water analogy, a cap would be like having a limit on how much water you can draw from the system per month.  You can pull it slowly with a small pipe, or really fast with a big one, but when you hit the cap, they charge you more.  Comcast and AT&T have caps.  AtNex has no caps, so you can download all day & night.

The 5.5Mbps benchmark is good for 720p or 1080i HD.  The new 4K HD TV will use a lot more.  Netflix is recommending a bandwidth of at least 25mbps to support 4K TV.  But you don’t need to buy that bandwidth unless you have a 4K TV to watch.

There might be other factors in how much bandwidth you need.  An I.T. professional may need to download large disk images often.  A gamer needs some bandwidth, but is mostly concerned with latency (lag).  A real concern is security cameras.  If the video feed from the cameras goes to “the Cloud”, a lot of upstream bandwidth may be needed.  So, if you have one of these less common needs, call us at 770-222-4455 and we’ll be happy to help.


Phishing is not hacking. Tips to avoid being hacked like the DNC.

The FBI has released their report on the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Party called “Grizzly Steppe“.  Read the FBI report here.  The report is long on blame, short on evidence and includes a silly, but authoritative looking diagram.  Reminiscent of Colin Powell’s U.N. presentation of Saddam Hussein’s WMDs,  it is very short on details or evidence.  What is clear is that the initial attacks and entry were through phishing attacks.

In a phishing attack, an email is crafted to appear to be from an authoritative source but is not.  For instance, you might receive an email that appears to be from your bank or e-mail admin telling you to click here to change your password.  The link leads to a replica site that looks like the bank or your e-mail, but is really a fake site meant to capture your credentials.  The fake site may actually act as an intermediary and allow you to really change your password at the bank or mail service.  But it captures the new and old passwords and gives them to the bad guys.

Our SpamDragon spamfilter stops phishing emails by the dozens per day.  Phishing emails are very common.  So, everybody should have some clue how to recognize them.  And that’s where this imbroglio with DNC and Russian hacking is disingenuous.  The current administration has placed all the blame on the Russian “hackers” who did this.  And they may well be Russian.  But here’s the thing:  Hacking and Phishing are not the same thing.

Hacking is like burglary.  The burglar finds a way to break into your locked house, pokes around and steals the jewelry you keep in your sock drawer.  Phishing is more like this:  Some guy shows up in a maintenance uniform, knocks on your door, and says he’s here to look at your air conditioner.  That’s his bad.  But then you let him in and tell him you’re going for a long walk and he can make himself at home.  That’s on you then.  Phishing is just giving it away.  The DNC fell for a phishing attack.  That’s just incompetent.

The FBI report shows few facts to back up its assertions.  But it does have some good advice including regular backups, security scans, and training.  Phishing is best resisted with common sense.  So here are some security tips to which all of us should adhere:

    1.  Don’t trust emails from banks or mail admins that include links to login or change your passwords.  Type the URL into a web browser yourself so you know it is right.  Look for the green symbol that indicates the site is validated and trusted before you type in credentials.
    2. Don’t open attachments that you didn’t expect.  Regardless of whether the email purportedly came from your bank or your best friend, do not trust the attachment.  In particular, zip files are untrustworthy, especially encrypted zip files that have the password included in the email.  Why would anyone legit do that?
    3. Run a security scan from outside azithromycin price.  If you’re in a medium sized or larger company, pay professionals to do it.  If you’re a small company or a home user, you can use GRC’s scan as a beginning.  Just click here:
    4. Back up your data!  But keep the backup safe.  Use a very trusted cloud service with encryption, or put it on your own drives or USB sticks.  But don’t lose those drives or sticks.  Having many copies is safer for drive failures, but makes it easy to accidentally lose a copy that someone else may find and read.
    5. Patch the O/S and firmware.  Keep your systems up to date and patched.  Obviously, this includes Windows and Apple updates (Linux too).  But your router has software that may allow bad guys to do bad things.  Keep it up to date.  Other devices like security cameras, printers, and the soon to be a problem “Internet of Things” like home automation, smart refrigerators, etc need to be behind a firewall and running the latest firmware.
    6. Change default passwords and use high security passwords.  Change default user names where possible.  All the script kiddies in the world are trying usernames like admin, administrator, supervisor, superuser, root, etc.  Disable or change those usernames and make more unusual usernames.
    7. Turn off features and devices that aren’t needed.  If you’re out of town, power off the TV.  If you don’t have home automation or an Internet camera security system, turn off the router.  It’s more secure and saves power and life on the device also.
    8. Use an antivirus.  Duh!  But the latest malware will probably get by the antivirus anyway.  That’s why the measures above are still important.
    9. Use an anti-spam service.  It won’t block all phishing attacks, but it will reduce them and make it easier to resist… or will it?  Sometimes I wonder if people would be more skeptical if they saw all the attempts instead of just what gets through the spam filter.

It doesn’t matter much who the attacker is.  If it’s not Russia, it’s China, or North Korea, or Iran, or Anonymous, or ISIS, or some script kiddie club in Miami.  There will always be someone probing and testing your defenses.  Attacks, probing, and deception are constant.  Complaining about it is like complaining about a punch in the nose in a boxing match.  Retaliation and negative incentives in the form of laws are not adequate protection.  We must all protect ourselves proactively.  Falling for a phishing e-mail is unacceptable.  Don’t invite the burglar into your house!

Alphabet’s Google Fiber bailing on Atlanta?

As reported in many news sites like here, here & here, It appears that economics have caught up with Alphabet’s Google Fiber product.  The short version is that Alphabet (Google’s spin off to own Google Fiber) has accepted the resignation of its Access CEO as they have realized the enormous cost and poor payback to their fiber play.

Google Fiber announced that it would bring high speed fiber based Internet to Atlanta a couple of years ago, but since then, things have been noticeably quiet.  Some huts have been placed and a couple of apartment complexes have been fibered up, but no new fiber in subdivisions.  There are some very valid reasons for the footdragging.  It costs around $15 per foot to install fiber underground in non congested areas.  Hanging fiber on the poles is far cheaper, but most poles require moving the existing services (phone & cable) to make room for fiber.  Both the phone company and the cable company resist that effort which leads to legal battles like Comcast/Nashville and ATT/Charter/Louisville.

Alphabet is apparently refocusing on wireless due to the far lower cost of deployment.  But wireless will never be as fast, secure or reliable as fiber best site.  So that’s bad news for Atlanta Internet users.  There is some good news, however…

Due to the fear of Google Fiber competing, ATT has been installing fiber in various Atlanta suburbs for over a year.  The ATT product is essentially the same as Google’s and competes well against Comcast.  ATT knows that once a neighborhood receives fiber from one provider, there will never be another since it costs too much to install the fiber just to split the market three ways.

AT&T GigaPower vs Google Fiber – (psst…They’re both GPONS and less than perfect…

Google Fiber is coming to Atlanta and everybody is excited about it.  AT&T is so excited that they are rapidly deploying GigaPower around the Atlanta area to get ahead of Google. Fiber is great, but  GPONS is not the full fiber experience.  Unlike metro-e or active ethernet, bandwidth on GPONS is shared and therefore, you can’t get full bandwidth all the time.  There is also a significant security issue with GPONS azithromycin for sale.

With corporate level Metro-ethernet, a pair of fibers (one transmit, one receive) runs from the customer all the way to the central office, where it plugs into an ethernet switch.  That pair of fibers can be easily lit to 10Gbps or more and the bandwidth is not shared, it is dedicated.  Bandwidth on a GPONS network is shared, so the ability to deliver Gbps speeds depends on what the neighbors are doing.

GPONS stands for Gigabit Passive Optical Network.  It has some very compelling strengths, like less space used in the head-end rack and lower fiber costs.  But this comes at the expense of full bandwidth and security.  On a GPONS network, the head end device (an OLT) has ports that hold a single fiber each.  By using different wavelengths, both upstream and downstream traffic uses that single fiber.  Then passive prismatic splitters are used to split that beam into multiple beams.  On some systems, the beam can be split to serve 128 homes, but it is more typical to serve 32 or 64. The OLT port is capable of 2.5Gbps downstream & 1.25 Gbps upstream.  This means that only 2 of the houses on the system can get gigabit speeds at the same time.  But ATT & Google know that people don’t all download or upload at the same time (right now).  But times may change with 4K and 3D TV & movies.

Another issue with GPONS is security.  On a GPONS network, all the downstream traffic is transmitted to all the homes on the network.  So, if you’re on a 64 house network, your web pages, email and other info is presented to the ONT at 63 of your neighbors.  This information is encrypted, but a serious geek could arrange to see it all.  Although he wouldn’t see your upstream traffic like passwords or transmitted email, the right geek with the right equipment and time could read your incoming mail, and know all the websites you went to and what you saw there.  The countermeasure to this problem is to encrypt traffic between your computer and the server.  Bank sites are always encrypted, other sites too.  Even that encryption is breakable, but not by your run of the mill geek.

GPONS is a big improvement over copper lines or even coax from the cable company.  But don’t be fooled into thinking that you’re really getting a gigabit all the time, or that it is a completely private network.

If you want more in-depth info on GPONS, click here.

IFITL – Bellsouth’s Dumb Fiber to the Home Play

AtNex has been providing service over IFITL since we started business.  And IFITL has been less than stellar the whole time.  Here’s the story behind IFITL and why it is so bad.  Fortunately, ATT is replacing it – slowly…

IFITL stands for Integrated Fiber In The Loop.  In the mid 1990’s, BellSouth (hereafter referred to as “BS”) had the brilliant idea of competing with cable companies by providing phone, internet and TV over fiber.  New subdivisions in Acworth, Woodstock, Duluth, Norcross, Lawrenceville, Alpharetta and other places were fibered up with the new service.  Unfortunately, the design team made some really dumb choices when the did it.  I’ll come back to that.  First, let’s see how it works.

Near the entrance to the neighborhood stands a Remote Terminal – a big box that holds electronics.  In that box is a fiber based ethernet switch.  two fibers and some very small copper power wire go out to a pedestal that typically serves 4 houses.  From that pedestal, an ethernet wire, perhaps some coax, and some phone wire lead to the house.  So far, that doesn’t sound too terrible.  But here’s where the dumb stuff comes in:

  1. Because BS had fibered up the new subdivision and offered TV, phone and voice, the cable companies decided not to bother building cable into the neighborhood because they wouldn’t get enough business to be worth the cost.  So there was no competition and no alternative to BS’s lines.  I suppose that was smart on BS’s part.  So we’ll give them a point for that.
  2.  At first, BS supplied TV, phone and Internet.  But they found the market for TV too small and ultimately bailed on that part of the business leaving customers with no TV.  And for a while no alternative.  People weren’t happy.  That did leave an opportunity for cable companies to move in, but it took them years to do it.
  3. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, BS would not provide a static ip to residential customers.  So some people would change their home phones to business lines because BS told them they only sold statics to business customers.  But then they couldn’t get DSL, because BS wouldn’t sell IFITL to a business as it was only a residential product.  So then they would call us and we would sell them a static on a residential line.  Thank you, BS!
  4. Now for the dumb design…  The switch at the head end had only 10Mb ports serving the pedestals.  If that wasn’t bad enough, they chose to divide that 10M up statically between 4 houses and a control channel, giving each only 2M maximum.  Despite the fact that many houses did not subscribe, they could not reallocate the division of bandwidth and give any more to the houses that did.  So, 2M max. How could any household possibly need more than 2Mbps of Internet???  Dumb…
  5. They used very small wire to bring power to the electronics in the pedestal.  So small, that it was insufficient to power better electronics (so they told us).  And thus, they could never upgrade beyond the 10M.  So, while copper DSL got improvements that lead to 6M speeds, IFITL customers were stuck in the dark ages.  Dumb…
  6. BS used multimode fiber for the network.  That was pretty common in the 1990’s.  But single mode has been the standard for a long time now.  Dumb, but not really foreseeable at the time discover this info here.
  7. The middle part of the network was built on Nortel Shastas.  The Shastas were a monumental failure, although that was really Nortel’s fault for building in too many features and destabilizing the system.  BS was foolish enough to buy them.  There are still a few operating in the network now, though that is something of a miracle.  And BS was not alone in that bad purchase.  Australia’s telco bought big into the Shastas and soon lost a lot of money when they tossed them out.  Nortel ultimately went bankrupt.
  8. BS also  didn’t feed the neighborhood switch with enough bandwidth to satisfy the demand.  But that was a common problem with BS.

In general, the IFITL network was more reliable than copper DSL.  But its limitations have really caused customer dissatisfaction for many years.  When AT&T bought out BS, they inherited the lame neighborhood networks.  But IFITL is an infinitesimal portion of the overall customer base. So they didn’t spend any effort fixing it.  Until…..  Google Fiber announced their intent to come to Atlanta.  Suddenly, ATT has become interested and is overbuilding the IFITL network with a GPONS network that they call “Gigapower”.  I’ll write more about the difference between IFITL & GPONS in another post.

Residential Neighborhood Fiber Construction Process

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