Cheap bandwidth in the burbs? Thank the telephone polls.

Much has been written about the cost effective high speed broadband in other countries, but not about the inexpensive high-bandwidth business broadband available in the US. Truth be told it is fairly difficult to afford more then a basic DSL line for most of the NYCwireless public wireless hotspots. But in some area’s of the country there are some choices and some excellent bandwidth at a reasonable price. In fact when looking for server hosting options throughout the tri-state area recently I found that my basement actually has some pretty good connectivity.

After housing 3 servers in a datacenter for a few years, I decided I could run the servers in-house to save money and have easier access to them for upgrades. I was previously paying about $300 a month for about 3 servers and a firewall. So, I looked into 2 ISPs that focus on my area to see what their business offerings were. The 2 ISPs are Verizon and Cablevision. I selected Verizon due to the support for rDNS (aka PTR records) which is a requirement for mail servers (Cablevision at that time did not support rDNS). The cost for this was $100 a month for 20Mbps down and 5Mbps up with 5 static IP addresses. This was back in 2006. So, I immediately started seeing a $200/month savings.

Recently, there was a need for more static IP space. So, I looked into expanding the IP range provided by Verizon, and was told to go from 5 to 13 IPs it would cost $50 a month. I would gain nothing else but IP space for $50 a month (new total would be $150/month). This is outrageous! I can understand $25, but not $50. So, I contacted Cablevision and was told the largest IP range was 5 IPs but I would get 30Mbps/5Mbps as well. The cost was $75/month and a setup fee of $46.95 which includes install and a Cisco 851 router. So, I decided it was a better deal to spend the extra $25 per month and get a 2nd circuit for more bandwidth and backup purposes. I moved the applications needing more IP space to the 2nd circuit and used the extra IPs for applications (e.g. email & backup) needing redundant circuits.

The cheapest Cablevision business circuit when I tested the bandwidth was 27Mbps/5Mbps. Which is absolutely amazing.

Business Class Pricing (about 2x what residential is)
Verizon – 20/5Mbps – $100
Cablevision – 30/5Mbps – $75

How can a suburan region offer such fast and inexpensive internet. The answer lies on the street, street poles. Street poles versus digging underground (typically urban environments) is cheaper, faster, and easier. Hence replacement of old technologies (e.g. copper, old coxial) with fiber and better equipment in non-urban environment happens faster. Thus I have 50Mbps downloads, 10Mbps uploads, and 10 static IP address for less than $200 a month.

Q&A

How much would that cost with the cheapest reliable hosting provider?
$118 a month for up to a 2U server and a firewall w/5 IPs and 1TB of monthly transfers. I use a hosting provider in Dallas (colo4dallas.com). I shipped a server of mine out there. I did look into many datacenters in the NY metro area, and the cheapest was going to be about $400/month for 1/2 a rack.

How much money do you need to spend on UPS and generator if you wanted to make it more datacenter like?
UPSes are cheap, but I would stick with name brand (e.g. APC, Tripplite, etc). About $200 per 1500VA UPSes. As per generator, get a natural gas (aka liquid propane gas, LPG) powered one. Reason is non-usage doesn’t result in a “clogged” engine due to stale gas. A standard gas generator requires periodic (every 3-6 months) maintenance while natural gas do not. You can also have your LPG generator connected into your main house propane feed or tank, so no manual fueling is needed (make sure you vent it outdoors when running). Natural gas generators are about $1k+ depending on your power requirements. A recommended generator manufacturer is Champion (www.championpowerequipment.com).

How would you handle site redundancy since BGP is not supported (DynDNS, round robin DNS, etc)?

These ISPs cannot handle customer owned IPs (for BGP), so I would recommend application level redundancy. It varies on the application since some will use DNS configuration such as MX priorities, DNS failover via your DNS provider via use of low TTLs, or round robin if the client side application is smart (e.g. backup client, IM agent, etc).

What are the risks? (ice storm, severe weather, etc)
Power outages seems to be the largest risk. The Verizon FiOS circuit and modem have built-in batteries for about 6-8 hours. The Cablevision coxial circuit does not include a battery backup, so I run them using a UPS, but not sure if the field equipment for Cablevision is protected (for Verizon it is).

What are advantages?
Ability to add additional servers without any incremental cost except for power usage, ability to have gigabit traffic between servers, use of Y power adapters for use of redundant power, & ability to swap hardware when needed.

What does the TOS of both providers say about this arrangement?
Terms of Service allow for servers since these are business circuits. Including mail servers, web servers. All uses are allowed except for pornography and illegal content.

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