We're completing renovation of our new office and need to make a decision on internet access. Our office will contain ~20 employees at the start and we may grow to ~40 in a few years. We have VOIP office phones for all employees, but it'd be highly unlikely that everyone would ever use the phone at the same time. Our sales and implementation/support teams also use GoToMeeting or Join.Me for screen sharing and webinars (maybe 10 at a time at the highest, currently).

The two reasonably-priced options that I've found so far are this: 1) a direct fiber connection, 5 down/5 up, for about $500/month, and 2) two different business-class cable connections (advertised as something like 20/5, but according to speedtest.net I'm getting 8 down/9 up right now) with a router that can handle the two connections, for a monthly cost of ~$350)

Option 2 obviously has some redundancy, which is nice, and seems to have more throughput, but I'm sure there is a reason fiber sells for more. Can anyone provide some helpful advice here? Thanks for your time!

EDIT: I guess this is what I would really like to know: I get the general sense that fiber, even at lower speeds/bandwidth, might be better than cable at higher speeds/bandwidth because of a "latency" problem with cable (particularly when a primary use is VOIP). How can I ~quantify~ this advantage of fiber over cable? If I have fiber that is 5 Mbps up and down, at what factor would cable actually be better? 20/10? 50/25? 100/10 (which a comcast rep offered me today)? Is there any sort of mathematical calculation I can perform or factor that can be measured to say "X is better than Y" when comparing fiber to cable with different bandwidths? I apologize that I did not include this with my original post, I'm just trying to get my arms around this issue. Thanks.

  • 2
    5 what? Mb/MB/Gb? – Lucas Kauffman May 7 '12 at 16:00
  • A fair question. I believe this is "Megabits per second". Here are the speedtest results (for whatever that is worth) from what would be one of the two cable providers: speedtest.net/result/1937609142.png – Monty May 7 '12 at 19:05

I like the idea of connection and provider diversity. Can you do cable and fiber? Or perhaps another medium like fixed-wireless broadband? Couple that with a multi-wan link balancer (like an Elfiq or Barracuda), and you'll have very good protection for physical location issues, as well as upstream ISP problems.

  • I could, but then we're up to $650/month, while $500 was a bit higher than I wanted to go already (but I will if it makes a big difference). We've "grown up" from 3 employees to 20 with a single cable connection and, to be fair, it's treated us pretty well, so I just don't know if the fiber option is necessary. – Monty May 7 '12 at 19:09
  • Cost shouldn't matter. Redundancy should. If you don't want fiber, see if WiMax (fixed-wireless) is available. Or just go with a regular bonded T1 as a failover. Definitely DO use a link balancer like I mentioned above, as they provide the ability to tailor granular traffic/routing rules for your users. – ewwhite May 8 '12 at 0:21

Speaking as someone who has multiple (3 now!) cable modems, I'd go fiber. The redundancy in the multi-cable modem configuration is illusory. All those lines terminate at one network and congestion or packet loss upstream can be fatal.

  • 1
    I concur, I have seen a failover line fail because it was on the same network anyway. – Lucas Kauffman May 7 '12 at 16:01
  • If you're going for redundant internet connections, gotta make sure they're grade-separated (like DSL and cable). – Bigbio2002 May 11 '12 at 21:49

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