Fortunately, requirements are relatively simple: you, and your web browser. Since all the technology is managed on our end, you only need to provide a reliable connection to the Internet.
Internet connections are often classified into two types: dialup and broadband. Broadband really includes any connection that is always on, or "hot", and provides significant bandwidth. As a rule of thumb, you will need 20-30k bandwidth for each simultaneous user. There are other factors, such as latency (delays in transmission) and burst (ability to exceed rated speeds during peak loading), but the most important
criteria are reliability, availability and overall bandwidth, measured in kilobits per second (Kb) and megabits per second (Mb).
Options include dialup, DSL, cable, T-1 and satellite.
While dialup has been around the longest, it is the least desirable way to connect to the Internet for two reasons: speed and availability. It is the slowest of all connections, and is not immediately available at all times because you have to wait for the modem to dial and connect. However, dialup is available wherever there are telephone lines and is very inexpensive. Despite its limitations, dialup will work for small groups of only 1 or 2 users.
Digital Subscriber Line has been around for a while, and is an inexpensive upgrade to dialup. With a maximum speed of 768k, it is substantially faster than dialup, and is always "hot", meaning you won't have to wait for it to dial and connect like a conventional dialup connection. The limitation of DSL is availability: the further you are from the providers switch, the less likely it will be available, so rural areas are generally not available. Also, speed decreases with distance, so while 768k is the maximum, some DSL providers may only be able to offer 128k. Depending on the speed, DSL is suitable for groups up to 10 users.
One of the newest options, cable builds upon the existing cable infrastructure and provides the best bandwidth/cost ratio. In other words, it's the best bang for the buck. Cable normally offers 1-6Mb speeds (2-10 times the speed of DSL, 100 times dialup). The benefit of cable is not so much its speed, as the theoretical speed required for your users will likely be far less, its response time and always-on availability make it very suitable for business use. Depending on your cable provider, business class service maybe available, which offers greater reliability then residential class service, with options up to 10Mb. Cable is suitable for groups of any size.
T-1 lines have been around as long as computers have been used in business, and are the backbone of most corporate networks, connecting branch offices, remote facilities and other applications which require the highest standard in availability and reliability. T-1 lines are the most expensive, but also offer guaranteed reliability. Bandwidth is 1.5Mb, which is suitable for groups of all sizes. Another benefit of T-1 is the ability to divide the line between voice and data. So, for example, half of the T-1 could replace up to 12 local voice lines, while the other half can provide 768k Internet connection, which potentially eliminates the cost of having local dial tone.
This is normally reserved as a last resort, where no other broadband solution is available. The benefit of satellite is that it will work anywhere, even on top of a mountain. The downside is its latency, which is the time it takes to send signals from your dish up to a satellite, then back down again. While acceptable, it is simply a second choice to DSL, cable or a T-1. Bandwidth is in the range of DSL, and costs are inline with DSL and cable. It is suitable for small to medium sized groups, up to 5 users.
In addition to a reliable Internet connection, your web browser must be Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 or later. Macintosh is not supported at this time.
All printers supported by your operating system (Windows 98, 2000, NT, or XP) will be available when connected to Nextsoft.
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