One of the most affordable options for small and medium businesses in terms of Internet connectivity is business-class service from cable and telco providers like Time Warner Cable, Cox, Verizon, and AT&T. Unfortunately, the definition of "business-class" is ill-suited to businesses that host their own web applications or mail servers.

businessclassbroadbandserviceIf you've ever looked into business class service, you'll notice that like residential services, they are only truly cost effective if you don't really care about upload speed. For example, Verizon has a promotional offer that promises download speeds up to 7.1Mbps, but limits upload speeds to 768Kbps. Yes, that's a "K", not an "M".

Some may think that sounds fine, until they remember that for a business hosting a web application, it's the upload speed that affects customers and users and the performance of web applications over the Internet. 

Providers will, of course, allow you to increase the upload speed to something more reasonable, but it'll cost the business more - usually a lot more - to do so. And in tough economic times anything that raises the cost of doing business is likely not A Good Thing, especially for small businesses.

There's a couple of options for small business in this situation. First, they could invest in a web application acceleration solution. Entry-level solutions are certainly affordable and would offset much of the performance degradation caused by high-latency, low bandwidth provider connections by optimizing network and application protocols. Though affordable, the investment in management of such solutions may be more than a small or medium business, with limited IT staff in the first place, is willing to invest in. Take note, business-class providers: managed application acceleration services might be a nice value-add for customers in this situation.

The second option, which is likely to gain more traction in the coming year, is for these businesses to take advantage of cloud computing environments. By deploying their web applications in the cloud these businesses gain the benefit of paying as they grow while gaining the advantage of high-speed, low latency links over which customers can access their web applications - for a fraction of the cost of "upgrading" their service to include a higher upload bandwidth.

Small businesses deploying in the cloud rather than "hosting at home" will also see a reduction in costs from not needing to power and manage hardware, will no longer need licensing fees for software, and can reduce the need for IT staff on-site, which can translate into smaller office space (rent) because developers/consultants building their web applications can work anywhere without the need to invest in secure remote access technology.

Providers could, of course, recognize that "business class" users require just as much upload bandwidth as they do download bandwidth and readjust their rate classes, but for some reason that doesn't seem likely to happen. And if it does, you can bet the cost will skyrocket as well.

So if you're a small or medium business and you're trying to address the problem of slow, unresponsive web applications consider the cloud.

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