Fair usage policies and shaping

Fair usage policies and shaping go hand-in-hand.

In this blog Warren Bonheim, Zinia CCO, discusses the types of shaping businesses could expect.

The first is usage shaping.

Historically, a large number of businesses used to use – and still use – ADSL, and they’ll be using uncapped ADSL. However, typically towards the end of the month, the line will get slower, based on how  much they’ve used. Often that’s quite damaging to business, because you need your access for payroll and other month-end activities. ADSL is probably the worst impacted in terms of usage shaping.

But – for example – my suppliers give me a soft cap, as they call it, on usage. So if you have a 100 Mbps line, they could have a soft cap at 300 Gbytes, and they’ll shape the line down to 10 percent. In terms of the terminology — it’s “uncapped with unlimited usage” — that’s correct but you’ll only get a tenth of the speed with shaping when you hit a certain limit. So you’ll have a perception that it’s uncapped, but it’s not, because once they shape you down you certainly can’t use much more.

The second type of shaping is shaping on international vs local traffic.

A large number of ISPs apply this in, for example, a 75% and 25% shaping – 75% local, and 25% international. But you’ll find these days that is less common, because international IP transit has come down quite a bit and is much more affordable, so we’re not paying the same rates for international bandwidth that we used to.

The third type of shaping is uploading versus downloading.

It’s symmetrical versus asymmetrical or synchronous. If you’re doing two-way traffic by video or voice, or cloud-based systems, you maybe be sending and downloading large volumes of data. This all needs good upload speeds, but quite often ISPs shape your upload speeds. While it’s also become less common, there are still quite a few providers that do this. Going back to the blog on fair usage policies, if it’s not advertised, chances are it’s not synchronous or symmetrical. You have to examine the contract or the SLA very closely.

For example, Neotel’s broadband service — in terms of their fibre and microwave – is fully synchronous, whereas Vodacom’s broadband is half synchronous, where they give you speeds of ten Mbps down and five Mbps up.

Then there’s business versus torrenting or peer-to-peer;

Here ISPs shape the type of traffic that you use as well.

So there are a few categories in which traffic can be shaped. When it comes to fair usage and shaping policies, the business owner must really understand what they’ll use their Internet access for. Instead of just determining what they’re prepared to pay, they really need to identify what it will be used for – are they running cloud-based applications, are they running SAP, and so on?

If you’re a basic user with just a few e-mails and Internet browsing, then asynchronous broadband is perfect.   But if you’re connecting to an international server, doing FTP uploads, a lot of voice and video, then synchronous becomes very important.

Again, it’s about understanding your business needs, with the ISP putting the right products and the right services forward, and helping the business user make the right decision. Then, after that, if the business decides to go for the “cheaper” option because of price, then they need to be aware of the limitations.

While ADSL and LTE are not synchronous services, nowadays quite often users will get very similar uploads and downloads. It’s not a hard and fast rule with LTE. But fibre and microwave services are fully capable of synchronous. Again, it all comes down to the provider and what product they’re offering.

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