Flate-Rate And Burstable Bandwidth
Whether you are pricing bandwidth being offered by the data center, or from one of their on-Net carriers, you’ll typically have two decisions to make:
- The “size” of your connection, expressed as the max speed of the uplink interface in Mbps or Gbps;
- Your monthly financial commitment on that connection, expressed as the minimum amount of bandwidth that you will pay for, use it or not -again, in Mbps or Gbps.
First, we’ll discuss connection size. The days of 10Mbps connections are essentially gone. 100Mbps connections are still common, but increasingly 1Gbps (1000Mbps) connections are becoming the norm, or at least an option. Beyond that, 10Gbps, 40Gbps, 100Gbps and higher can be had, though in the vast majority of cases you initial decision will be limited to choosing between 100Mbps and 1Gbps connections as your starting point, unless you absolutely know that you need a larger pipe. The baseline cost of your Internet connection will almost certainly be influenced by the connection size, and it’s important to note that 10Gbps (and sometimes 1Gbps) connections will most likely be delivered on Ethernet fiber rather than copper, so you’ll need network interface hardware that can take a fiber hand-off. Your selection of connection size would be influenced by your current and expected bandwidth needs, though if there is little cost increase in going bigger, it might make sense to say “what the heck” and do it now.
Once you’ve chosen a connection size, you’ll need to decide on your monthly bandwidth commitment. This begins with a primary decision: do you want your commit to be flat-rate, or burstable? A flat-rate commitment, also referred to as an unmetered connection, simply means that you can use all of the available bandwidth on the connection, to the limits of the capability of the uplink, as much as you want/need without financial penalty. It’s an “all you can eat” scheme for bandwidth usage. A burstable connection is one in which you are committing to an amount of bandwidth that is something less than the maximum capability of your uplink. This is also referred to as a fractional commit. Why is it called “burstable”? Simply put, unless you request it, you will not be physically limited to just the amount of bandwidth to which you have committed: your connection will be allowed to “burst” above that level on demand. This gives you the flexibility to respond to peak demand without suffering a traffic bottleneck… but it can also result in billings for bandwidth overages.
As you might expect, on any given connection size a flat-rate plan is going to have a higher monthly base cost than a burstable plan using the same connection size. However, bursting overages are typically more expensive per measured unit (usually Mbps) than prepaid commits, so there may come a time when the flat-rate plan becomes a bargain by comparison.
Flat-rate plans for connection sizes of up to 1Gbps have come down in price drastically in recent years, so don’t be afraid to give the flat-rate approach close consideration, especially if you can lock in a great rate with a motivated provider.