I wanted to write this post as a wake up call to all large companies out there who engage in phone based customer service. Great customer service matters. Listening to technical support or account representatives fight with computer systems over the phone is not enjoyable for the customer.
We made the decision to test the Frontier FiOS symmetrical data connection with 150Mbps Upload and Download for $175 / month! The price is phenomenal, and the potential for that bandwidth is incredible. The reason we need high bandwidth and low latency is due to our connection with the Microsoft servers hosting Office 365. With symmetrical bandwidth you can upload and download with the same speed. Cable internet is asymmetrical, meaning upload speeds are a lot less than download speeds. As well, with Fiber Optic service (FiOS) full duplex communication is maintained. The technician told me that the fiber optic lines use different frequencies for upload and download data while using the same fiber optic cable. This means one user can send data while another is downloading. With cable, due to half duplex communication, if one user saturates the download bandwidth with a large download, then users trying to upload are going to experience latency (delay).
If you are using VOIP phones on the same internet connection, then saturated download / uploads can cause broken communications or dropped calls. This is why QoS (Quality of Service) rules on the network are important, because they prioritize the VOIP traffic above regular downloads / uploads. Really you need more bandwidth headroom to speed up all of these services and increase VOIP reliability.
We decided to give FiOS a try with varying results. In the first month, service had a tendency to drop a few times throughout the day. The issue was never completely crippling, but incredibly irritating. The service would drop for a few seconds to a minute, then return, but the network took a few more minutes to recover as services returned. The big concern is connection to SharePoint Online and VOIP. These are our real-time services that need to be protected, otherwise business can suffer.
The big concern was that we contacted support and listened to them struggle to even find our account in the system, was it a command-line interface I heard in the background? I think it is time for Frontier to upgrade their internal systems. As an IT manager, I know that internet connections will fail a few times throughout the year. I expect it, but when support staff are not aware that there is an outage, I start to wonder if I am putting my company at risk with this service. In the end, I complained on Facebook and got better results. As well, I found that the chat support function on the Frontier website was much more responsive than the phone support. The issue was due to a failed infrastructure upgrade which led to some short outages.
After the first month, the service has been great. I find that the internet is consistent and the increased bandwidth is great for all activity.
ASIDE: This has helped decrease Office 365 latency, but speeds are definitely slower than having a file server on premise, as you could assume. The compromise is that with all of our files hosted in SharePoint Online, we have backups, versioning, and global access. These are all of the services that are found with expensive on premise servers, but without the cost or maintenance.
I still wish the customer service was better, but at this price point I can’t really complain. On the other hand, Comcast’s service was a bit more reliable, but the speeds were slower and the cost was significantly more. I will update this post in a few months as we have more experience with the service.