The Backbone’s Connected to the…

Hostway Tech Team Hostway Tech Team - March 30, 2010

By Joanna Fletcher

…whole world! An Internet Backbone is a true information superhighway, a bundle of fiberoptic cables that can carry a staggering amount of data at zero cost and high speed around the globe. Backbones are literally the cables that hold the Internet together. Anything that affects service in a backbone will affect all the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) using it, just as damage to a spine can affect the rest of the body.

Who Owns Backbones?

They are owned and managed by corporations like Sprint, AT&T, British Telecom, or other national telecommunications networks. Some backbones are owned by governments or government agencies like NASA. Other backbones have been developed by academic bodies whose historic involvement helped create the global network that does not require payment for data exchange – Tier 1.

What’s Tier 1?

The backbones connect to each other to make a Tier 1 network. This means that they all agree to work together as peers to enable everyone to connect to all part of the Internet, without paying each other for the traffic. Data traveling only on Tier 1 will move more quickly and efficiently around the world.

How many Tiers Are There?

There are only three tiers. Tier 2 networks peer to some Tier 1 networks and pay for data transit, either by volume or by an agreed settlement on others. Tier 3 networks are those that pay to reach the Internet via transit on other networks.

Why Should I Care?

As a Web site owner you should be aware of your Web host’s position on tiers and therefore its potential vulnerability to problems on a single network. For example, if your Web host is Tier 3, and the networks it relies on run into service problems through malicious attacks, viruses, hardware issues or even natural disasters, you have totally lost your Internet connection until those networks can be re-stabilized.

For this reason many business owners who are completely reliant on the Internet for sales or other mission-critical activities are careful to check that their Web hosting company is Tier 1, or has firm policies in place to provide backup service. This is known as latency and it is one of the questions entrepreneurs should ask before signing a contract with an Web hosting company.

You can also set up your own latency by purchasing more than one Internet connection point into your business, creating your own mini network with both cable and telephone services, for total peace of mind.

About the Author

Joanna Fletcher is a netizen who has lived, worked, and played in virtual space for most of her life. Her entrepreneurial flair is topped only by her tolerance for failure.

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