Weighing buy vs. build
If metro Ethernet's flexibility and economy inspire you, you still face a fundamental decision: Do you invest in your own network infrastructure or do you contract for services from a telecommunications provider?
The answer depends on a number of factors. Telecom service providers offer metro Ethernet in more populated areas, and they're expanding the service as large customers demand it. For a monthly fee — ranging from a few dollars to more than $100 per megabit depending on volume — you can have ready access to large amounts of bandwidth.
However, the service still isn't available everywhere, so for some organizations, building networks is the only option. Before building, make sure you have adequate in-house networking expertise or can afford outside help.
Also consider whether your area already has "dark fiber" in place ready to be brought to life in a metro Ethernet network. States and municipalities have the advantage of controlling rights-of-way where fiber or optical cabling may be buried. Next, consider the costs and time needed to dig trenches and lay cabling. You'll also need to analyze your budget to decide if it can accommodate upfront investments or if it would be less burdensome to pay a monthly fee for service.
"With managed services, you're giving up control and relying on a provider to have the right technology and expertise," said Tina Thomas, manager of optical solutions marketing at Nortel Networks Ltd.
Alan Joch is a freelance writer based in New Hampshire.