Live Mesh and the Need for More Bandwidth

I’ve recently been playing around with Microsoft’s new Live Mesh Beta, a service that lets you sync files between multiple computers and allows you to RDP into any of them. So far, it’s been really great. I can edit a file on my work PC, open it up at home, then import it in a Windows XP VM. The integration is totally seamless and I’m looking forward to support for mobile devices being available Real Soon Now(TM).

It’s not that what Microsoft is doing is particularly remarkable. I have RDP access to my work PC and I can copy files back to my home PC from that. I can use VNC with a VPN connection to get back to my home PC and transfer files. I can share a folder from my home PC to make it available to my VMs. The trick is that all of those things aren’t exactly seamless or integrated, plus I don’t have the benefit of an online backup with version conflict control, things that Live Mesh offers.

Despite all of this convenience, I found myself frustrated with it this evening as I waited for 50MB worth of database changes and new files to get synced back into the cloud. I ended up waiting about 15 minutes for it to complete, time that I could have been getting work done. That’s when I got a very quantifiable taste of how poor broadband speeds translate into decreased productivity.

With the high price of bandwidth, the company I work for can only afford a 10M/10M pipe. It sounds like a lot until you realize that we have 150+ employees plus our customers trying to cram all of their data onto it including about a dozen teleworkers. It works out to around a single ISDN channel worth of bandwidth per employee. Granted, we’re not all using it at the same time, but a few large uploads or downloads can saturate it.

My home connection isn’t any better. I’ve gone with Comcast, the lesser of two evils, and a paltry 12M/2M connection costs as much as a 20M/10M connection from a UTOPIA provider. I can’t even imagine doing uploads on Qwest’s upload-crippled DSL. While Live Mesh takes the management frustration out of file syncing, it’s held hostage to my connection speed.

The demand for higher upload speeds is there, but don’t count on your local duopoly to come up with a product to meet it, at least not at a price that’s affordable. Phone companies have purposefully restricted their upload speeds to keep from cannibalizing lucrative T1 services, a technology that dates back five decades. Cable companies have no incentive to be more than a little bit better than the phone company; Comcast can claim over twice the upload speed of Qwest, but the connection is still useless for heavy-duty uploading. The “any color you want, as long as it’s black” business model ignores market needs, a direct result of our non-competitive telecommunications landscape.

This is why we need competing transport from UTOPIA. It’s about the only thing keeping Qwest and Comcast on their toes. A reader e-mailed me pictures today of frequent Comcast truck rolls in Brigham City in the small UTOPIA footprint up there. They’re spooked that someone built a better mousetrap and they should be. The product is better, you aren’t locked into a single provider if the service stinks, and you can use the cutting edge products without wasting your entire day transferring data back and forth.

Live Mesh isn’t the only example. I do backups with MozyHome and a large set of changes can take several hours to finish uploading. I don’t even really try streaming my media collection from a remote system anymore since the connection frequently hiccups and is only suitable for music, leaving my vast collection of ripped DVDs chained to my desktop and AppleTV. I don’t get to use my connection for everything I want, pure and simple. Not because I’m blocked, but because the service isn’t up to snuff. Net neutrality may be the cause celeb, but maybe we should be talking upload parity instead.

Tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Live Mesh and the Need for More Bandwidth

  1. Mike Taylor says:

    I’ve been looking for a good way to sync files. I’m currently using Novell’s iFolder, which was a little difficult getting the server setup in Ubuntu, but works great once you have it going. It was written in C# and works with Mono in Linux or Windows with .NET. It is open source too (at least a previous version), but they haven’t released the latest code, but they have promised to do so soon.

    Other solutions I have been looking at include:
    * Team Drive (also free)
    * (very simple, has a pay version and a free version).

    But all this has highlighted for me too how terrible it is to be on Qwest’s DSL service. At home, I have the top-speed available and I am close to a DSLAM, but even at the highest train possible with the ADSL modems, the upload is terrible.

    I feel like screaming! We are in a broadband desert here, and unfortunately the UTOPIA Oasis is nowhere to be found in Weber County.

  2. luminous says:

    The whole situation is much worse then that. Comcast does not sell static ip address’s in my area(in any area?), So in order to get a static ip address i am stuck with a 1.5meg DSL line. Not that it matters because i am right on the border of DSL’s limited distance from the CO none of my neighbors have DSL service and consequently the Cable internet service is way way oversold. Tho i admit it is fun to watch the latency on my brothers wow account hit 2000 every time I open a video on youtube/hulu/etc.

  3. Capt. Video says:

    Funny how Jesse mentions that his company can only afford a 10mb connection…but a 20mb connection from UTOPIA is only $40 or so.

    Bandwidth is really pretty cheap and just gets marked up greatly when sold to business customers…I bet it would be hard for a business to buy a standard home connection from Comcast, Qwest or a UTOPIA service provider?

    I find my Broadweave bandwidth to be GREAT and believe the UTOPIA service provider bandwidth would be the same!

  4. Jesse says:

    Capt: I’m pretty sure most of the mark-up comes from having a single transport option in the building. I’m willing to bet that an equivalent connection from Veracity, FiberNet, or XMission would be 1/10th what’s being to Qwest for transport.

  5. C. R. Oldham says:

    You didn’t mention the bandwidth caps. Utopia with XMission has a soft cap of 100 GB, beyond which they charge an extra $20 (at the 10/2 tier). This is almost worse than slow speed

  6. C. R. Oldham says:

    You didn’t mention the transfer caps. Utopia with XMission has a soft cap of 100 GB, beyond which they charge an extra $20 (at the 10/2 tier). This is almost worse than slow speeds because the average consumer has no idea how much aggregate transfer they are using, and with a 10 Mb pipe you can hit 100 GB in a month pretty easy.

  7. Jonathan says:

    Luminous Comcast provides 2 static IP’s to business customers on the Comcast Workplace product. They provide a /30 one IP goes to the modem and the second goes to any device you don’t want behind the NAT.

    Granted this is only for business customers.

  8. Capt. Video says:

    It just does not seem right to charge someone for bandwidth usage without providing them with a bandwidth meter (as Comcast now does?) so they can track their usage.

    If I were an customer concerned with this problem I would look to switch service providers to a provider that did not charge without notice.

    Has XMission ever charged you for this or is that just a policy which is not enforced (as I have found most bandwidth caps to be).

    Most ISP’s have such caps but don’t enforce them except upon the worst offenders and then they warn before charging. Does XMission do something different? That would surprise me as they have a reputation as a really good provider.

  9. Mike Taylor says:

    XMission has a meter where you can track your usage. Login and go to your account options where you can see MRTG graphs of your usage at different periods of time. They also have “free” periods of time (during off-peak) where bandwidth you use isn’t counted against your quota. In addition, I think there may be only slight charges for actual overages; the increased $20 per month referred to is if you want a permanent increase of five-fold the amount of bandwidth! (500 GB). I think that is a great deal.

    XMission is a top-notch ISP, excellent 24/7 tech support, I can’t rave enough about how competent their engineers are and how refreshing it is to have a company that will actually work with you at every level and provide such quality in everything they do.

    It frankly amazes me that someone who is on a world-class fiber pipe is complaining about having to pay a few bucks extra for more bandwidth. Between Qwest’s $43 per month for the line and about $20 for XMission, I pay more for my 7/1 DSL service than C.R. Oldham could be paying for 50/50 with a 500 GB cap!

    I think maybe this just shows how people don’t really understand what bandwidth really costs, that or it shows we are cheap in Utah, I don’t know. This is why some ISP’s will “oversell” their bandwidth like 70 to 1 or whatever because sometimes rather than have quality like XMission they would rather have crap bandwidth as long as it is a few bucks cheaper.

    As another example, we are paying around $2,000 a month for a 10/10 pipe near Ogden Utah. We would kill for UTOPIA.

  10. Jonathan says:

    One quick correction to Mike’s post. Warren can step in if needs be but I think I am on the right track.

    I don’t believe Utopia users have off peak hours on Xmission like the DSL customers used to. I say used to because I don’t believe DSL customers have caps anymore. The reason for no off peak hours on Utopia accounts is because Utopia charges the service providers by the byte.

  11. You are correct, Jonathan.

    There are clear problems with the current bandwidth modeling in UTOPIA, but they are slowly being addressed.

    I hope we can soon adjust the policies to a position that places XMission comfortably ahead of the curve where we’re used to being.

  12. C. R. Oldham says:

    @Mike Taylor: you are right, I shouldn’t be complaining, and I singled out XMission when I shouldn’t have. That’s what I get when I post from my cellphone instead of writing a response more carefully from my computer.

    What I intended to convey was my frustration at the industry’s recent shift to bandwidth caps, not a jab at XMission specifically. I am very happy with them, though I haven’t been with them a month yet, and I’ve never tracked my usage.

    But I stand by my original point (poorly expressed), which is greater transfer rates + bandwidth caps = unexpected charges on your monthly bill. This is just like the cellphone companies–how many stories have we heard of outrageous bills from someone who ran out of minutes without realizing it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *