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I am one of those unlucky SOHO workers whose home office is too far away from the phone company's central office (CO) to get ADSL. And my local cable company does not seem to have plans for putting in cable modems any time soon. So I am stuck with a V.90 dial-up connection for all the work I do over the Internet. Frankly, I am not bothered so much by my V.90 connection's slow speed as by not being connected all the time. Everyone who works in a regular office seems to think that as soon as they send me an email message, my PC will announce, "You've got mail." Sorry folks, I get my mail in bunches when I log on and download it.

Every now and then someone attaches megabytes of files I probably didn't ask for (thank you very much) to an email, clogging my datapath. But for the most part, the vital elements of my job are word processor files that I can upload or download in the background at acceptable speeds over a V.90 connection.

Even though I have a very small operation here in my SOHO, I have cutting-edge, real-time, online backup of everything vital that I work on. Everybody has an old PC, right? Rather than buy a high-volume removable storage drive such as a Zip or Jaz drive, I implemented a much lower-cost system. For about $150 I was able to connect my old PC, my new PC, and my laptop with a simple peer-to-peer 10/100BaseT Ethernet network. Using Diginaut's FolderWatch, a $20 shareware program, writes to critical folders on my new PC are automatically mirrored to my other two PCs.

In the event of fire—not an unlikely possibility since my apartment building caught on fire two months ago—I can literally shut the lid on my laptop, run outside, and pick up right where I left off.

Having my own Ethernet to manage has been interesting. I have installed Hegel Technologies' DU Meter, a small shareware program that monitors uploads, downloads, as well as file transfers over my Ethernet. It scrolls a real-time bar graph in a "heartbeat monitor" window. DU Meter gives me something to look at while waiting for transfers to finish.

The huge difference in rates between my V.90 connection and my Ethernet got me to thinking. DSL is the last gasp of copper wire—physics will keep it from going any faster. Sure, DSL is faster than a V.90 connection, but is it fast enough?

Ethernet is well established and business users are perfectly accustomed to its bandwidth—which is getting faster. Gigabit Ethernet is catching on like a wildfire. It was first envisioned as a connection between physically separated 10/100-Mbyte/s Ethernet networks but is showing definite signs of a trend toward pushing down to individual computers on the desktop.

10-Gigabyte Ethernet is only around the corner. So will telephone companies find themselves with a technological white elephant on their hands after they have invested in DSL only to see some optical or wireless technology make off with the business?

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Sure DSL is Faster, But is It Fast Enough?

6/8/2000 04:00 AM EDT
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