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The Difference Between Premium and Budget Network Carriers

Choosing a network carrier for your dedicated server is an important decision.  It’s important to fully understand your options.  The difference between premium and budget carriers often comes down to global reach, reliability and level of service.  When selecting a carrier you will hear terms like Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3, but what exactly does that mean? 

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See Also: ServerMania's Global Data Center Network

The internet is comprised of a vast hierarchy of infrastructure owned by different companies.  These companies are called network carriers.  They have organized themselves into Tiers and negotiated contracts to extend their internet access beyond the access provided by the infrastructure they own. 

What is a Tier 1 Network?

Tier 1 network carriers or service providers own the networks they use or have no-fee agreements with other Tier 1 network carriers.  They do not purchase service from other providers.  They do use unpaid peering agreements to interconnect with other Tier 1 providers to exchange network traffic.   

They are the biggest networks geographically and have the highest global reachability.  Tier 1 providers can reach any internet region without paid agreements with other network carriers.

Tier 1’s can help negate DDoS attacks by providing multiple bridges from your intranet to the internet so that there is no single bottleneck. 

It can be difficult to determine if a network is truly Tier 1.   Business agreements between providers are rarely public and often covered by a non-disclosure agreement.  The Renesys Corporation publishes lists of Tier 1 networks.  

What is a Tier 2 Network?

Tier 2 providers use transit connections and some peering, but have to purchase access from Tier 1 providers in order to reach all parts of the internet.  Transit connections are a service that let network traffic cross (or transit) a computer network.  This is used to connect smaller internet service providers to the larger internet. 

Tier 2 networks don’t carry enough traffic to be considered Tier 1.  As such, they may peer with other Tier 2 networks, but usually have to pay a fee for access to Tier 1 networks. 

Tier 2’s tend to be smaller companies and may be more willing to make a deal or do something like negotiate a custom SLA (Service Level Agreement) contract. 

What is a Tier 3 Network?

Tier 3 carriers are small networks without transit customers.  They have to purchase access from Tier 2 and sometimes from Tier 1 providers as well.  This means all non-local network traffic reaches the larger internet by only one path or default route.  They are sometimes referred to as last mile providers.  They can be congested or throttled and are probably not a good choice for a business data center. 

Benefits of Tier 1 Network Carriers

Tier 1 providers are your premium carriers.  Tier 2 options will be cheaper, but may have additional connection fees.  There are many advantages of Tier 1 providers for data centers:

  • Tier 1 providers generally have more options for data rates and offer higher data rates than Tier 2 providers.  You can pay for what you need now and easily increase data rates if necessary in the future.
  • Tier 1 network carriers have more points of presence (POPs). That means you can access the network from more geographical locations, usually globally.
  • Tier 1 network carriers transport network traffic further with fewer hops than Tier 2 carriers.  Anyone who has spent time trying to figure out why an application or website was slow understands the importance of achieving the lowest latency possible.   

Comparison of Popular Tier 1 Carriers

ServerMania offers a wide range of Tier 1 network carriers with its dedicated server, colocation, and cloud server offerings, including:

Zayo

Zayo is a top ten global Tier-1 internet service provider.  They have over 1,200 data centers and offer dedicated, low-latency bandwidth on their long haul fiber network.  Zayo has 13 Million miles of fiber servicing 400 key markets in the United States, Canada and Western Europe.

Zayo offers flexible 1G, 10G, and 100G service on a fully-meshed optical backbone with dedicated ports for optimal reliability and performance.  They are capable of providing dedicated internet access with the scalability needed for growing businesses. Zayo’s scrubbing centers provide protections from DDoS and malware attacks.

Cogent

Cogent is another Tier-1 provider that is a popular choice in the United States and Canada. They use a mixture of long-haul and metropolitan fiber to  reach over 207 markets in 47 countries.  They have 54 data centers and 2,854 strategically location presence points.    Cogent has full end-to-end control over it’s network routing leading to reliable and scalable service.  

Cogent’s network is IPv6 and MPLS enabled.  They offer customers virtually unlimited bandwidth and tools that provide information about backbone routing and network efficiency.  Cogent is known for their excellent customer service and for having an excellent Service Level Agreement (SLA).

Telia

Telia is one of the oldest Tier 1 networks still standing.  It was created in 1993, right as the internet entered all of our lives.  They offer over 41,000 miles of fiber and 300 points-of-presence in 35 countries in North America, Europe and Asia. 

Telia’s customers account for 58% of global internet routes!  That translates to minimal hops and a high number of direct connections.  All connectivity options are available in IPv4 and IPv6 domains.  They offer customers tools to check connectivity that are very helpful when troubleshooting network issues.

Final Thoughts

Budget network carriers may have hidden fees associated with connecting to Tier 1 providers and not really be the budget choice.  If contracting with a Tier 2 provider, make sure to fully understand the contract you are signing. 

ServerMania is proud to offer a wide range of premium network carriers in each of our global data center locations. You can rest assured that your ServerMania dedicated or cloud server is connected to only the finest carriers available, with a diverse mix of network options to ensure optimal performance. 

Premium, Tier 1, carriers will provide you with a widely reaching network, minimum latency and multiple bandwidth options.  You can expect excellent reliability and SLA’s that specify reimbursement for exceeding threshold down time.  The customer service will be proactive and provide you with tools to supervise and troubleshoot your network. 

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Douglas Madero

Douglas Madero

Douglas Madero is a Senior Account Manager for ServerMania.