One of the biggest challenges facing Internet surfers today is band width.
When it comes to PC communications, band width usually refers to the amount of data that one can send or receive at any one time.Most of us are limited to a maximum transmission rate of 28,800 or 33,600 bits of data per second. (That's what the numbers mean on a modem when they're called a 28.8- or a 33.6-modem.)
As sites on the World Wide Web become more graphically intensive, the files will become larger. That's one of the main reasons that downloading is taking longer.
In a corporate environment, where one can justify and write off such business expenses, you can purchase devices that allow higher throughput. These devices, when tied to a dedicated high-speed phone line, allow for very rapid Internet connections.
That's what we just completed in our office, as we've now taken our first step into the world of dedicated communications. With a few tweaks to our set-up, we'll be able to take our transmission speeds all the way up to T-1 speeds without any difficulty. (That's 1,544,000 bits per second, in case you were wondering.)
For us, the ability to both receive and send large computer files is becoming more and more important. However, leasing dedicated lines is not cheap.
Monthly costs for a T-1 generally start at around $1,000. And just because you want a dedicated line doesn't mean that one will be available when you want it, if ever. (But that's grist for a future column.)
However, I've just learned of a local company that can turn In-ter-net surfing into a super-fast ride for relatively low bucks, both for home and business use.
The company is Orem-based Helius.
Helius founder Myron Mosbarger envisioned a simple way to use satellites circling the globe as an extension of the Earth-based Internet.
Given his position as a senior research engineer at Novell in the mid-1990s, Mosbarger figured the concept was a logical extension of Novell's network-centric vision. But he was wrong.
"I could just never get anyone at Novell to listen to me," Mosbarger said. "Even Frankenberg (Novell's former president and chief executive) didn't get it. All he could think of was how old those satellites were."
But even those "old" satellites can deliver a lot of transformational power to an industry. (Just ask the cable television executives who thought direct TV would be a bust.)
By then Mosbarger had already attracted some serious attention from Hughes and former Novell executive Ray Noorda.
So with promises of support from both, Mosbarger wrote a business plan, started Helius in October 1995, signed a deal with Hughes and got funded by Noorda's investment company, The Canopy Group.
Next month, Helius will begin shipping version 1.2 of its DirecPC Network Edition both on its own and through a distribution deal with Hughes that will put the product in CompUSA stores around the country.
For $400, anyone can purchase a stand-alone version, which gives you a small satellite dish, a PC card and software to make it all go. For an additional $1500, you can also get a site license for up to 10 concurrent users on a network.
You'll need a contract with Hughes for download connections that starts at $25 per month. You'll also still need an Internet connection for outbound requests, which are generally available at $20 per month for unlimited connect time. And that's about it.
(You can also buy a special mini dish that will allow you to receive both Internet and DirecTV signals off the same satellite.)
So, how much faster is it really?
Mosbarger demonstrated its speeds late one recent afternoon in the Helius offices on Center Street by downloading an 8.8MB (mega-byte) file for me from the Internet in under four minutes. That's pretty fast.
By comparison, that same file would take roughly 40 minutes to receive over the Internet on a 28.8 modem under ideal conditions.
Understand that if you're looking to send out large files, you'd still be constrained by your modem speeds. However, for a relatively low cash outlay, you can get really great download speeds.
Which means when it comes to Internet surfing, Helius may be a great way to make your band-width problems "go away."
Helius can be contacted toll-free at 1-888-764-9020 or on the Web at http://www.helius.com.