Saturday, October 13, 2007

Why does the DSL go out so often?

We have redundant internet connections at the office. The T1 is more reliable and I use it to keep our four remote locations connected via permanent VPNs. It is also our SMTP gateway and primary portal for incoming VPNs via RRAS. Our T1 service is fairly inexpensive - less than $300 a month for a full 1.5Mbs up and down from Speakeasy. It's the uplink speed that is important to us to get our email through the pipe as quickly as possible. We send a lot of large attachments - mainly photos of aircraft for sale.

In order to keep the T1 free for serious internet traffic (email and VPNs) I got an inexpensive ($60/month) DSL from DSL Extreme. It is 3Mbs down and 768K up. We don't need the uplink speed on the DSL but the users appreciate the quick downlink for their web searches. We do more and more business through the web these days - links to FAA sites and such. Unfortunately the DSL is not very reliable. It seems to go out every few days. It can be maddening. Sometimes it will work fine for a week and then it will fail two or three times in one day.

Today was one of those days. I few months ago I got tired of having to drive fifty miles into the office on a Saturday just to reset the DSL. The Saturday staff can't reset it for me because the server room is in a locked area behind the accounting office which is also locked. So I bought something called a PowerPal from DataProbe. It is a little $225 remote controlled power switch. It requires a phone line to access the remote on-off capabilities. I chose to have it on a dedicated line but you can piggyback on a FAX or modem line.

It is really simple to use. You just call the number and press a certain key in between the first and second ring. It can be programmed with a security code but I have never found it necessary. Once it hears the keypress it responds with a tone indicating if it is off or on. You then press another key and it does a 5-second power cycle, with a tone when it is back on. I have my DSL modem plugged into the PowerPal and so far, it has worked every time I have had to use it. It has saved me many trips into the office.

My only question is, why does the stupid DSL line go out so often? I have a similar problem on my DSL line at home through Verizon. It can go for months without any disconnects and then will experience outages every few days for a week or two. It's as if the ISP is reprogramming or resetting it on their end which somehow drops the signal on our end until the modem power is cycled. I don't know much about DSLAMs but you would think they have progressed to the point that someone in the local loop could be added or changed without messing everything up.

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