Small businesses find it tough to get what they need from big telecom service providers, which more often create offerings with big businesses in mind--"one-size-fits-all" solutions that may or may not fit.
In many cases, that one size is a T-1 line. At 1.5 megabits per second, that's faster than some business connection alternatives--but it also can cost as much as $1,000 per month. For the most part, service providers are not in a rush to develop a more flexible solution for small businesses that ultimately would subtract from their bottom lines. Fortunately, there's a work-around: an approach called broadband bonding. Simply put, it allows two or more broadband lines to be bonded into a single, more capacious pipe. Broadband bonding variations are offered by several companies, one of which is Mushroom Networks, founded in 2004 as a spinoff from the University of California, San Diego.
Mushroom offers a box called the Truffle (cute, huh?) that uses bonding to aggregate as many as six lines of any type--DSL, cable modem, wireless, even T-1s--into one Internet link that allows multiple end-user connections. The full aggregate bandwidth is available to any of the users.
Before you get worried about the potential cost of anything named after a pricey yet delicious fungus (the company also has a Porcini, which bonds four lines, and a Portabella, which aggregates wireless connections), listen to Mushroom CEO Cahit Akin's contention that the Truffle delivers return on investment in just a few months:
"Having two bonded DSL lines versus a T-1 can save you about 70 percent. We think there are small-business owners who have thought, 'Is there some way I could combine lines to increase bandwidth and save money?' These people have been looking to create options for themselves because they feel they have been faced with a lack of choices."
Dan O'Shea is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering telecom, mobile and other high-tech topics for nearly 20 years.