It’s easy to get preoccupied with bandwidth, where to get it from and how much you need. But there is something else you should be asking when it comes to internet connectivity, namely is it shaped or unshaped?

“Shaping” refers to how the information that flows between your computer (or phone, or gaming console) and other computers on the internet is treated and prioritised.

When you send and receive mail, for example, your computer opens a connection to a server in a remote location and then transfers some data (including your email and attachments). The communication between your computer and the server takes place in a language known as a “protocol”.

Want unshaped bandwidth? Find out about Vox Telecom’s FatPipe here.

Shaping is the process of giving one protocol a higher priority than another protocol. It’s used to make the most of the finite resource that is bandwidth.

On a shaped connection, Skype would for example be given higher priority than e-mail because even a millisecond delay in data being transferred on a call would make it illegible (and it’s even worse if you’re doing a video call).

Email data for example won’t be as affected by a temporary slowdown (in fact a couple of seconds’ worth of delay in data being transferred is not the end of the world).

 Did you know that a shaped Internet service can automatically tell the difference between various protocols used over the Internet? Generally speaking, the highest priority is assigned to HTTP (web) traffic. The following protocols are prioritised on the network: HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, Mail (POP3, SMTP and IMAP), SSH and TELNET. Any other protocol will receive a lower priority on the network.

Shaped bandwidth is great when you have a bunch of users sharing an upstream Internet connection (as is commonly the case in South Africa). But it can be frustrating if the protocol you’re trying to use is being shaped.

That’s why unshaped bandwidth is becoming such a big deal.

Unshaped bandwidth offers a great user experience and is generally only used when there’s a lower number of people sharing an upstream internet connection, because the basic underlying quality of the connection is generally speaking, better.

When you’re on unshaped, there’s literally no holds barred on your connection. Every protocol performs at its level best and even P2P and torrents run at the maximum speed your line will allow.

“First come, first served”

Need more from your internet connection?

The difference between shaped and unshaped bandwidth, especially when you need speed, is huge. It also has a lot of people asking – why bother with shaped bandwidth to begin with?

(If you’ve ever been lucky enough to surf the web abroad, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about!)

Essentially, unshaped bandwidth (like Vox Telecom’s world class Fat Pipe) does not prioritise traffic. Instead, it operates on a “first come, first served” basis, regardless of which protocol is used, to provide the best possible performance.

Many applications, both for business and personal use, require unshaped bandwidth to work well. And because an unshaped service does not “shape” any protocols, all protocols share the available bandwidth equally.

For a quick, highly prioritised and unshaped connection like Vox Telecom’s Fat Pipe, click here for more information.

[Image – CC by 2.0/Smemon]