Test Center Rx

SAN MATEO (01/31/2000) - We have a Shiva Corp. LanRover/E Plus with an eight-modem pool set up for our remote users to pick up e-mail at remote locations. I was recently asked why our dial-in connections connect at a maximum speed of 26K-bps even though all of our modems are V.90, at 56K-bps (with the latest BIOS). Do you know if the reported "connected at" figure after a dial-up connection is made in Windows 95 is the accurate modem speed? Should I call the phone company next to have them check our modem phone lines? Please help, and thanks in advance.

Luis Calderon

Lori: My understanding is that you are not alone in this experience. Some of my colleagues have had the same problem dialing in to remote systems that they use. Most likely it is not your phone company, although I would not rule that out. There are many configurations that you'll need to set to achieve the correct speed. However, it is difficult to actually achieve 56K-bps unless the Windows Registry has been tweaked. Here is a list of things to check before calling your local phone company.

First, I would check the settings on the Shiva LanRover/E Plus itself to ensure it is set for 56K-bps connectivity. Then check each modem in the pool to verify that they are also set to the proper speed; some modems are set by default at a lower speed and may need to be reset manually. Also check the Remote Access Server properties in Windows NT to verify their settings. Check all the modem property settings in Windows to make sure they are set for the maximum allowable speed.

In the past some modem vendors, such as U.S. Robotics, required customers to pay extra to have the V.90 option turned on. I don't know if this is the case with Shiva products, but it's worth mentioning.

The modems dialing in could also be the problem. If they run at lower speeds than your modem pool, the slower device takes precedence; your high-speed modems will adjust themselves to the incoming speed. Another thing to check is where your remote users are dialing from and where their calls are going. Are there limitations in an ISP or additional equipment along the way that could cause degradation on the line? If they are going through an ISP, does the ISP support V.90? Also, are there any limitations with the telephone lines they are using? Some other areas may have tariffs set to limit the actual speed.

If all these check out, then call your local phone company. And as far as whether Windows 95 accurately reports modem speeds, I am unaware of a known problem. How about you, Brooks?

Brooks: Well, 56K-bps modems are probably the end of the line for the venerable analog-modem technology. And that's just as well, because as you've learned, they're a fairly flaky technology. (Note to 56K-bps fans: No flames, please. I know they can and do work fine in some circumstances, but certainly you know that problems with 56K-bps modems are much more common than with 28.8 or 33.6 modem speeds.)There are a number of things to look at to diagnose what's going on, and, frankly, you may simply be out of luck. Your question isn't clear about the home office configuration; 56K-bps modems require digital incoming lines to achieve the 56K-bps speed. You can get the multiple "analog" lines delivered via ISDN PRI (Primary Rate Interface), or fractional T1, but you're going to need something digital at the receiving end.

Remember, 56K modems will rarely, if ever, actually connect at 56K. The highest I've seen with my own eyes is 54K-bps, and 44K-bps or 46K-bps is much more common.

But even without considering that, you say you're mostly getting 26Kbps connections -- that's slower than 28.8, let alone 33.6. Something is probably up. If you're getting this connection speed from multiple remote locations, and you're using analog lines into the home office, then you might want to have the phone company check the line. It's possible that you're simply too far from the central office, and that's as good as you're going to get. It's more likely that the lines are slightly noisy, either as delivered from your telco or because of questionable inside wiring. You should certainly be getting better than 26Kbps, especially considering how much of today's phone infrastructure is digital and doesn't degrade over distance.

For more on the details, a helpful troubleshooting guide for your exact problem is located at www.56k.com/trouble/connect.shtml.

I hope one of these suggestions will help. I'm with Lori on checking the configurations of the LanRover and the client modems, and if none of this solves the problem, you're probably best off contacting Shiva and seeing what they have to say.

Brooks Talley is senior business and technology architect for InfoWorld.com.

Lori Mitchell is a senior analyst in the Test Center. Send your questions for them to testcenter_rx@infoworld.com.

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