Small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are finding that without network failover and load balancing, disaster recovery efforts are incomplete as network traffic increases to support customers, partners, headquarters, and remote employees.
Many safeguard IT assets by replicating data within specialized storage systems and protect voice communication with new server technology and other telephony infrastructure. However, without network failover and load balancing their efforts are lacking.
Just as for Fortune 100 enterprises, large-scale disasters rarely occur – but certainly must to be taken into account – while small service provider outages occur regularly, costing businesses millions of dollars and lost productivity each year.
Deploying multiple Internet Services Providers (ISPs) for purposes of disaster recovery allows a company to continue doing business without interruption even during a service provider outage.
There are many deployment options available using multiple ISPs. For example, an SME can allocate different ISP connections to different applications. Using this technique, it can set up concurrent voice traffic and large file transfers, each dedicated to a separate ISP. This way, large file transfers over an ISP connection will not slow down voice traffic. Using multiple ISPs allows a business to segregate voice and file transfer traffic to specific ISPs. If one of the ISPs has a network outage, both the voice and large file transfers can be directed to the working ISP. Once the first ISP comes back online, traffic can be automatically directed back to the original dedicated configuration.
IT personnel typically deploy multiple network connections based upon three primary criteria: network redundancy, traffic load balancing, and network performance.
An organization may be multi-homed to a single service provider using multiple Internet connections to gain link redundancy. However, this is limited redundancy, and may be subject to a network failure if that service provider has an outage. ISP redundancy offers more reliable network redundancy, as well as the ability to load balance, enhance quality of service, and improve network performance.
By automating Internet load balancing among multiple ISP connections, traffic load is analyzed and routed to the ISP connection most able to handle the traffic at that particular time. This form of “always-on” network resiliency delivers a great return on investment (ROI). Not only can an SME ensure network uptime, but it can also lower bandwidth costs by having the flexibility to choose lower cost network connections.
Internet Bandwidth Cost Savings
Utilizing multi-homing or link aggregation products such as WAN link controllers SMEs can have affordable inbound and outbound load balancing and failover of multiple low-cost Internet links. Network multi-homing is the ability to connect an organization to the Internet with more than one connection. These network connections can be any combination of DSL, cable, fiber, wireless, T1, T3, or any other connection type. With WAN link controllers, SMEs are able to use two, three or however many Internet links they need and can leverage low-cost links, eliminate link congestion and bottlenecks, and use quality of service (QoS) traffic management features to ensure minimum bandwidth for specific applications.
WAN link controllers allow SMEs to take advantage of the cost benefits of DSL and cable links, in addition to T1s. Not only can an SME gain the flexible capacity, it also can lease less expensive connectivity from multiple ISPs so if one link goes down, traffic can automatically switch over to the other links.
By bundling multiple, diverse Internet links from one or more ISPs, WAN link controllers reduce the need to purchase expensive high-speed links. This enables SMEs to increase bandwidth and save associated expense without compromising up-time. WAN link controllers enable SMEs to choose the Internet link performance/cost ratio that best fits their needs; provides complete service provider independence; and eliminates the complexity of network protocols such as border gateway protocol (BGP). For example, if an SME has a T1 connection (1.5 Mbps), and needs additional bandwidth, it typically would have to upgrade to a T3 connection (45 Mbps). However, this may be significantly more bandwidth than is needed, and may task the IT budget.
With a WAN link controller, this same scenario can be accomplished with two 768 Kbps DSL links that are combined for a total aggregated bandwidth equivalent to a T1 – at a fraction of the cost. An SME also can add additional links such as DSL, cable, wireless, and others, with a relatively small increase in cost that can more closely match its needs.
For example, Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES, a cooperative educational services company in Ithaca, NY, that serves local school districts was able to dramatically lower its bandwidth costs. Using a WAN link controller to automatically load balance and failover multiple Internet links, the company was able to increase from 2Mbps of bandwidth costing $3,200 per year, to 9Mbps of bandwidth, adding an additional 7Mbps while keeping its bandwidth costs to less than $3,000 per year. After deploying the WAN link controller, users experienced noticeable network performance improvement.
Building Reliability Into Your WAN Infrastructure
Relying upon a single Internet connection for business-critical applications and daily communications with customers, partners and between remote employees and headquarters is like a skydiver relying on a single parachute, and not having a secondary chute in case the primary chute fails.
Implementing disaster recovery for network connectivity using multiple ISPs is cost-effective insurance. Unfortunately, many SMEs don’t address WAN uptime until their service provider has an outage and they lose productivity, data and even business. Unless an experienced IT manager has encountered a service provider outage, the manager may not recognize the need to mitigate against the risk of network downtime to protect business.
WAN link controllers can help provide uninterrupted access to headquarters and remote offices, ensuring business continuity when disaster strikes or WAN infrastructure is compromised. Network outages can happen due to human error, hardware failure and local and regional disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. Intelligently controlling bandwidth throughput by managing multiple and diverse WAN links, and automatically applying failover techniques to avoid link failures is critical to ensuring SMEs stay connected.
Many enterprises need to redirect Internet traffic to a disaster recovery site should a catastrophe disrupt a main site. Since that is not practical or affordable for many SMEs, a WAN link controller may reduce the cost to ensure that site failover and failback occur automatically and reliably.
The Internet is an integral part of daily business for business transactions and communicating with customers, partners and employees. Network uptime and performance are required for running the day-to-day operations of many SMEs. Network downtime not only costs money and loss of productivity, it can also adversely affect a company’s reputation among customers and partners. There are many events that cause a network or site to go down, including natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes, security attacks, human error, and other network hardware that can fail. When assessing how to avoid network failures, it is important to evaluate the options available to ensure network uptime and performance. It is also critical to examine the solutions that not only help avoid network failures, but are also affordable and operationally cost-effective.
Marc Goodman is the director of marketing at Ecessa. He has more than 29 years experience in the technology industry with a history of building industry-leading brands for emerging companies, managing product marketing and marketing communications.