What’s Your Business’ Backup Internet Plan?
What would you do without Internet for an extended period of time? What would your business do? Do you have a personal and business backup Internet plan?
These questions give most people pause, because it brings into focus how incredibly dependent we are on the ability to connect in both our personal and professional lives.
The reality is that there are a lot of scenarios that can cause wide-spread Internet services outages. The eastern U.S. has been getting hammered with winter storms that can damage lines and disrupt service. Meanwhile, in Arizona, the northern half of the state lost connectivity this week after a CenturyLink main line was vandalized.
Outages due to the weather, malicious destruction and failures due to aging infrastructure are all realistic situations businesses, in particular, need to be prepared for in order to ensure that company operations stay online.
“Often it’s customer facing, financial and time-critical applications that an organization cannot afford to delay or miss,” notes Marc Johnson, Insight chief technologist. During the outage in Arizona this week, restaurants found themselves unable to process credit cards and ATMs ceased to function, even weather reports were hampered by the lack of service.
Ben Nemeth, Insight mobility practice architect stressed the need for high-availability Internet connection as one piece of the solution.
“One product that’s been touting much in this area is Cisco with the iWAN concept. This essentially lets companies use less expensive methods of Internet connectivity—like 4G modem or local cable internet—to serve secure connections much like the more expensive DSL / T1 / T3 solutions.”
Coupling these high-availability strategies with alternate communications paths is colloquially referred to as the “belt and suspenders approach.”
“I advise customers to make certain that the paths are diverse to the point of physically verifying different central offices,” Johnson says. “While a single provider may claim to have diverse routes, the reality is that they generally have a single point of failure where the data path crosses the same physical infrastructure.”
Many businesses’ outages—whatever their cause—are more than just an inconvenience, they can come coupled with brand reputation damage, regulatory fines and service level penalties, all of which have a negative impact on revenue.
For consultants like Johnson and Nemeth, it’s a delicate balance to ensure that engineering a solution doesn’t outweigh the cost of an outage. Though, when you consider the bottom line impact of a damaged reputation, it’s easy to see why companies would be motivated to make substantial investments in a nice set of “belt and suspenders.”
Ben Nemeth sums up outage preparedness this way: “It’s all about being in the department of redundancy department when it comes to business continuity.”