Mike van Bunnens, Managing Director of Comms365, says that in a bid to achieve continuous, reliable connectivity and deliver 100% Internet access uptime, organisations are increasingly exploring a raft of new business continuity communications opportunities – from microwave to 4G.
When it comes to the last line of business operation defence, speed is not the only concern – organisations are increasingly aware of the need to achieve far greater consistency and resilience.
Bonding multiple connections – both fixed and mobile, from diverse suppliers – provides a guaranteed Quality of Service that not only delivers essential business continuity in a world that is totally reliant upon the Internet but can also transform day to day performance, even enable new business opportunities and services in areas poorly served by the traditional fixed lines.
Communications resilience is essential – but why keep it just for emergencies?
Fixed Line Alternative
Most organisations now recognise the complete reliance upon an Internet connection. But what are the options when the traditional connections are not available? Given the significant cost of business downtime associated with a loss of VoiP facility, access to cloud applications and data, as well as email, growing numbers of businesses are exploring the business continuity options that can be deployed when the primary fixed line connection fails.
The alternatives to fixed line options vary depending on location, from microwave to satellite to mobile, increasingly including 4G networks. Performance and cost can also vary significantly; indeed, in many areas where the ADSL service is weak, companies are discovering that a failover to a 3G network actually delivers better performance.
So why simply keep the business continuity connection on standby for emergencies? Why invest in an additional network that may never be used when bonding the connections together provides not only the necessary resilience and contingency but can also improve day-to-day operations?
Quality of Service
Bonding aggregates up to six connections, both fixed line and mobile, from multiple providers, transforming both up and download speeds. For example, if a company is using an Ethernet main connection with an ADSL backup option, bonding these two connections together can significantly improve day-to-day performance. Furthermore, if the Ethernet connection fails, the ADSL alternative is still running – there is no need to plug in an alternative router, or any of the other manual interventions typically required to switch over to the back up service.
Of course, when it comes to business continuity, the speed of connection is not the only concern. Organisations need a guarantee of quality of service (QoS) and a way of controlling data costs – especially when the backup line is mobile. Mobile network operators typically do not offer any QoS commitments, preferring instead to concentrate exclusively on speed. However, the downside of 3G or 4G modems that continually scan for the best speed is packet loss and higher latency.
For any business reliant upon the mobile connection in the event of a fixed line outage – the priority must be connection consistency over speed. The bonded model takes a different approach: with access to higher speeds as a result of aggregating multiple connections, the bonded unit can proactively cap the top speed at a point where a consistent connection can be guaranteed.
Using this model, a QoS promise can be combined with the use of multiple mobile connections within one bonded service to provide both additional contingency and performance consistency. In addition to creating the most reliable connection possible, by taking bandwidth from different network operator cell locations the bonded service ensures that even if one operator’s network is congested, the overall connection remains stable and high performing.
One of the other barriers to adopting mobile networks as a business continuity option is the fear of incurring massive data costs. However, while it is true that mobile data is considerably more expensive than fixed line data, there are ways around the problem – not least with the significantly lower data costs associated with higher data 4G services now on offer. Organisations can shop around for their own mobile tariffs and then use the bonded service or look for a tailored tariff linked to the bonded service. Either way, most companies will be pleasantly surprised by the diversity and affordability of mobile data plans now available.
In addition, when real-time monitoring is embedded within a bonded managed service an organisation can set alerts to highlight if and when mobile data limits are being approached. For a company using a mix of fixed and mobile bonded connections it is also possible to intelligently route traffic to avoid exceeding data limits. So while the bonded service will typically utilise the connection that has the most stable bandwidth and the lowest latency, it is also possible to limit specific traffic to specific connections – for example using the fixed line for general Internet access and a mobile connection for specific application data.
The ability to combine real-time monitoring with intelligent data routing down diverse channels ensures a business not only has resilience but can also exploit these multiple connections to operate in the most efficient and cost effective manner.
With near total reliance upon an Internet connection for every business model, the need for some form of backup connection is now a given. But simply deploying this spare connection for backup alone makes little sense, especially when a bonded connections QoS and intelligent routing can measurably improve day-to-day operations.
When the quality and consistency of Internet connection now underpins the majority of business activities, organisations need to look hard at the BC model and actively exploit these multiple connections to deliver continuous value to the business.