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Why Broadband Backup Makes Sense
What happens when your broadband goes down. Are you out of business? Here’s how to prevent that.

By: John Shepler

In the last couple of decades, broadband Internet access has gone from being a marginally used business tool to a critical infrastructure for most companies. Both speeds and traffic have increased by orders of magnitude. So, answer this question: “what happens if your broadband goes down?”

We’ve Quietly Become Dependent
The conversion from traditional to automated business processes and digital communications have taken place so gradually that many companies don’t quite realize what would happen if it all suddenly went dead. You know what happens if you lose power. That facility is temporarily out of business. You know what happens if your data center loses power. Your computer-based processes are out of business. If that’s not acceptable, then what have you done to ensure continuing operations?

The Danger of Single Point Failures
What is the communications equivalent of battery and diesel generator backup for electrical power? It’s one or more redundant communications paths. If you have a single broadband line powering your network, you have what’s known as a “single point failure”. That’s one place where a failure of any sort puts you out of business. You can have all sorts of extra computers, printers, servers, battery backup and people cross-trained to take over whatever is a priority task regardless of who gets sick. It’s all for naught if yours is an online business and there is no way you and your customers can connect.

Start With the Best Line You Can Get
There are broadband services and then there are broadband services. They really break down into two categories. There are telecom services designed for high reliability and often available with service level agreements, a type of performance guarantee. Then there are “best effort” services designed for low cost and no performance guarantees. Which do you suppose is best for your critical operations?

Telecom based services, such as T1, DS3, SONET, Ethernet over Copper and Ethernet over Fiber are examples of dedicated high reliability services. So are MPLS networks if you want to create a private “Intranet” among your own facilities. DSL, Cable, Cellular and other broadband services popular with consumers generally fall into the “best effort” category. Best effort means just that. The carrier will make their best effort to keep you up and running, but there is no guarantee of what that will wind up being.

The Need For Redundancy
Even the best technology can go awry. Amplifiers short out, backhoes cut through copper and fiber cables with alarming regularity, and technicians make mistakes, perhaps disconnecting your circuit instead of the one they intended. Accidents will, indeed, happen, but that doesn’t mean your business has to be the victim.

One tried and true way to protect yourself from equipment failure is to have a backup in place. If one fiber optic line is good, two are better… with some caveats. Redundant lines really need to be independent. Ideally, you want to get them from different carriers who run them in different cable bundles that even leave your facility in different directions.

I remember a few years ago when our Cable company had one of those backhoe mishaps. It took two days to get TV and broadband restored because they had to splice over 100 fiber strands to complete the repair. You could have leased ten of those strands to make your connection redundant and you would have lost everything in one big chop.

Can Cable Backup Fiber?
Business cable broadband can actually be a very good way to get redundancy into your communications without doubling the budget. Cable services have gotten a lot more reliable since they switched from large coaxial trunks to fiber optic runs to the curb or neighborhood.

The DOCSIS 3 standard, that is now almost universal, offers bandwidth capability in the hundreds of Mbps, even up to 1 Gbps in some locations. The cost per Mbps is just a fraction of what you’d pay for Ethernet over Fiber or legacy SONET. That’s because cable service is, indeed, “best effort”, the bandwidth is shared, not dedicated, and the bandwidth is asymmetrical. That is, download speeds are much higher than upload speeds.

Taking all that into account, you may sleep a lot better at night knowing that if your premium dedicated fiber takes a hit, you can continue operations uninterrupted with broadband cable that is unrelated to your main service. You simply need a way to ensure automatic failover so that your employees and customers won’t see a service interruption.

Other Options
Some companies are quite happy to have T1 lines, Ethernet over Copper, two-way satellite, or even 4G LTE wireless as backup services for their main channel. Any channel that is completely independent is a good backup candidate. The only real limitation to any of these is the amount of bandwidth available and latency low enough not to impact what you are doing with the broadband connection.

Are you feeling that a single high capacity line is leaving you vulnerable to a service interruption? Why not look into an affordable broadband backup service for peace of mind?

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