With ubiquitous superfast broadband still some way in the future, despite additional government investment into new fibre infrastructure, many UK businesses are still struggling to attain a reliable, consistent and fast internet connection. With an ever increasing reliance on cloud based applications to run their businesses, organisations should now be concerned about how to implement essential internet resilience for all of their sites to ensure uninterrupted business operations.
The key is to step away from a reliance on a single connection or a single network operator. Whether used as a primary, secondary or as a key component of a bonded solution, 4G has a very important role to play for UK business. Every business is now totally dependent upon excellent, fast and available connectivity – and the technology is available today to provide both backup and dynamic optimisation in a way that will reduce business risk and improve business performance.
4G mobile data networks offer the maturity, reliability and performance required to deliver internet service to be used as primary connections or as failover services, and are increasingly being adopted by UK Enterprises and SME companies for the following reasons: as a fast deployment option while waiting for a fixed line connection to be installed; as a supplementary internet resource to enhance performance where traditional broadband is poor quality; and for the most pressing business need – resilience.
Furthermore, by using a Software Defined Networking (SDN) control platform a the datacentre, both fixed line and 4G connections at a company’s site can be bonded together to optimise bandwidth performance and intelligently route internet traffic, thereby maximising delivery usage and cost of this essential resilience model. Whether used as a primary, secondary or as a key component of a bonded solution, 4G has a very important role to play for UK business, as Mike van Bunnens, Managing Director, Comms365, explains.
Get some perspective
Citizens Advice is calling for compensation for those small businesses and individuals suffering broadband delays, amid reports that poor service costs customers £1.5 billion a year. This demand comes hard on the heels of Chancellor Philip Hammond announcing a £400m funding for a new Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund that is targeted at fibre broadband providers, to deliver fibre to the home, rather than just fibre to the cabinet services.
But let’s take a step back. BT is not the only option. 4G mobile coverage is improving daily, in both urban and rural areas, providing companies with far faster throughput both up and down. 4G connections are typically more reliable than ADSL and, critically, can support multiple users accessing high quality hosted services simultaneously – such as IP Centrex Telephony and Skype for Business – that ADSL generally struggles with, due to poor upload speeds.
The maturity of 4G provides just part of the solution. The increasing use of cloud services has made many companies totally reliant on connectivity and without near continuous uptime and excellent throughput, virtually every aspect of the business will be compromised. And that means that those companies still relying on any single connection – whether it’s a fixed line or mobile – are taking a massive business risk.
Big Data Demands Resilience
With the ability to bundle multiple 4G connections into one, the world’s largest and smallest companies alike, are now actively exploring the role 4G can play within their overall networks. From greenfield sites where a fixed line connection is going to take too long to install, to temporary sites that cannot justify a fixed line investment, the ability to bond up to ten 4G connections into one reliable, high performing line reinforces the maturity, and value, of the mobile technology to companies of any size. And not a moment too soon – with the demand for big data services increasing incredibly rapidly as businesses embrace the full range of cloud based business applications, covering everything from finance to CRM.
All of the mobile operators now offer competitive 4G big data packages; and whilst these are more expensive than the traditional ADSL lines, most businesses agree that the improvement in both speed and reliability they experience, more than justifies the additional cost. Rather than feeling tied to Openreach, businesses can and should be exploring other, mature and robust, options. And drilling down further, they should be considering how best to achieve the essential resilience required in their network, due to the escalating dependence of their business operations upon the cloud.
Any business, whatever its size, should have a backup plan in place. Best practice connectivity in 2017 demands more than a single connection. Whether a company opts for two fixed line connections (ensuring they both do not go through the same exchange) or a mix of mobile and fixed lines, the key is to have that secondary, failover solution to support both voice and data traffic should the primary connection fail.
Indeed, major fixed line providers are waking up to this essential requirement and beginning to offer a bundled fixed and mobile option. However, with packages typically limited to a single mobile provider, there are clearly limitations to the resilience model offered. Furthermore, companies do not want to pay just for a backup connection that is never used. The alternative is to use Software Defined Networking (SDN) to actively use all available connections and intelligently route different types of traffic across the network, maximising every aspect of the investment, at all times across both fixed and mobile operators.
SDN puts network control in the hands of the business, making it easy to add connections from any carrier, manage traffic and move applications in and out of the cloud as required. For example, critical application traffic can be routed via the fastest connection – which is often now 4G – while non-critical application traffic can run across the slower ADSL connection. With this approach, organisations are dynamically optimising application performance and aggregating both primary and backup connections.
Critically, this type of solution is simple and can be handled either by an in-house IT Manager or provided as a managed service. In addition to dynamically routing traffic, the SDN controller will provide in depth reporting, supporting a routine review to ensure the connections still meet business needs. The entire process is quick, low cost and inherently flexible, enabling the business to exploit the best fixed and mobile connections available in any specific location.
Is 4G mature enough? When one of the world’s largest distribution companies has deployed bonded 4G to over thirty sites in the UK already and is planning to double that in 2017, the mobile approach has clearly attained commercial maturity. Furthermore, these mobile networks are not stand alone – using SDN they are being tied into the corporate network to deliver that critical level of control and performance visibility.
For those still waiting for Openreach or more Government funding it is time to take control and focus on the real issue at hand: it is resilience as much as throughput that should be a concern. There are other providers, both fixed and mobile, and proven solutions that deliver faster, more reliable connections. The key, however, is to step away from a reliance on a single connection or a single network operator. Every business is now totally dependent upon excellent, fast and available connectivity – and the technology is available today to provide both backup and dynamic optimisation in a way that will reduce business risk and improve business performance. So why wait?