Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Winter Of Our Disconnect

Now is the winter of our disconnect
Made reliable by redundant connections.

It's perhaps poor Shakespeare, but good business practice to be planning for what will happen when your communications lines go down.

Look at what happened this winter in the Mediterranean. Multiple undersea cables were mysteriously cut, causing a major disruption in Internet service to Egypt and India and slowdowns to many countries in Europe and Asia. The culprit could be as simple as a snagged boat anchor.

Telecom line breaks happen often enough that they have a name: "backhoe fade." A common reason that your voice and data circuits suddenly stop working is that someone digging with a backhoe punches right through a copper or fiber optic cable. Other times, a car or truck slides on the ice and knocks down a telephone pole. Or, an electronic repeater just gives up the ghost at an inopportune moment.

Not that service interruptions in any particular location are at all common for professional-grade telecommunications services such as T1, DS3 or Ethernet. But if being able to use the telephone or Internet are absolutely essential for your company, you might want to think about a way to ensure continuity of service. You can do that with redundant connections.

A simple form of redundancy is an analog fallback circuit for your enterprise VoIP telephone system. Many VoIP interface adapters and IP PBX systems offer a "lifeline" option that is simply a common analog telephone line. Normally you make and receive calls using your T1 PRI or SIP digital trunk line. But if you happen to lose that service, the system will automatically engage the analog line or lines. One or two line are probably sufficient to get you through the outage.

Other systems, especially for point to point and dedicated Internet data connections, employ routers with dual WAN inputs. Two T1 lines plug into the back of the router. The best setup is to be able to use the full bandwidth of both lines in normal operations and gracefully fallback to one line's worth of bandwidth if there is a break.

Now, there is a trick to making this work properly. For true redundancy, your line services have to be completely independent. That certainly means not having both lines in the same binder cable. Preferably, your services come from different vendors and are delivered to your company from different directions.

One low cost alternative for businesses that use DS3 or Ethernet over fiber optic cable is to have a backup T1 line in place. The bandwidth of a T1 line pales in comparison to the higher order services, but being copper-based you can make sure that it isn't bundled with the fiber optic cable. That can avoid common backhoe fade. Electronics failures in either connection won't affect the other's performance.

Wireless options can also offer redundancy for your wireline services. A cell phone will usually still be working when you have an electrical or communications failure in the office. Cellular broadband cards in notebook computers can provide broadband Internet access without the need for either power or telecom lines.

If you are interested in higher reliability communications, especially if you are currently using DSL or Cable broadband at business locations, let our expert consultants find you cost effective redundant communications options to make sure you will always be connected.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.

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