Monday, November 12, 2007

Bandwidth For Holiday Sales

Now that the leaves have turned and the little goblins have made their candy rounds, the holiday shopping season is beginning in earnest. Black Friday, the highest volume shopping day for bricks and mortar stores, and Black Monday, the highest volume for online e-tailers, are nearly upon us. Will your point of sales, inventory and accounting systems be able to weather the surge? Or will your enterprise go crashing down, causing customers to enter their orders at your competitors?

Certainly your hardware and LAN need the margin to deal with temporary sales volume increases, but what about your bandwidth leaving the premises? You can add more processors to the servers all you want, but it will be for naught if your WAN (Wide Area Network) connection becomes congested. As bandwidth gets sopped up, users can experience delays and finally disconnects.

It's even worse if you are sharing a network connection for both transaction data and VoIP telephone calls. Either you lose the ability to enter orders or the phone calls start breaking up, or both. Just as suddenly as the overload occurs, frustrated customers move on and the system seems to heal itself. There may be additional incidents, or the season passes and all you've lost are a bunch of potential sales?

Potential sales? Are you kidding? Who wants to lose sales? Sadly, the value of those sales may well exceed the cost of adequate bandwidth to ensure smooth operations. Scrimping on data connection bandwidth or depending on a consumer-oriented Internet connection to save money can well prove to be penny-wise-dollar foolish.

If you are running into bandwidth limitations during normal business operations or experienced a surge last holiday season that is likely to repeat, then there is no time to waste. But isn't it already too late? No, not necessarily. If you already have a professional bandwidth carrier such as T1, DS3 or Ethernet, it may be possible for your carrier to increase your bandwidth quickly. This is especially true when the connection can handle the higher bandwidth but is being limited to save costs.

An example of this is fractional T1 service. The T1 line is capable of 1.5 Mbps, but some clients choose to order 500 Kbps or less because their operations don't really need more. Even if you are running a full T1 line, it may be possible to bond-in an additional line in time to handle the additional traffic. It all depends on what facilities you have in place.

Fiber optic carriers are even more amenable to bandwidth increases without extensive re-engineering. Fractional or full DS3 service at 45 Mbps doesn't begin to tax the available bandwidth of even a single fiber wavelength. Ethernet over fiber running a native IP carrier can be tuned up from 10 to 100 to 1,000 Mbps without taxing the fiber, and perhaps without having to change-out termination equipment. Once again, it all depends on what you have.

The easiest situation of all if when you've collocated your servers in a "carrier hotel" where multiple carriers have their Point of Presence. A bandwidth upgrade might be as simple as enabling more Mbps to your WAN connection. Or you may be able to find higher bandwidth and lower prices from a competing carrier in the same facility. Then it's just a matter of a new line drop to your rack.

Before you opt for crossing your fingers and hoping for the best this year, why not review your bandwidth options with our team of expert consultants? Don't assume that all upgrades require weeks or months of engineering. You might be able to get the capacity margin you desire much faster than you think.

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