By Nic Elliott, CTO, Evolving Networks.
Take a moment to perform a mental tour of your own house. As you pass from one room to the next, how many of the things you own are connected? Of course, there’s your smartphone that might be lying on your bedside table, but what about the smart TV in your living room, the wireless speaker in your kitchen or perhaps even the smart car parked on the drive way?
What do these things all have in common? What makes them “smart”? They are all enhanced by software, software that helps them deliver new functionality to users in an effort to make our lives easier.
Now look at the business side of things. Consumer technology has a lot to answer for, but in a good way. It has given users an appreciation of connectivity — we certainly take it for granted, expect it even, and often is only really thought of when it’s not working. In the business world, the same is true; we expect to be able to access our emails, work remotely and use various systems and software to make us more efficient. As a result, connectivity is fundamental to the survival of any business.
So why shouldn’t it be smarter, too? Why can’t we apply the “smart” lesson that consumer technology is teaching us? Is it time to look beyond the confines of leased lines and traditional carriers?
Taking a step back; good internet connectivity is critical for every business, regardless of what industry you’re in. In the past, connectivity was more important for businesses with a strong e-commerce focus or those that relied on it to reach customers. Now, however, everybody needs it — to reach those customers, sell products, connect remote teams together, give staff access to company apps and systems. In addition, organisational requirements have changed. There’s now an increased need for high performing, high capacity and low latency connections that will effectively deliver data, voice and even video to where it needs to go.
For users of this connectivity, it’s a given. But for organisations and IT managers it is an ongoing challenge to make sure the business is properly supported. Enter multi-line aggregated connectivity. Initially seen as a stop-gap technology, aggregated connectivity takes traditional broadband circuits, such as ADSL or FTTC, and, when necessary and available, Ethernet circuits, including FTTP, and brings them together as a single virtual connection.
And the thing is, it’s no longer seen as a stop-gap technology. It delivers real benefits to organisations of all sizes. Bonded ADSL, for example, offers increased bandwidth and capacity, normally impossible with individual ADSL lines, enhancing data throughput speeds and application performance. This is ideal for businesses with sites in poorly served areas, with substantial bandwidth requirements, or which need more cost-effective connections than leased lines. It also delivers built-in resilience. Simply put, the more lines the aggregated connection includes, the lower the chance of all of them failing at once. This built-in resilience is further enhanced by bonding diverse connection types.
And it’s here that software can play a role in making business connectivity smarter. As well as aggregating multiple lines, the software overlay technology can bring even more benefits. Overall, software can solve any issues and increase the quality of the connection. By extension it can improve the quality of the user experience, which is an essential factor for organisational IT teams. What’s more, various network functionalities such as quality of service (QoS), compression and advanced packet management are abstracted from the underlying circuits thanks to a network fabric that sits on top.
Connectivity and performance is already monitored to ensure that issues are picked up quickly, but it also means that when it comes to resilience there will be seamless failover if one of the lines goes down. With a normal, single line sources from one ISP, if it goes down, the entire business experiences downtime. Not so with aggregated connectivity.
The software also plays a vital role in prioritising traffic; ensuring that voice traffic (for VoIP systems) can be given precedence over other data. For businesses with high download requirements this means never dropping a VoIP call when an employee elsewhere using the same internet connection tries to download a large file. It can also be used to prioritise other packets of data, such as those needed to view content heavy web pages, so that sites load that much faster, giving a better browsing experience to members of staff.
The software overlay model can be extended even further, delivering on the promise of SD-WAN, ideal for multi-site businesses, connecting users, offices and different sites. It’s far more flexible, more cost-effective and more resilient than MPLS and provides stable low latency connections that are much quicker to deploy than traditional leased lines.
In today’s environment of software-defined everything, why not connectivity? Whether it’s a single site or a multi-location business, connectivity can stand to benefit from the use of software to make it smarter, more resilient and deliver better quality.