It's that time of year again! It's Winter! Snow, ice, sleet, freezing rain, bad drivers, and our sudden reminder of just how reliant we are on power, Internet access and our other utilities. It's really not even just during Winter, all areas of the world have natural disasters. As reliant as we are on our utilities for business purposes, it's no surprise that we as small business owners think about how can we add some redundancy to our operations to keep our businesses running during the times of inclement weather or just when someone randomly hits a telephone pole.
One of the most common questions that we get is about redundant Internet connections. Will a cell phone tower backup connection help if the Internet connection goes down? Will having two connections from different providers get us some redundancy? Several years ago, there was a local ISP that was pushing fail over Internet connections to a lot of our clients. They would install a Cradle Point device in front of the customer equipment (typically our firewall) and then a LTE/5G modem as the other ISP connection.
In theory, this should provide some redundancy if their other (hard wired coax or fiber) connection goes down and typically they would be right. However, theory and actuality differ a lot of times and this is a perfect example of it. What most people don't realize is that the hard wired connections (coax and fiber) often run on the same poles as the power lines. If you look at the power lines outside, the power itself it typically at the very top of those poles, then the communication lines are lower and often the lowest part of the pole. So if someone hits a pole or tree falls on the lines, which is a typical issue in Winter, the likelihood that both power and communication lines going down is super high. If your business doesn't have any power, then the fail over device serves no purpose unless you also have redundant power. And that is certainly doable with generators but that adds an extra layer of cost, maintenance, and complexity.
There are a few instances where the Internet connection can go down without the power lines going down, but those instances are very far and few between. Enterprise connections (like enterprise fiber) often have an SLA (Service Level Agreement) that says the provider must repair connections within a certain amount of time. If they miss their deadline, then they often have to pay out to their customers. By the way, that's not an automatic thing, you actually have to raise that issue with your rep. But those companies rarely like paying out so they do try to keep those devices and connections up and running.
Our stance on redundant ISP connections is often a short conversation as most small businesses do not want to financially invest in a generator for power redundancy along with the redundant connection. If that sort of high availability is critical for your business however, there are other ways to achieve that such as allowing us to host your servers in our data center which already has the redundancy built in. Then it becomes as simple as taking your laptop or moving to another computer and accessing your services from our data center.