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Making the right call on broadband backup

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It must be part of our DNA to take things for granted, and for our amazement at the new to very rapidly turn into acknowledgement and acceptance before it becomes largely forgotten about in the relentless tide of new stuff that’s always coming our way. If you can remember holding up a mobile brick...sorry, phone, with a modem card on a wire trying to send a tiny email on a Friday evening – and failing – you may occasionally pause to wonder at how incredible it is that less than twenty years later you can stream Dr Who to your iPhone in the middle of a field. But more likely we’ll just continue to heedlessly consume all these technologies because they are there... and you expect them to always be there. It’s that notion of 'dial tone reliability', that complete assurance that when you pick up the phone, you will always be able to make a call.

Now that we’re into our third decade of internet access, with ten years of increasing broadband speeds behind us, we’ve long outgrown the shock of being able to access a website instantly, and now largely consume high speed connectivity without a thought. Now while individual broadband lines do fail from time to time the breadth of BT’s recent broadband outage did rather thrust the issue into the spotlight, provoking first shock – 'how can my broadband NOT be available?' and then anger – 'do you know how much time and productivity we’re losing because of this?' We simply don’t expect this sort of thing – on this sort of scale – to happen these days; which probably explains why so many organisations are happy to use ADSL as their primary circuit. So a big prolonged outage is a bit of a choker...

What incidents like this are good for though is that they prompt the refocusing of the lens on business continuity provision. For those with large, geographically diverse IT estates, with many smaller offices or warehouses or retail units, for example, then ADSL makes for a cost-effective connectivity option and will invariably sit as a primary circuit; and the fact they are almost always available will often be used to make the case for doing away with a back-up circuit. And that’s all fine until the day BT has a massive outage affecting multiple sites, and suddenly you can’t process sales, or serve customers, or arrange logistics, or order stock. Why lay yourself open to such service disruption and economic impact when a small, common sense adjustment to your continuity provision can protect you when that ‘dial tone reliability’ you rely on goes bad?

That small adjustment is as simple and straightforward as having cellular backup deployed to each site. Once that initial implementation effort is complete, it just sits there, ready for automatic failover if the ADSL goes down; and as you only ever pay for what you use, you’re looking at attractively low running costs. When managing this type of project for customers, we also take care to assess the systems in play and ensure that business critical applications can run – while cellular bandwidth is obviously improving, there may be instances where it offers lower bandwidth than the primary ADSL and that needs to be factored into the system set-up.

It would be nice to think that we lived in a certain, perfect world where things always worked, all of the time. Given today’s remarkable technologies, it’s easy to see why we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security over availability. But as we have seen one day 24/7 can become 24/6 and you need to either prepare for that day or be prepared to pay the cost.

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