Failover strategies: the key to continuing business after disaster

Sugan Ganasen | 25 September, 2018

– Sugan Ganasen | Head of Sales | Infoprotect

How many of us are dependant on our own private internet connectivity to run our lives? I know I am.

Everything from my home entertainment and media, to finding my way around the country and when I travel abroad, is dependant on the internet in some way, shape or form

We tend to be a little – if not a lot – lost when we lose our all important data connection. Our data connection dependance actually extends to almost all areas of our lives, and across all user generations.

Now let’s consider similar effects a broken internet connection has on a business. This is when we start to see the effects of downtime turn to lost revenue. Data network failures are anything but a regular occurrence.

They are generally the exception to the rule.  That being said, there is always the possibility that a major service provider will experience some form of interruption which leaves their clients wanting, posting online and experiencing no small degree of frustration.

A catastrophic event of this sort took place recently when a major mobile and fixed line provider in South Africa suffered a “cyber attack” which caused their network to fail. This had far reaching consequences and compromised several sectors of their business including their fixed and mobile services.

In short, it left pretty much everybody depending on this service provider in the dark – particularly where customers didn’t have a suitable failover plan already in place.

The above case notwithstanding, other disaster level disruptions have historically hindered the fixed line industry on a regular basis. These outages can be the result of natural disasters and accidents during construction work and are as such, frustratingly, a much more common occurrence.

As a home user, the effects felt will be minimal unless you run your business from home. In these cases, Infoprotect’s contracts with the mobile operators bridge the gap providing an alternative to a fibre or ADSL connection.

In domestic cases, a simple high speed internet connection will do the trick. It’s not  so simple when we look at the connectivity and resiliency needs a business attempting to recover from disaster requires .

Mobile or fixed connectivity failures and disruptions are unpredictable and unforeseen at the best of times. So what can end users do if they cannot predict downtime? Being prepared and having a “Plan B” is the best way to ensure you avoid the effects of network downtime.

This is an act of making sure you have an alternative method to connect to the internet when you need to the most. It’s about making sure your failover strategy is robust, reliable and ready when you need it.

Enterprise or business users are opting for wireless solutions to kick-start their operations by avoiding the challenges which accompany traditional fixed line solutions, such as installation and  service-related delays.

However, users still tend to lean towards a fixed line strategies (as primary solutions) which are considered more consistent and cost effective in terms of both bandwidth speeds and data costs.

At an enterprise level, it is often vital that  IT infrastructure managers engage with multiple service providers or make use of expensive MPLS networks to ensure uptime. The common thread between these solutions is the aim to build in as much redundancy into network systems as possible.

The failover solutions landscape is, quite obviously, still extremely unsettled and unrefined.

Long term, widespread outages no doubt have a massive impact on your average South African business. The first aspect to suffer is always the efficacy of service delivery you promised to your customers who pay for your services.

No matter whether you provide for retail, restaurants, or if you are selling a service, time lost means a negative impact on customer satisfaction and inevitably results in lost revenue.

As much as communications failure results in lost revenue over these extended periods of time, you will most definitely see the subsequent effects of “playing catch-up” throughout your quarterly and annual revenue results.

For example, we can look at the effects of internet downtime on businesses that cannot do without connectivity. These businesses include call centres which depend on VOIP technology to make, receive and record calls for compliance and audit purposes.

They stand to lose both revenue and customers should they not be able to perform their basic services during an outage.

The same goes for the financial and banking sectors, or even typical retail stores, that need to access a database to complete a transaction. There are many businesses that prefer to have both an online and and offline facility which safeguards against communications failures.

This in turn poses other challenges which necessitate the presence of robust physical infrastructure onsite. Even where failover strategy has been considered and implemented, the question becomes one of maintenance and support for these physical terminals and servers. The solution, in many cases, is almost as complicated as the problem itself.

Lost or misspent revenue puts undue stress on business performance and forecasting.

So how does your business cater for, and not overspend on, failover systems and infrastructure? Are you confident that your failover strategy will work for you when you need it most?

And ultimately, how does your business recover from disaster level events? Typically, the solution is to drive up revenue numbers by running additional discount campaigns. This inevitably impacts on forecasted margins. Should that not work then the next steps are usually cost reduction which can mean retrenchments or even branch closures.

This all sounds very extreme. However, it is the reality any business can face during the course of its lifespan. General economic challenges are out of the control of the business owner so lost revenue as a result can be justified to a point.

Network and business continuity related challenges, on the other hand, are well within your control so it is vital that you explore all recovery options and partnerships available to you.

It could be the difference between continued success and insolvency.

Connectivity outages without proper backup and failover plans in place become a commercial balancing act – one which is certainly not ideal.

The better solution is to not let it get to that point.

How can Infoprotect help me?

Here at Infoprotect, we believe our clients are all unique and have varied networking needs.

We have been able to successfully tailor solutions for major clients like Nandos and Ster Kinekor by complimenting their current infrastructure with our advanced failover solution which is seamless, cloud managed and PCI compliant.

Our clients are no longer are affected by internet connectivity failures or over billing by their service providers. We have chosen Cradlepoint to provide this robust and seamless multi-WAN solution that helps us offer certainty where there is uncertainty.

We don’t know when the internet will go down, but our customers now have the comfort in knowing that if it does their network will still be up and trading.

Infoprotect’s failover solution is based around a WAN management router which boasts additional capabilities which can provide full firewall, advanced routing and networking fully managed from the cloud where needed.

Our specialist devices are capable of managing any WAN connection presented and has a built in LTE module for primary connectivity or failover requirements. We pride ourselves on providing the best solutions and services while still remaining flexible and agile to our clients needs.

While we have the capability to help the average South African, we do believe that our services are better suited to the enterprise customer which benefits best from our skillset and services.

In cases of widespread data outage, like the recent example mentioned above, managing failover for distributed business sites creates a small challenge for businesses that have internal IT support teams.

We, however, were able to provide a robust solution to our clients that not only left them unaffected by the recent ‘outage’ but also left them unaware that there was one until we reported it to them or they read it on the various social media feeds.

Our failover solutions

The Infoprotect solution is set up in such a way that it seamlessly switches between WAN connections in the order of priority that you configure.

Failover and failback between your fibre and LTE, for example, is therefore seamless and non-disruptive to any normal business operation ensuring that your POS Systems, VOIP Phones and CRM/ERP tools are always online.

Infoprotect also provides solutions that prevent the loss of data. We provide full backup and disaster recovery to our clients while also providing resilient hosting capabilities via our data centre partner with country wide resilience.

Infoprotect also has its very own MVNO, Mobile 1, which provides APN solutions which alleviate airtime, data and SIM management issues for our clients that use LTE for failover.

In short, we offer an end-to-end solutions which assist businesses in better managing their data and bandwidth usage over any WAN link (fibre, adsl, LTE, satellite, or microwave).

Infoprotect is able to manage and report on your bandwidth and airtime usage while proactively managing your internet connectivity via our custom cloud management and analytics platform.

How do I choose the right failover solution?

We find ourselves in the age of information where the individual or group with the most usable information is king. Ensuring robust network infrastructure is key to driving a great customer-centric solution.

Can we afford to be disconnected in this always connected time? The short answer is a resounding no.

The modern day competitive edge arises from the fact that no business can afford to be without great digital infrastructure and a sound recovery strategy, paired with the right partner by their side to help them scale and grow.

As we advance toward a world which runs on 5G and wireless speeds of 1Gbs or more we will see an increase in network virtualization and SDN (software defined networking). You have to ask yourself, are you ready for your inevitable future?

Let us help you prepare for upcoming challenges while we take care of the ones you face today. Learn more about our full service failover solutions by clicking here.