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Connectivity Upgrades for Digital Transformation Your Internet presence and business tools need solid reliable connections.
By: John Shepler
Most every business is now in some phase of digital transformation. It’s the process of moving from analog mechanical and paper based operations to digital and online processes. The promise of this transformation is faster and more efficient business methods that save cost and expand your customer base. But, what do you need to put in place to support this digital transformation?
Plan on Doing Most Everything Online
While most products and services are not digital, the tools to support them now are. Everything from finding prospects to converting prospects to customers, servicing those customers and keeping the products flowing has a digital element to it. The Internet is now the hub of operation for many businesses. Others may be local and walk-in for the most part, but may have an online presence and accounting or other processes in the cloud.
What makes the Internet so compelling is that after a decades of development, it is largely in-place, paid for, and ubiquitous. People who don’t even have bank accounts do have smartphones with Internet apps that allow them to buy, sell and get paid. While there are challenges, especially in the area of security, the Internet is a must for most companies.
Start With High Speed Reliable Internet Access
You’ll need a solid connection to the online world. It will have to be fast enough to be transparent to you and your customers, always available, and have a minimum of latency, jitter and packet loss. The best connections are the ones you never have to think about. That customer on the other side of town or the other side of the world will seem as close as someone in the next office.
There are basically two types of broadband connections. One is called Dedicated Internet Access. The other is Shared Internet access.
Dedicated Internet Access, particularly with symmetrical bandwidth that gives you the same speed uploading as downloading is the gold standard. While the Internet is certainly a shared resource, most of the congestion and outages occur in that “last mile” between you and your service provider. Dedicated connections give you a private road to the Internet. You always have the bandwidth you are paying for, whether you are using it every second or not.
Shared Internet Access is just that. A service provider leases a dedicated access line and then divides it up among many users. If the speed is high enough and there aren’t so many users demanding the same bandwidth simultaneously, you may not even know you are sharing. Sometimes, though, everybody wants to download videos or large files and things slow down. Then, like every traffic jam, they just as mysteriously dissipate and everything is back to normal.
The advantage of dedicated access is performance. The advantage of shared access is cost. Shared services such as cellular and cable broadband can cost a fraction of what a similar speed dedicated fiber or fixed wireless access service costs.
A Hybrid Approach to Increase Reliability and Lower Cost
There is also a third option that has been recently developed. That is the Software Defined Network (SDN) or Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN). What these systems do is take multiple Internet connections and bond them together so that you get one higher capacity, lower latency and more reliable connection. A SD-WAN box can combine a cable broadband line, a cellular broadband modem, and a small fiber optic service. Even satellite and landlines can be included. The software in the controller monitors each line constantly and selects the most appropriate for every packet.
With SD-WAN, your most sensitive applications, such as telephone and conference calling, get the highest priority for speed, latency and jitter. Business process are next in line. Less sensitive needs, like remote backups, get the lowest priority because a few seconds here and there probably won’t make any difference. SD-WAN can save you money compared to one very large fiber line that you can’t keep busy or perhaps can’t even get installed. It is also a lifesaver when one line is accidentally cut or has an equipment failure. SD-WAN will simply use the other connections to keep things running seamlessly.
Don’t Forget Your Cloud Connections
Your main office, store or factory connection to the Internet is critical, but so are the connections for your cloud based operations. Once those servers and applications leave the premises to be co-located elsewhere or run in a public or hybrid cloud, they need the same reliable and transparent connectivity you had in-house.
There are two connections to be concerned with. The first is the connection between you and the cloud. This may be the same Internet access you use for everything else, but for business critical operations you may want to consider a dedicated private line between your office and the colocation center or cloud service provider. This bypasses the Internet completely and gives you much greater control of your traffic since nothing is shared outside of your business.
The other connection of importance is the connection between the remote servers in the colo center or cloud and the outside world. For this you want the same high performance Internet access with enough bandwidth, low latency and minimal jitter and packet loss. Fortunately, this quality of service is easy to find for colo and cloud, as they deal in massive amounts of bandwidth on a regular basis.
Are you properly connected for digital transformation? That old DSL line or bandwidth limited T1 probably won’t get the job done anymore. Consider an upgrade to highly reliable fiber or wireless broadband for your business. Recent buildouts have made this much more affordable than you might expect.
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