The Importance of Backing Up Your Network

Over the past few years, considerable attention has been given to the preservation of data within corporations and enterprises alike. Most companies, at this juncture, have on-premise storage, off-site/cloud, or perhaps a hybrid.

What I find fascinating is that many of these same companies do not back up the one element that gets them to that data, and that is the internet/network. What is even more astounding is the relative little cost to create a backup network.

The large majority of companies are running VOIP over Ethernet or PRI in enterprise environments as well as corporate. Some companies will run VOIP over cable, particularly in small/remote/home office settings.

Most “next-generation” Firewalls or “unified threat management” devices contain features that allow not just the ability to fail-over from one circuit (the primary) to a secondary circuit, but many can often load-balance. This provides additional benefits to a company for bandwidth maximization.

To begin with, let’s look at the ways to back up a network:

1. If your company has an Ethernet Circuit for internet (10mbps-100mbps, etc… ) from one provider, you could order a cable modem from the local cable company for less than $400/month on average. As a matter of fact (using Atlanta as an example), one of the local cable companies will provide a 100/7mbps cable modem for $180/month.

As long as your firewall could provide the automatic failover and load-balancing, you could gain the additional bandwidth from the secondary connection as well as the benefits of redundancy.

2. If your company is smaller and uses a cable modem as the primary circuit, back up options include DSL (even if it being phased out over the next several years) and 3G/4G wireless solutions. Both are very inexpensive, typically less than $100/month.

A smaller company may think that they cannot afford the type of equipment to do both failover and load balancing, but this is often a false belief. I have set several clients up with low-cost firewall solutions such as Fortinet’s Wifi 60D* which provides both features as well as the standard advanced features offered by security manufacturers.
*Full disclaimer: I am a Fortinet dealer.

3. If your company is using basic analog phone lines, it is only a matter of time until the incumbent phone provider phases out traditional phone service. Both AT&T and Verizon have stated that they will be leaving the local copper network by 2020, and that is not that far off. Chances are, you will be contacted by a local representative from AT&T or Verizon who are offering you a new package (U-Verse or FIOS, respectively).

As a matter of fact, I recently did some free-lance work for a friend of mine who runs a telecom agency, and AT&T provided him with a list of their clients on traditional PRI, 1FB, and other digital service. The initiative is to convert all clients over to Ethernet. So the story is, even if you are on traditional POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service), you’ll be going over VOIP very soon.

The main advantages of backing up your network are the following:

1. The data you have worked to protect and retrieve would not be accessible without a secondary circuit in the event that the primary circuit was down.

Gartner estimates that the cost to an enterprise ranges from $140K/hour and higher!

What would the cost to your organization be if your network was down for one hour?

There are several “Outage Calculators” from consulting companies such as Deloitte and Gartner, but as a business owner or CIO, you should already have a pretty good idea of what the cost would be.

What would the loss of revenue per hour be if your call center was down?
What would the loss of revenue per hour if your card processing or ERP system was unavailable?
Would the marginal costs described above be worth implementing in order to prevent that?

2. With load-balancing, the network can run much faster using a low-cost secondary circuit for additional bandwidth. Thus, expenses will be cut.

For example, a 10mbps Ethernet circuit might cost $500/month. To add additional bandwidth, an upgrade to a 20mbps Ethernet circuit might cost an additional $300, or $800/month. The same company could keep the 10mbps Ethernet for primary, add a lower-cost cable modem (such as a 100/7 circuit) for $200/month, and actually save money. This configuration would not only be $100/month less expensive, but it will provide redundancy and far greater bandwidth than just upgrading the primary.

3. Company and brand reputation is at stake. Any time there is a known outage (or breach of company data), it reflects poorly on the company and results in a loss of consumer confidence, possible financial repercussions because of Service Level Agreements (if applicable). Loss of productivity, and possible job loss.

Backing up your network allows a company the peace of mind in knowing that all core components are backed up, at a very minimal cost.

4. Last but not least, cloud applications continue to grow in popularity. Considering that an internet pipe is the only venue to get to core hosted applications, a backup plan is vital. Core operations are compromised if the primary internet circuit goes down, effectively crippling a company. This may be the most important reason of all to back up a network.

So what are the keys to accomplishing this?

Assess the current situation:

Which provider do you use for internet?
What type of service do you have? Is it PRI, Ethernet, Cable Modem?
What is your contractual situation?
What are you currently paying for network?
What type of Firewall does your network utilize?
What are that Firewall’s technical limitations?

Evaluate options:

What options are available for network backup? (Cable/DSL/Fixed Wireless)
What is the cost to upgrade the Firewall if it does not provide failover?
What is the cost to upgrade the Firewall if it does not load balance (if that is desired)?
What is the cost of your hourly downtime in relation to these costs?

Implement the solution:
Who will do the implementation?
Typically, this is my client’s data vendor. When I have set up new offices, I use my own installer.

What is the cost of implementation?
Typical data vendor charges range from $100/hour to $200/hour and the typical time is about 4 hours.