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September 21, 2017
5:37 AM
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Networks Too Big To Fail
How managed service providers and MPLS network services can keep your growing network running smoothly and save you money in the process.

By: John Shepler

Remember when computer networks were helpful business tools? That was back in the days of stand-alone PCs, FAX, and overnight document mail. Seems quaint, but you’ll long for those days when the network goes down and stays down for hours. These days, LANs are as important as electric wires and WANs are as vital as roads and highways. You just don’t get by without them.

Too Big Networks Need Protection
Businesses that are too big to fail seem to get financial bailouts. Networks that have become too big to fail need a different type of protection. They need an infrastructure that continuously monitors their operation and jumps into action at the first sign of trouble.

You may feel that you’ve got things under control in-house. Your IT staff monitors the LAN 24/7 and even off-duty personnel get text messages when something goes awry. But how about those lines that leave the premises? Who’s staying on top of those?

Creeping Growth
Here’s an example of a network that is truly too big to fail. Your medium size business has grown and grown to become a major corporate enterprise. You have operations in a dozen or more states. Headquarters, staff, engineering and manufacturing used to fit comfortably in one large building. Now they all have separate facilities, along with warehousing and field offices. But you still want to act as one company with the sense that you are at least virtually co-located. Thus, you’ve build a comprehensive corporate network that is essential to getting the job done.

Chances are that the giant network you’ve put in place is the result of adding pieces when needed. There’s a point to point line here, a VPN connection there, various connections of various speeds from headquarters to each facility, and one massive routing operation at the central hub. It’s works and gets the job done, but it’s not exactly optimized the way you would design that same network from scratch today. It’s also becoming a big headache for the headquarters staff to manage and a potential disaster if centrally located equipment goes down.

Division of Labor
So, what can you do to ensure that your network is not going to fail no matter how big it has grown? Hire more staff? That’s a tough request in economic times like these. But how about dividing up the job so that your key people can concentrate on the part of the network they know best and someone else can provide support for the rest?

The way you can do that is with managed network services. This is for the WAN portion of your network that you have little control of anyway. Instead of just ordering lines and dealing with outages as they occur, why not lease a managed line and let the service provider ensure the line’s integrity from end to end?

Advantages of Managed Service Providers
The way this is done by managed service providers is that they control both the line and the terminating equipment. Sometimes these are called managed router services because they most often install a provider owned and monitored router with the proper interface cards. Since they have control of the edge connections at both ends, the service providers can monitor and run diagnostics to ensure the integrity and performance of their line services.

A more comprehensive service that does this is the MPLS network. it’s a multi-protocol privately operated network with network specific equipment called tag routers. You can use MPLS for point to point connections or a complete mesh network that links all of your facilities. Instead of you having to manage all those lines and routing, the service provider does that for you.

You'll Likely Save Money
But isn’t it just as costly to buy managed services as to hire more staff and do the job in-house? No, not generally. A managed network services provider's entire business is based on maintaining high reliability WAN network connections. You may find that the managed services are no more expensive than doing everything yourself, perhaps even less expensive.

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