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The cost of network downtime or failing internet connectivity has never been higher due to incidents resulting in million-dollar losses of business revenue and employee productivity. Both small and large enterprises are increasingly relying on business-critical applications deployed in the cloud. Some of the examples are Office 365, Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRM), Accounting Systems, and Point-of-Sale (POS). New applications such as Internet of Things (IoT), online ordering, and analytics depend on Internet connectivity for real-time data collection from sensors. Always-on connectivity for these applications and their performance are critical for business continuity.

More and more businesses are adopting 4G LTE to setup a backup connection to which the network can switch over when the main internet connection, typically over broadband, fails.

To add to the dilemma, being connected to the internet increases threats, so enterprises need to ensure that their networks are secure and protected at all times.

Here are some of the key factors to consider when selecting a failover solution.

Does the existing network switch over to backup link automatically?

When the main WAN link goes down, it's critical that automatic switchover to the 4G LTE backup link occurs right away without the need for any human intervention.

Some already deployed network routers may have a built-in cellular device or support an external modem with seamless switchover. In the absence of such a router that supports automatic switchover, one may be forced to upgrade to a more expensive router with an integrated LTE modem, or to one that supports an external modem. The 4G LTE links are usually more expensive with limited bandwidth, hence it is necessary to ensure that automatic switchback occurs to the main link when it comes back up.

When an enterprise needs to upgrade multiple sites, this may require significant additional investment to the infrastructure.

Does the new LTE connection seamlessly integrate with existing network and management systems?

Having a dedicated IT staff at remote sites is expensive and most enterprises prefer to manage their network and security infrastructure remotely. To achieve effective remote management, enterprises may utilize management tools provided by network and security equipment vendors. Such tools enable administrators to monitor and manage devices and networks from firmware upgrades to real-time status monitoring. Depending on the management system, one may or may not be able to integrate all the devices and functionalities within a single system.

Whenever a new device or a backup link is added to the network, ensure that the new device and its status can be managed and monitored remotely without requiring additional tools.

Beyond remote firmware upgrade and real-time status monitoring capabilities, network administrators may also need the ability to enforce security and usage policies on the backup link.

Is the backup link also secure?

Whenever new devices are added to the network, ensure that currently enforced security and access controls, along with advanced application-specific threat prevention mechanisms, are enforced on those devices and connections.

This may require reconfiguration of firewalls and other security devices on premise, and in some cases, modification to security infrastructure at the data center or the headquarters.

Depending on the flexibility of the management systems and devices, when businesses are deploying 4G LTE at thousands of sites, this could be a management challenge.

Which applications get priority when the expensive backup link is in use?

Most 4G LTE data plans are expensive and offer limited bandwidth compared to other broadband services. It is critical to optimally utilize such expensive links by controlling which applications or users should be allowed to use the backup link.

Otherwise, one may end up with huge overage charges on the cellular data plan or end up with business-critical applications not functioning at the required performance levels.

This level of control requires application-intelligent traffic forwarding and advanced Quality of Service (QoS) controls that are available only in more expensive traditional routers.

Is it difficult to deploy and manage multiple sites?

When failover backup solutions are to be deployed in multiple sites, the cost of additional infrastructure, ease of deployment, and ease of remote management of the network are critical factors.

Businesses may want to consider solutions that are affordable and deployable at remote sites without requiring truck rolls, IT staff, and are readily manageable remotely through management systems. How often the firmware needs to be upgraded at each site, how often the access and security policies need to be reconfigured, and what information is available in real-time for defect analysis and remedy are equally critical to be considered when selecting a failover solution.

How about IoT Connectivity and Security?

A business may deploy several types of sensors within the premise to monitor, analyze, and control the environment or other factors. For instance, a grocery store may deploy sensors in their refrigeration system to manage efficient use of power, a retailer may install beacons to analyze customer behavior to provide a better shopping experience, or a restaurant may use an online or kiosk ordering system. Some businesses use IoT for asset management, supply chain optimization, and inventory management.

A large percentage of IoT networks upload sensor data in real-time or periodically to remote IoT applications. Though the connectivity between sensors and the remote applications use the internet services available at the premise, they are typically encrypted. Always-on connectivity and security at both ends is important for certain types of applications. When IoT networks are integrated with the on-premise business networks, the local networks are further exposed to cyber threats. Several recent attacks, the Stuxnet worm and Mirai botnet, resulted in breaches through insecure IoT devices and networks.

When selecting a failover solution, ability to secure, connect, and protect IoT networks is an important consideration.

SD-WAN as a compelling alternative for your failover solution

SD-WAN is a revolutionary networking solution that provides cost-effective connectivity to internet and enterprise headquarters or data centers, using low-cost readily available broadband connections such as cable, DSL, and 4G LTE. By simultaneous use of multiple broadband connections, SD-WAN achieves always-on connectivity through link monitoring and automatic failover switching to reliable links. An SD-WAN solution provides an effective alternative by addressing each of the factors mentioned above.

Netsurion BranchSDO takes SD-WAN technology to the next level by integrating multi-layer security and easy management into a simple plug-and-play device powered with cloud-delivered services. It is a highly affordable solution that can be deployed at small businesses with single sites to enterprises with hundreds or even thousands of remote sites. BranchSDO SD-Branch solution is carrier independent and ideally suited to connect geographically dispersed sites.