A Wet Piece Of String And “The Cloud”

Cloud computing, cloud backup, virtualization, remote management, IP Telephony, cloud this and cloud that all fall down if the way you access your data is a wet piece of string or worse.

We are all becoming more reliant on the Internet for managing our businesses and our daily lives. Any failure of the Internet can be almost as dramatic as losing electricity or water supply. Just look at the public outcry when Lloyds and NatWest lost their ATM network. We now regard the Internet like our cars, no idea what happens under the bonnet but expect it to go on working whatever.

The same attitude exists in our relationship with our connectivity to the Internet. We all expect it to work no matter what and indeed, for the most part, it does.

This undoubtedly is leading us into a false sense of security.

Many of us have allowed our businesses to increasingly depend on Internet connectivity for their very survival without evaluating the structure of our communications that underpin that reliance.

Take the humble ADSL line. The large majority of businesses in the UK are dependent on one or two of these for all their business functions e-mail, E-Commerce, IP Telephony etc. In many cases, all of these functions are routed through just one line, a humble piece of copper that goes through a herculean route to get to your premises and is subject to all sorts of battering on the way. The effects of rain, flood and pestilence and the cash-strapped traveller all can bring the copper line to its knees and then it could be curtains for your business.

There are ways to mitigate this potential disaster. It is worth looking at the type of contract you have with your ADSL supplier. It is likely that you are on a “best efforts contract,” which could mean that your line may be down for up to 40 working hours ie 5 days and you would have no legal remedy. Imagine what would happen to your business in those 5 days.

You can, if you consider the premium of 20-30% worth paying to get better levels of service. “Standard” caregiving a next day fix guarantee so the max time you would be down is 16 working hours. The other option is “Premium” which gives you an 8-hour fix guarantee.

If these enhanced services still don’t give you the fix time that you need (there are people that tell me, when the humble ADSL line goes down, “ I can’t afford any downtime” ), then your only option is to move away from the ADSL solution to a more expensive but ultimately more reliable service. This will take the form of an Ethernet service delivered on fibre or dedicated copper. Although copper is becoming less used these days, it is worth asking if your supplier will use copper, as fibre is best.

Why is fibre best? Data is transmitted in glass fibre using light so none of the losses associated with copper such as natural resistance an increased resistance due to water, wind and distance. Also, there is a natural limit to the data rates in copper, which doesn’t apply to fibre. This means that speed upgrades are not limited if you have fibre, what we call future proofing.

With Ethernet circuits, the support options to keep you running are much more suited to business use. Ethernet circuits generally come with a 4-hour break-fix or better depending on what you are prepared to pay. Ethernet circuits can also be pro-actively monitored to ensure constant availability is a way that ADSL circuits cannot. However, you can also build resilience in by adding a failover circuit to the Ethernet option which all but guarantees 100% uptime.

In summary have a look at your suppliers small print ask some questions about availability statistics and work out what it will cost your business to be without access to the world?