Multi-site businesses in this day and age rely heavily on their WAN (Wide Area Network) that connects their multiple offices together and to the internet. So it’s critical to have a business continuity plan that – if followed – will allow the business to continue in the event of a WAN failure.
Most businesses rely on an internet service provider (ISP) to provide their WAN links. For this discussion, it doesn’t matter if the ISP is delivering the link over a private IP infrastructure or over VPNs on standard internet connections. The fact is there will be outages, which can be caused by natural disasters, security breaches, building fires, equipment failure etc. There is not a single ISP in the world that can guarantee that their service won’t ever be affected by any of these events. Even if a company chooses to pay top dollar for protected services, they will be affected by outages at some stage (the outages may not be as extensive but they will still occur).
Most ISPs will offer an SLA (Service Level Agreement). SLAs only guarantee nominal financial reimbursement and do not guarantee that a company’s sites will remain up and running during a disaster. Therefore, it remains in the hands of the business to protect its vital assets and to ensure the resiliency of its WAN infrastructure. To ensure business continuity, the risk and cost from ISP link outages must be addressed.
– SLAs do not guarantee up-time (they only stipulate reimbursement if up-time requirements are not met)
– SLAs usually only reimburse customers for the cost of the prorated connectivity that was lost.
This is why it is important for businesses to develop and implement a business continuity plan.
One of the first things that can help with outages is having redundant services put in place for the critical links in the WAN.
There are a couple of ways to implement redundant services. One way is to implement a second service that has the same amount of bandwidth available that will automatically kick into action in the event that the primary link fails. This method can be very expensive, and essentially you are paying for something that may never be used.
Another way is to implement a second service that has a smaller amount of bandwidth available but allows for essential services to continue. This will be more cost effective, but your business continuity plan needs to say exactly which services will run over this lower bandwidth service. Otherwise, if the business continues to try to run all of its applications and services over this link, it will not be effective and the lower bandwidth service will come to a grinding halt.
Multi-site businesses need to have a solid business continuity plan and if lower bandwidth redundant services are implemented, they need to be referenced in the business continuity plan along with which applications are essential to keep the business moving.