Internet Failover: What It Is and Why Your Business Needs It

From the smallest of businesses right up to the largest of enterprises, the Internet is no longer a “nice to have.” It is a service that is essential to the productivity and profitability of any company. Even if you run a largely offline business, just consider how much you rely on the Internet to make orders, email clients and staff, promote the business over social media and the website and get work done remotely.

It’s for these reasons that research shows that the average cost of IT downtime is $5,600 per minute. Internet downtime is actually one of the biggest potential costs and risks facing a business, and that’s why every modern business needs to have a failover solution.

What can cause Internet failure?

There are any number of reasons that an Internet connection could be disrupted, if not taken down entirely. These include:

  • A natural disaster. A flood or bushfire can cause the underlying Internet infrastructure to break down and need to be repaired, causing an outage for the time that it’s down.
  • Network congestion. During particularly busy periods, or “peak hours,” so many people might be trying to use the Internet at once that the Internet slows to a crawl, or drops out entirely.
  • Hardware issues. A modem/router might stop working, or a computer’s network card might stop receiving Internet signals.
  • A cyber attack. Cybercriminals can disrupt or even take your Internet connection down entirely.
  • Sabotage. It’s possible to drill down and physically cut the Internet wires – it sounds like the stuff of movies, but it does happen!

The biggest trouble with all of these is that they can happen suddenly and, as they are unplanned, cause significant disruption to your normal work processes.

In many cases, businesses try to minimise the potential for this disruption by paying a little more for an Internet service backed by a Service-Level Agreement (SLA). These SLAs generally require that the ISP provide an Internet connection that is available 99 per cent of the time (or, possibly, even higher – some even offer 99.99 per cent SLAs), and that means just minutes of downtime per month, or the provider is liable for damages.

However, even then the SLA won’t cover disruption due to malfunctioning equipment or natural disasters. So the SLA is not the cast-iron guarantee of a seamless Internet experience.

It’s for this reason that it’s important to plan ahead of time and have Internet failovers (also often called redundancy) built into the computing environment. What this means is that if the main Internet connection drops out for any reason, then a backup will kick in immediately and prevent any disruption to work.

What should a failover look like?

The ideal failover solution is one that uses a different mix of technology, with the provider itself being located apart from your main Internet provider. That way, should something happen somewhere along with the Internet connection to your main provider, the outage is less likely to also affect your backup.

The most common example of this is to use mobile broadband as the failover for the standard connection. Most Internet connections run off fibre optic cables, with the office being physically connected to the Internet source. The cables run into the modem/router box, which broadcasts the WiFi signal that employees connect to.

Mobile broadband, meanwhile, works just like a mobile phone signal. A broadcast tower emits a 4G (and, increasingly often, 5G) connection, which a box on-site picks up and subsequently distributes it to the employees as a WiFi signal.

The benefit of mobile broadband is that there are no wires involved (so nothing to physically cut or have damaged in a natural disaster. Mobile broadband is also, as the name suggests, mobile, meaning that if the office needs to relocate, then there won’t be any disruption in the process of setting up the new site. With many businesses, relocating means days of downtime for employees, with the costs being worn by the business.

Finally, with 5G in particular, mobile broadband is often faster than the wired connection will allow.

The main disadvantage of mobile broadband is that it tends to be expensive in comparison to other Internet options, which makes it a less-than-economical option to run a business full-time. However, as a failover backup, providing all-important connectivity redundancy into the business, mobile broadband is a secure, robust, and differentiated option.

Internet redundancy isn’t something that requires a large IT team to install and maintain. A mix of fibre options and mobile broadband can be achieved simply by buying two relevant modems and setting up plans with two separate ISPs. It’s some of the easiest redundancy to build into the business, and when the alternative is thousands of lost dollars and customers every minute, it’s one of those technology solutions that make perfect sense to businesses of all sizes.