Last night my home Internet connection went down, along with what was apparently a decent subset of the greater Los Angeles area. While this was a minor inconvenience for me, it translated into real lost income for business owners. The first comment I saw when I checked downdetector.com, was a restaurant owner complaining that the outage was preventing her from accepting credit cards.
Big companies in industries like finance, banking, logistics, and telecommunications often spend millions of dollars on redundant networking equipment and connections that may never be used. For these companies, the guarantee of uninterrupted business operations has long been worth the high cost. But the cost and complexity of implementing multiple Internet connections has now decreased to the point where it’s accessible to nearly every business owner.
In the past couple of years, a number of companies focused on small business setups have both rolled out products designed to ensure practically no downtime. First came Datto with their Digital Networking Appliance (DNA). This nifty little box acts as a traditional wireless router most of the time, but includes a 4G LTE modem that kicks in when traditional Internet service fails. The device proved its worth in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, when 75 DNA devices were deployed to get rapidly get insurance agents, shelters, and other businesses back online while many ISPs were still struggling with damaged equipment.
More recently, Cisco Meraki, Ubiquiti Networks, and Untangle have introduced solutions of their own. The Ubiquiti and Cisco Meraki options tie into existing UniFi and Meraki setups, while Untangle’s e3wl appliance has more in common with Datto. (Note: We have existing business relationships with Cisco and Untangle, but receive no compensation from this post). Each uses a different cellular network, with Datto opting for Verizon Wireless, UniFi leveraging the AT&T network, and Untangle going with T-Mobile.
All three of these devices feature some level of automated failover, and can dynamically adjust to changing conditions. Untangle’s appliance is the most sophisticated, allowing different types of traffic to be steered over different connections (For example, credit card and voice traffic might be steered to the most reliable link while Facebook and Instagram are given less priority).
Perhaps the best feature of all three devices is how affordable this piece of mind is; Datto and Untangle bundle cellular service into the price of the device (about $1000 depending on options), while Ubiquiti’s option costs $200 for the device and another $15 a month for the LTE connection. This puts all three options easily in reach of just about any business. Restauranteurs and retail businesses can easily justify the cost: short of an apocalyptic event, they’ll still be able to process and accept orders. Other businesses can benefit too, knowing that even after a Hurricane sized disaster, they can return to normal operations in a matter of hours and not days or weeks.
As time goes on, these types of services and devices will only become more reliable and accessible. AT&T is already offering an optional LTE failover service to its US Internet customers, as does Rogers Cable in Canada. Look for additional options as more providers role out their 5G networks in the coming year.
If you’d like help ensuring your business can survive and thrive following a disaster, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!