The Power of Diverse Connections

The pervasive use of cloud services has made businesses more reliant than ever on reliable network services. Without a dependable connection, business can come to a halt:  the CRM tools, enterprise email, accounting systems, file sharing, and other cloud based applications that power everyday business become inaccessible. This puts pressure on network connections unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

Why is circuit diversity important? First, it is important to acknowledge the reason for having a backup circuit at all – to have a failover method in the event that the primary circuit can’t be accessed or used. The effectiveness of the back up is reliant on its diversity; if it runs along the same path or, even worse, on the same provider line, you’ll find that the access you expected to protect you in the event of an outage is down at the same time as your primary line. Geographic diversity and a true diversity of providers are crucial to a useful secondary circuit.

There are innumerable reasons why circuits fail, from construction to human error. While the Federal Communication Commission collects data on many different aspects of Internet service in the United States, it does not provide reporting on Internet outages; however, the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security does. Below are the five most common reasons their annual report found for outages, the percent of outages it caused, and the average length of those outages. We’ve taken the liberty of explaining how a diverse connection could help fix, if not solve, some of these outages.

Natural Disasters

Average Outage time: 35 hours

Percentage of Outages: 6%

Incidents caused by storm damage to service providers’ physical infrastructure.  When foul weather affects a region, the damage can be dissimilar even within a several mile radius. By carefully reviewing the physically pathway that your service provider uses to get from your building to their metro POP, you may be able to select a secondary circuit that takes a diverse route.

Human Error

Average Outage time: 26 hours

Percentage of Outages: 5%

Incidents caused by mistakes on the part of service provider personal.  While this typically affects a localized aspect of the service providers network, this can impact the whole network depending on the nature of the maintenance or repair work being done (for example, the Time Warner backbone outage).

By selecting a separate - diverse service provider you are increasing your odds that the human error in one providers network will not impact the second service provider.

Third Party Outage

Average Outage time: 13 hours

Percentage of Outages: 13%

Trigger events outside of the service provider’s network from which they have limited control.  Two of the most common third party outages are from a loss of power or a cable or fiber cut.

Service providers are dependent on the local power utility to provide power to each part of the active network. While service providers take great care to implement their Metro POP’s in data centers with extensive back-up and redundant power systems, but power availability to a specific building is far more challenging.  Many buildings have different power distribution equipment in the phone room than in office suites, and it is essential that you know how this works in your building. When selecting a secondary circuit, you can explore the options for providing diverse power through their infrastructure.

Cable cuts are uncommon, but when they do happen the outages can last a long time and repairs can involve the restoration of hundreds circuits. In areas with significant amounts of construction, cable cuts occur more frequently, and are more likely to affect multiple service providers. This can be compounded by commercial buildings, which infrequently implement diverse conduit entrances, forcing cable based service providers to use the same physical pathway into the building. The best way around this it to invest in a fixed wireless solution, which uses a diverse pathway to connect your building to the network and isn’t reliant on fiber to connect.

System Failures

Average Outage time: 9 hours

Percentage of Outages: 75%

A hardware or software failure in the service provider’s network, these outages are the most frequent cause for service interruptions.  By selecting a diverse provider for your secondary Internet circuit, you can avoid these interruptions. Your routing equipment should be able to correctly detect an interruption or outage on your primary circuit and automatically utilize your secondary circuit. This sounds simple, but careful attention to your specific network configuration is crucial to ensuring that it works properly.  When in doubt, contact your service provider.

Malicious Actions

Average Outage time: 4 hours

Percentage of Outages: 8%

While diverse connections may not be able to protect against malicious acts, they can allow for continued access even in the event that a cable theft cases a fiber optic cable break. The best way to protect against malicious attacks is to work with your provider to establish data protection and standard Internet firewalls and security measures.

The power of diverse connections is well known, but businesses infrequently take advantage of their benefits. By implementing a diverse network connection, organizations maximize secure and reliable access to their cloud based applications.