Secure your business against Internet outages

How badly would your business be affected if your Internet connection went down for a week? Five or ten years ago, the answer might have been “not that badly”; it would be annoying to lose email, but you’d have been able to cope by reverting to faxes or maybe using dialup.

Réan van Niekerk, Metacom MD

That’s no longer true. Almost without our noticing it, we’ve become dependent on being constantly connected. We send large files by email and expect replies within hours, we have progress meetings via instant messenger, and our inboxes have become our de facto task lists. Turn off email in a busy office for a few hours and watch everyone flounder while they figure out what to do next without the constant prompting of email messages.

Whether this is a good or a bad thing is beside the point – it just IS the way most of us work now, and this particular genie is not going back into its bottle any time soon.

But if we’re all dependent on our connectivity to get things done now, how many of us are properly insured against the inevitable day when that connectivity goes down? The honest answer is “hardly any”.

The insurance I’m talking about has nothing to do with insurance companies.  It’s not about cash, it’s about creating a system that will keep you connected no matter what. And the only kind of system that can achieve that, is one that uses at least two different communication methods.

Having two Diginet lines, in other words, is not going to protect you if they both terminate at the same Telkom exchange and someone digs up the lines along with the pavement outside your office. The best you can hope for is that your SLA with Telkom will get it fixed quickly.

With ADSL – which most small to medium businesses prefer because it’s much, much cheaper – you don’t even have that small security. It’s not at all unknown for ADSL faults to persist for weeks – more than long enough to cripple most businesses.

The most effective way to ensure your always-on connection really IS always on, is to mix wired and wireless technologies, for example by combining ADSL or Diginet with GSM or satellite connectivity. Even though wireless data is typically more expensive, you won’t be using it except in an emergency – and when that emergency hits, most businesses would happily pay a premium to stay up and running.

It’s not even difficult to get this kind of solution working – so don’t let any IT consultant charge you a fortune to put one in place. It should be as simple as plugging in a router that contains a couple of SIM cards – relying on one network is as bad as relying on one ADSL line — and/or a satellite link. The switch from one medium to another should happen automatically as soon as there’s a problem.

South Africa’s bandwidth may not be the fastest, but it’s improving all the time – and we remain world leaders at developing robust, cost-effective solutions that integrate mobile and fixed-line technologies. If you aren’t 100% confident that your business can keep going at peak efficiency even without your ADSL line, you need to be harnessing some of those solutions.

Réan van Niekerk, Metacom MD