Defeating downtime: strategising failover solutions

By James Bristow, SVP EMEA at Cradlepoint.

  • Sunday, 3rd December 2023 Posted 3 months ago in by Phil Alsop

Earlier this year, an IT failure left thousands of Lufthansa passengers across the globe stranded. The failure was caused by damage to fibre cables during construction in Frankfurt, bringing the organisation's massive operation to a standstill.

Network downtime is one of the significant challenges facing businesses today. This challenge is multiplied when applied to distributed enterprises, like Lufthansa, whose network is mission-critical to global operations. For example, in 2021, Amazon missed out on $34 million in sales during a 59-minute period of internet outage. It's a problem that companies don't want to face, but it is almost inevitable.

So, what can enterprises do to safeguard themselves against this issue and cover network calamities like cable outages? The only concrete solution to ensure business continuity is to deploy wireless backups powered by cellular broadband in a process called failover.

Enterprises must consider six essential strategies when deploying wireless failover to maximise their ability to continue operations, no matter the issue. But before we dive into these, it is important to understand what failover connectivity is and how it meets the demand of enterprises.

What is failover, and can it withstand the pressures of enterprise?

Due to the distributed nature of most enterprises and cloud-based operations becoming the norm, wide-area networks (WANs) are critical to the day-to-day operations of an organisation. But these networks can go down instantly for many reasons, resulting in branches losing connection to corporate networks or the cloud. Failover, in its various forms, acts as a backup and allows an enterprise to continue operations while the outage is fixed.

The most effective failover strategies increase the diversity of network components and connections by building Wireless-WAN links on 4G and 5G broadband. This significantly reduces single points of failure that could hinder operations, offering flexible, powerful, and cost-effective backups able to withstand the pressure of distributed enterprises. Moreover, using 4G LTE and 5G and their subsequent technologies will improve network uptime and application and service performance.

It is almost a no-brainer for enterprise decision-makers to boost their business continuity using wireless failover. However, there are specific considerations to undertake that will maximise an enterprise's business continuity using wireless failover.

Ensuring branch continuity with wireless failover: 5 strategies

1. Link diversity

Most enterprise connections depend on a single wire running to an internet provider. This wire acts as a single point of failure and, if disabled, will bring the entire organisation to its knees. In some instances, an organisation might install a second wire as a backup mechanism. While this may seem a solid option, it will most likely be placed alongside the wire it backs up; thus, it is subject to the same risks. In the case of Lufthansa, a backup wire would have probably suffered damage as well.

The solution is adding a backup wireless link to your existing branch network, providing a diverse fallback that is far less susceptible to the risks that impact wired connections.

The more diverse links an enterprise has, the less it has to worry about a single point of failure.

2. Dual-carrier connectivity

As we've seen time and time again, most recently with Virgin Media, relying on one internet provider or telecom carrier can be risky. Like a single wired connection, various issues out of an enterprise's control can result in their business operations being hamstrung by their providers' outage.

It is highly unlikely that two carriers will be down simultaneously. So, when it comes to installing wireless backups, it is imperative to ensure dual-carrier connectivity at the same time. Where both links work in tandem, or as primary and backup, cancelling the risk posed by carrier/provider outage.

3. Hardware redundancy

Hardware going down always poses a risk to business continuity, especially when it comes to wireless router backups. As a result, enterprises must look to deploy redundant or mirrored routers which protect against router downtime. This is especially important for enterprises running non-stop operations, as the routers monitor each other and act as a backup in case the primary fails.

Redundant or mirrored routers also allow organisations to manage and maintain their routers without risking day-to-day network usage, acting as further failure points.

4. Traffic spikes

Traffic spikes and network congestion are constant risks to any connected enterprise. Whatever the reason for a sudden surge, it can significantly hinder an organisation's operations.

In the event of a traffic spike, backup wireless links can be used as an avenue to offload the under-pressure primary connection automatically. Once the traffic wave has settled, the backup link is automatically released, and normal traffic levels continue to pass through the primary connection.

5. Out-of-band management

Due to various reasons, enterprises often lose visibility and access to many of their branch devices, resulting in site visits or proxy troubleshooting. Wireless backup links render both solutions completely outdated by providing alternative network management options when a device is unreachable or 'out-of-band'. In addition, these links offer entirely remote management, enhancing the ability of enterprise engineers to fix network issues wherever.

The time for failover is now

As network downtime plagues businesses globally, enterprise decision-makers must look towards wireless failover to ensure business continuity or risk the same fate as Lufthansa. By following the steps above, enterprises will be able sleep-easy at night, knowing that it will take a cataclysmic event to knock out their network while reaping the benefits that 4G and 5G technologies offer.