Establishing network redundancy is a vital step for enterprises to take to maintain business as usual, even when a primary link goes down
You may be surprised to learn that the generator in your garage and network redundancy and failover all have the same goal: keep critical systems going. Just as a generator can provide auxiliary power in case of an unexpected outage, network redundancy and failover solutions provide backup connectivity when a primary connection is lost. In both cases, these systems are designed to take over seamlessly and keep operations running smoothly.
Network disruptions are inevitable and can significantly impact a business's bottom line. To minimize the risk of downtime, network failover and network redundancy ensure business continuity, even in the event of unexpected failures. Think of it like a generator — or an additional lifeline — for your network.
Let’s explore how network redundancy and failover are defined and the steps you can take to protect your business from network downtime.
What is network redundancy and failover?
Connections go down for several reasons, including hardware and cable issues, software update failures, network congestion, or other problems that can impact availability, which is why enterprises need a backup plan. While network redundancy and network failover aim to improve availability and prevent downtime, they differ in how they achieve this goal.
Maintaining continuity can make or break a business, and this can only be accomplished through network redundancy, meaning an enterprise is not bound to one single point of failure or to one carrier within its network.
Network redundancy, or link redundancy, is a strategy or business objective that involves using multiple network service providers to ensure a network remains available even if one carrier experiences an outage or other disruptions. This can be done by using different Internet service providers (ISPs), such as AT&T or T-Mobile, and requires specific network failover solutions with redundancy capabilities, such as a hybrid WAN router.
Network failover is the physical process or mechanism that enables redundancy, automatically switching network traffic from a primary link or component to a secondary link or backup when the primary one fails or becomes unavailable. A business can incorporate failure protection in several different ways that may include diverse connection types, multiple carriers, multiple routers, and additional power sources.
All that being said, enabling network redundancy isn’t always the most affordable option. Just like investing in an insurance plan can be costly, purchasing hardware and installing additional WAN links means paying for backup and tertiary links that aren’t always used. So, how can businesses get more bang for their buck?
Bandwidth augmentation: What is it and why is it a part of the redundancy conversation?
Rather than delegating backup links as lifelines and allowing them to sit idle, enterprises can use a cellular connection as one of the primary links for a specific application, thus augmenting the network with more bandwidth. As a result, bandwidth augmentation is a more cost-efficient way for an organization to use its failover solutions.
How do you achieve network connection redundancy?
Achieving network connection redundancy is simple and can be done in a few steps:
- If a wired connection is already in place, businesses can augment the network with a cellular connection to enable redundancy.
- If your use case requires cellular-to-cellular failover, select a vendor that offers the software services and dual modem routers needed to allow SIM cards from two different carriers to be active simultaneously without the downtime of switching between the two. Cellular network redundancy requires two modems as part of the network architecture that can remain active on two active cellular carriers.
- Then, select the two carriers you want based on coverage and availability within the geographic area.
- Configure the service WAN connection based on business and technical requirements. For example, companies can set up simple failover, Smart WAN Selection, and more depending on their needs.
What are examples of redundancy in a network?
Branch continuity is critical when operating a retail chain with distributed fixed and temporary locations, and traditional wired failover WAN connections aren’t cutting it. Severe weather, construction accidents, or configuration errors can cause disruptions in service, causing delays, loss of sales, and damaging an enterprise's reputation.
Wireless branch continuity solutions provide instant failover protection by offering a diverse pathway through the air. A Wireless WAN connection in place means policies can immediately direct traffic to pass across the wireless link. Once the primary link is restored, traffic flow automatically returns to normal — in most cases, unnoticed by users and customers.
When lives are at stake, there’s no room for downtime, so network redundancy is essential for public safety agencies managing a fleet of vehicles. Ambulances, police cars, fire apparatuses, and the devices within them need dependable connectivity as they travel through areas with spotty coverage.
Using a dual-modem cellular router installed in vehicles enables active connections to multiple cellular carriers, as well as automatic failover and failback, to ensure always-on connectivity for mission-critical services.
Establishing this type of redundancy requires a reliable solution that meets the needs of the business, so what features should an enterprise look out for?
Questions to ask before picking a failover solution
Finding a failover solution shouldn’t be complicated. To streamline the decision-making process, an enterprise should consider a few key questions:
Does it provide automatic failover?
Automatic failover improves WAN uptime by automatically switching the connection to a backup link — in most cases, unnoticed by users and customers. This is a vital feature because it ensures applications continue to perform and connect without interruption.
Is the backup link reliable and secure?
Wired connections can go down for various reasons, making them an unreliable backup option compared to cellular. With a wireless failover solution, businesses can add diversity to their network and have peace of mind knowing there’s a secure connectivity solution ready to failover seamlessly, minimizing service disruptions.
Is it easy to deploy and manage?
Easy deployment and management of a failover solution means IT teams can spend less time setting up and configuring the network and more time on strategy and other important tasks. Remotely troubleshooting the network out of band allows network administrators to diagnose and fix problems over the air for better manageability and scalability.
Does it provide network visibility?
IT teams should be able to see and monitor how their network and applications are performing through a single pane of glass. Having valuable insight into data usage, router capacity, and more dramatically reduces stress and the risk of experiencing downtime.