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What is wireless network failover and why is it important to business continuity?

Dee Dee Pare

How does Internet failover work? These 6 strategies use wireless broadband to enable network diversity and reduce single points of failure

During network failover, standby equipment and connections automatically take over when the main network connection fails. As organizations use an increasing number of cloud-based services in their daily operations, automatic failover and uninterrupted network access have progressed from important to essential aspects of remote and branch networking. Increasing the diversity of network components and connection types helps reduce the impact of any single point of failure. Adding wireless network connections to branch locations is a flexible and cost-effective method of improving uptime, application performance, and business continuity.

How failover and fallback work

There are many causes of a network outage, including hardware and cable issues, configuration errors, software update failures, security attacks, and construction accidents. In a typical failover configuration with two routers, one is configured as primary and the other as backup. These two devices are coupled by a redundancy protocol and continuously monitor each other and the wide area network (WAN) links for any signs of disruption. If the primary router or network connection fails or is unresponsive, the backup automatically takes over. Network parameters, such as the gateway address and DHCP table, are shared so that other devices on the network can continue operating as if nothing has changed. When the primary router or WAN link are restored and stable, the connections ‘failback’ to it.

Benefits of adding wireless links as a failover option

Many organizations introduce failover capabilities by adding a second wired link to an existing branch router. While this is a good start, it still leaves the router and the wired links as potential weak points. For a higher level of resilience and continuity, two routers, each with a different type of WAN connection is the way to go. Modern cellular LTE and 5G wireless data links add both backup and diversity to the network, further reducing any single point of failure. These high-bandwidth wireless connections can carry just mission-critical traffic or the full branch network load, depending on your needs and budget. Wireless connections can also provide an alternative line into the branch for network and IT operations, enabling remote management and troubleshooting of branch equipment. Wireless WAN capabilities can be added to branch networks with an external adapter on an existing router, or by dropping in a purpose-built wireless router.

Using the failover link for traffic spikes, traffic segregation

Another benefit of having a secondary WAN connection is the ability to quickly accommodate traffic spikes, or to segregate different applications for security or performance reasons. During peak times, the secondary link is activated and both routers coordinate to dynamically route traffic to the best available path. When traffic returns to normal levels, the secondary link is released, so that you only pay for what you need. Alternately, you can choose to use an affordable wireless link continuously, separating sensitive or mission-critical applications from more generic web traffic or guest networks. Either way, sophisticated traffic management capabilities enable you to build your own policies to define when the wireless links are used, with full awareness of your wireless services and any restrictions or caps.

Failover strategies and wireless links increase resilience and continuity

Adding network failover and wireless WAN links to your branch network does not have to be complicated or expensive. Zero-touch deployment features, network and data plan monitoring, and cloud-based network management make deploying and operating wireless routers quick and easy. Sophisticated, software-defined networking capabilities help you define what, when, and how to connect to cellular networks. You can define and apply routing policies based on your requirements and the services available, including security, application performance, and WAN capacity.

Cloud services, IoT devices, and greater mobility are pushing businesses beyond the architectural constraints of wired networks and driving the need for greater diversity and resilience.

For more information on the applications and benefits of using LTE and 5G for backup connectivity, read our white paper: 6 Wireless Failover Strategies for Enterprise Branch Continuity


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