The impact of the internet on how businesses operate is akin to the impact the industrial revolution had on the way products are manufactured. Today, finding a business that could remain productive without an internet connection would be just as impossible as finding a manufacturer that could maintain its output without modern manufacturing processes.
It’s not just that the internet connects businesses with their customers and partners. The internet also enables employees to communicate efficiently using communication apps like Microsoft Teams and Slack, it provides access to cloud services like Microsoft 365 and OneDrive, and it enables direct access to the greatest resource ever created: the web.
But despite its immense importance and usefulness, many businesses never consider the impact even a relatively minor internet outage could have on them. If they did consider it, they would likely decide that a backup internet service is a great investment.
Internet Outages Happen Every Day
Everyone has experienced an internet outage before, and it’s likely that the outage was caused by one of the following causes:
- Extreme weather events: When Hurricane Florence plowed through the Carolines in September 2018, it resulted in massive internet infrastructure disruptions. NetBlocks network observatory visualized them on a map, highlighting their enormous scale. Unfortunately, extreme weather events are becoming more common, so the chances that your internet connectivity will be directly or indirectly affected by one in the near future have never been higher.
- Internal issues with your ISP’s network: Internet service providers aim for 100% service uptime, but they know better than many of their customers that achieving it is impossible. Because ISPs manage complex networks that are not immune to human error and equipment failure, it’s only a matter of time before internal issues result in an outage.
- Software and hardware problems: Routers and other networking equipment, as well as the software that runs on it, is designed to operate uninterrupted for months and years. Still, all electronic components have a limited lifespan, and all complex software contains bugs, so a problem may occur at the worst possible moment.
- Local infrastructure damage: Fiber optic cables are typically buried no deeper than several feet below ground, and they tend to be located close to other utility lines, such as water and gas. As such, it’s not uncommon for fiber optic cables to become accidentally damaged during construction work. Damaged cables then have to be repaired or replaced by professionals, which may take days and even weeks.
- Cybersecurity incidents: Because of their prominent roles, internet service providers are seen as attractive targets by cybercriminals, including nation-state actors. A large distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on an ISP may impact tens of thousands of customers, making it impossible for them to do any bandwidth-intensive online activities.
Knowing that an internet outage may occur at any moment for a number of different reasons, it makes sense to prepare for it the same way you prepare for a data loss incident: by having a backup to fall back on.
A backup internet service can eliminate costly downtime caused by the sudden inability to accept orders from customers, invoice clients, or access data stored in the cloud. Considering that the average cost of downtime is $7,900 for small businesses, the extra monthly expense should be easy to justify.
In addition to providing protection against business interruptions, a backup internet service also ensures customer satisfaction by giving you extra capacity to handle peak bandwidth demand, such as when multiple employees are connecting remotely to the office using a VPN.
Choosing the Right Internet Backup Service
Your internet backup service options will ultimately depend on where you are located, but the following options should be available in every larger metropolitan area:
- Fiber: Using fiber optic cables, this internet technology delivers the fastest data transfer speeds, but its availability is still limited because of the high cost of creating the necessary infrastructure. Since multiple fiber optic cables can share the same conduit, fiber internet isn’t a good backup option if your main internet connection is also transmitted using a fiber optic cable.
- Cable: This form of broadband internet access uses the same infrastructure as a cable television, so it’s considerably more available than fiber internet. Download and upload speeds typically range from 10–500 Mbps and 5–50 Mbps, respectively. Unfortunately, they tend to slow down during peak use times, such as between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. on weeknights.
- DSL: Originally created as a faster alternative to dial-up internet, DSL uses existing telephone lines to transmit digital data. The use of the telephone infrastructure greatly limits the maximum transmission speeds, but it does make this networking technology readily available and affordable.
- Satellite: Thanks to satellite internet companies such as Starlink, low latency, broadband internet is now finally becoming available to consumers across the globe. Currently, users can expect download speeds between 100 Mbps and 200 Mbps and latency as low as 20 ms, but these numbers should improve over time and make satellite internet the best option for businesses in remote areas.
- Microwave: This internet connection delivers fast internet access by a high-capacity microwave radio link. Under ideal conditions, you can expect the same performance as with fiber internet. Unfortunately, microwave internet has a limited range, so it tends to be limited to larger cities.
- 4G/5G: While there are still major 4G and 5G coverage gaps across the United States, the over-the-air nature of cellular internet, plus the fact that several internet service providers offer it as a an easy-to-deploy backup service, make this internet backup option the right choice for many small businesses.
Besides choosing the right internet technology, you also need to choose the right provider based on factors such as cost, speed, reliability, customer service, and coverage. The actual installation of an internet backup service will depend on the chosen technology and the provider, but it won’t be any more complicated than the installation of your main connection.
You can then use an advanced firewall or router to automatically switch to the backup connection when your main connection experiences an outage. The switching can even occur continuously for load balancing purposes.
We at Aligned Technology Solutions can help you select the right internet backup service for your business, and we can also take care of all the nitty-gritty implementation details so that you can enjoy an uninterrupted connection to the internet even if you lack the technical skills to set it up yourself. Book a free consultation with us to get started.