Redundant Internet Connections For Disaster Recovery

Loss of internet connectivity can be more than a headache

A lot of businesses today rely on the internet for commerce in one form or another.  Regardless it is email, on-line applications, research or ordering the internet is the life blood for many companies.  Losing that connectivity can potentially cost millions of dollars depending on the type of business.

Loss of internet connectivity can be more than a headache
Loss of internet connectivity can be more than a headach

Most companies will have only one internet connection, hence a single point of failure.  In order to prevent that it is wise to have a second internet connection from a different Internet Service Provider (“ISP”).

What a lot of people do not realize is even if you have a second ISP, the internet connection could potentially be supplied from the same Central Office (“CO”).  If the CO has problems then you could lose both connections.

Part of this is because most places use good old fashioned copper wires from the pole to the building to supply connectivity.  Regardless of what ISP you select, the very last mile, that is from the CO to your building runs along lines owned by Verizon.  And what now have is the single point of failure once again.

That is why when you select a secondary ISP, it pays to find out where their CO is located.

Some places will have cable connectivity like CableVision here on Long Island.  They use a totally different CO and they own the copper from along the whole stretch thereby taking Verizon out of the loop for one connection.

Other places could even have a fiberoptic connection which eliminates copper altogether and like the cable will originate from a different CO.  The fiber could also be from another provider which again takes Verizon out of the loop.

Typical fiber optic cable
Typical fiber optic cable

With the way that fiber has come down in costs and the speeds far exceed what can be obtained on copper, it pays to look into having fiber as your primary connection and copper as your secondary connection.  This way if one should fail, you will still have the other to work from.

Generally how this is accomplished is that both connections are brought into the same room.  From there they are connected to the same firewall which is configured to accept both.  Most firewalls today will have a failover built into them so if your primary line goes down the secondary takes over instantly and seamlessly.  No one would ever know.  From the firewall the connection is now connected to the network where everyone works.

Using two ISPs for redundancy
Using two ISPs for redundancy

A lot of times the firewall will also do what is called ‘load balancing.’  That is split the traffic among both connections so one does not have a bottle neck.

Some companies will even go as far as having a third connection should they lose the first two.  This can also be copper of fiber from another provider.  Some places will use a broadband connection similar to cell phones using a device where 3G or 4G modems are connected to.  This is good in case a tree or accident takes down a pole outside.  Problem with that is the costs can be very high and you would not get the same amount throughput as you would with copper or fiber.  And like cell phones you might not get good reception.

A device that I used is known as CradlePoint.  It takes three broadband modems connected to it by USB cables then to the firewall.  In testing I pulled both the primary and secondary internet connections and just left the CradlePoint connected.  No one in the office of 55 ever knew the difference.

CradlePoint router
CradlePoint router

A major issue does arise with multiple internet connections and that is if you have your own email server like Exchange, should your primary internet connection fails then you could risk the possibility of not having email at all.  Here is where you would need to discuss with your internet providers to establish what is known as BGP to ensure that your email will work regardless of what internet connection is working.

In summary, if your business relies on the internet then you should truly consider having a second connection through a second ISP.  It makes good business sense.