Why your business needs two Internet connections

/ IT Consultancy
October 14th, 2019

Business continuity - Why your business needs two Internet connections

Your business’ Internet connection now means so much more than just being able to browse websites. So many programs, services and features rely on an Internet connection that if yours went down, you would feel an instantaneous impact.

Businesses constantly use the Internet to communicate with their clients, collaborate with colleagues and access cloud-based systems such as Office 365 and Salesforce. Using the Internet is so ingrained in our workday, there’s little you could do without it.

  • You couldn’t send or receive emails
  • You couldn’t access any cloud application services or files in cloud storage
  • You couldn’t access any websites or web services
  • You probably couldn’t use your telephony system

The only good thing which comes from an Internet outage is… well, there isn’t one.

How much does a lost Internet connection cost?

Internet outages cost UK businesses nearly £7 billion in 2016. Whilst that was a few years ago, don’t think the age of this stat makes you safe. This figure is set to increase year-on-year and so will now be something far higher.

The table below shows the impact downtime has on varying sizes of businesses based on both the productive time lost and the cost of an outage.

Table showing the costs of an outage in varying sizes of business.

The results of the study investigating the cost of Internet outages

Businesses experience an average of 4.7 outages per year – each of which cost a mid-sized business an average of £3,644.

Internet outages are clearly expensive and so your business should be doing everything to prevent them. Luckily, it’s not difficult to reduce the chance of your business seeing an outage.

How to prevent an Internet outage?

Difference between broadband, leased-lines and 4G services.

Before considering getting two Internet connections, you must ensure your primary connection is the correct type for your business. There are three main types of connection:

  • Broadband – Generally only good for very small businesses. This is the same connection you likely have at home. Broadband connections share bandwidth with other customers meaning lower performance at peak times and fluctuating performance. Broadband typically has a non-existent Service Level Agreement (SLA). This means if you go down, you aren’t going to be a priority to the service provider. You may have an SLA in your contract, but they are typically valueless.
  • Leased line – Good for growing and medium-sized businesses, necessary for large businesses. A leased-line is a private connection which only you can utilise – guaranteeing consistent performance. SLAs for leased lines operate more rigidly – giving you better uptime guarantees and faster resolutions when issues occur.
  • 4G Connectivity – Good for satellite sites or rural offices. 4G has become a popular solution for certain niche scenarios such as remote offices or areas where other options are poor or non-existent. Although good in principle, 4G services are typically not enough for full business operations – though they can act as a lifeline if a wired connection fails.

Getting a second Internet connection

Once your primary connection is suitable, the second step is to add redundancy to your Internet connection. Many businesses think a leased line gives them immunity to an outage. However, while you may still get limited connectivity during a wider network outage, you should aim for no loss of service at all.

Since we operate leased lines for many of our clients, there are a few best practices and common mistakes we’ve seen which you should be aware of when planning your own leased line.

The Last Mile Rule

The ‘Last Mile Rule’ states that the final mile of cabling which connects your business to the Internet should be physically separate between your two connections. This isn’t always possible due to external infrastructure and costs, but it’s worth aiming for.

Having the connections enter your office from alternate directions and cabinets means a physical disruption (perhaps caused by overzealous construction workers) only impacts one cable – allowing you to maintain connectivity.

To take it further, a secondary Internet connection should be run from a different telephony exchange – meaning that an issue at an exchange doesn’t bring down your connectivity.

Automatic switching

Manually reacting to an outage is not ideal. It’s stressful, confusing and results in unnecessary downtime for your business. Instead, you want to configure your connection to automatically switch over to the secondary circuit if the primary one is down.

Typically, this is achieved by intelligent firewalls or two carriers (ISPs) working in conjunction via a managed service.

It’s also worth considering using the second connection, rather than just having it sat idle. Many organisations push certain traffic over the secondary connections, such as backups or voice calls. Obviously, if the second line fails (often more likely) that traffic can just fail-back to the primary connection.

Diversify line providers

Rather than going straight to your current line provider for your secondary connection, consider diversifying to another provider instead.

In the UK, BT Openreach and Virgin Media are the two largest owners of cable infrastructure, so if you already have a connection with one, it’s worth diversifying into the other. This is so that if the network provider themselves experiences an outage, you don’t lose your primary and secondary connections because of it.

Another benefit to a diverse approach is that if one of the major providers goes down, you can be overwhelmingly smug that your operations keep humming along whilst your competitors are frantically putting out fires and incurring reputational damage.

What is the cost of two Internet connections?

The direct cost of a second Internet connection will vary depending on local pricing so research your providers. If an identical line is too expensive, you could consider purchasing a reduced capacity line instead, i.e. a broadband circuit to just allow critical services to run in a disaster.

Doing this ensures a primary line failure won’t completely take you down, but you may find it difficult to perform Internet-heavy actions. Consider how much bandwidth you use normally and your usage at peak times to help you choose a sufficiently effective backup line.

What is the ROI of a second connection?

A second Internet connection is a preventative investment, meaning you cannot calculate ROI in the traditional sense. Instead, look at how much money your business is losing from downtime, then map this against the cost of a backup line.

As medium-sized businesses typically lose £3,644 per outage and experience 4.3 outages per year, a secondary connection would save them £15,699.20 on average every year. This can be considered the yearly ROI.

To calculate this for your own business, use this simple downtime cost equation to find your cost of downtime then multiply it by the average length of your outages and multiply it again by your average number of outages per year.

It’s also important to not just focus on the hard costs. You also need to consider soft costs, such as reputational damage. If your operation was offline for 3 days (very possible) then how is that going to impact your reputation?

Does my business need two Internet connections?

This question is akin to asking, “does my business need to be accessible to clients and customers?” or “do my employees need to do their work?”. If you’re a micro-business, then you can probably get away with a single connection because downtime losses are minimal. But otherwise, it becomes not a question of if you should get two Internet connections, but when you should get your second connection.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking a disaster won’t happen to you. Too many businesses put off investing in their business continuity and then take a permanent blow to their reputation rather than enjoying business as usual. Don’t let that be you.

Is your business ready for its' second connection? Our experienced teams can help you protect your business from downtime and disruption.