Failover, Redundancy - It's not that complicated?

Failover, Redundancy - Sounds complicated but it it can be really simple and a good thing for your business - But what is it about?

Published 3/6/2024
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Don't worry these may be complicated sounding words but what we want to talk about is actually fairly easy to understand so lets be brave and dive right in.

We are fortunate on our little island that the internet is generally pretty good but no matter how good or reliable it is - You can never say it's 100%

Lets start with a story ( or two )

You know the moment, there is quiet and then there is silence. You know that silence when everyone in the office stops and there is nothing not even the creek of a chair… sometimes there is a bit of a bang and everything even the lights go out.

Then the door goes - Then management start to gather and have “chats” …. Nothing is working… That nervous energy starts to build - what is going on…? 

The first clue is when those that can work from home are asked to do so, the second is when everyone is sent home.

What happened? There was an accident at the road works and cables were cut - no internet, no phones.

People work from home right? well do you remember that time when something failed. To my knowledge details were never shared and please let me know if you have any info - but It was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's normal for Broadband to go off and on, most of the time no one notices, sometimes it's a minute or two, this time it was gone for nearly a week. 

Imagine that a whole week and all you have is 4G … If that was today the starlink people would be chuckling. (Starlink - totally a thing on island now p.s. i can totally help you with that) 

And yeah we all know trees come down in storms and they take cables down in the process.

What can it mean?

If you haven't seen it yet, you can almost guarantee it that one day you will. It is rare yes but it happens and i'm sure you have your own examples of how it can happen - let me know.

But is it really a problem for you? At the end of the day only you can answer that…

If your thinking of your home internet it's probably not a great concern. The impacts are minimal e.g. no TV Streaming and a few hours with no internet service isn't that big a deal. But things are changing where even your phone needs the internet.

But things are especially different when your looking at it from a business perspective including if you work from home where losing internet could mean unplanned holidays - making it one thing that should be one of the major factors in your business continuity plan.

Business Continuity  - What can you do about it?

Business continuity is essentially a disaster plan for natural and unnatural disasters and virtual and physical cyber security breaches, so one item would be loss of internet - it's simply if something unwanted happens this is what we do. It can be as simple as sending people to work remotely, which has many questions that need to be answered or may be you can't take payments and need to go to cash only..

Design your business for no internet.

Can you keep working with no internet? Sure - you may be able to go cash only, you can equip your staff with laptops that run everything they need that way they can be productive even if there is a power outage as well.

It does mean you can't rely on cloud services and hosted or cloud desktop is a massive No-No unsurprisingly - but with documents and any software you need running locally you can be good to go at least for a while.

Physical “another connection” solution.

It's important to remember that there is more than one method of getting internet such as Fibre, Copper, 4G/5G, Starlink (or other satellite based internet) or a WISP.

So if Keeping a connection is important and there are many reasons you might want to keep an active internet connection, possibly you are hosting your own services such as VPN's, Source Server's, File Server's, Email (You really should have this in the cloud though)

Then you would have another method ready and waiting to be used. - or even better have two and use them both at the same time. But we can't be there to unplug and plug in a new connection all the time so how do we manage that?

Automatic Failover and Load balancing

Were going to have to introduce some technical terms here So - To recap;

Internet connections are known as wide Area Network (WAN) connections which can be of any type allowing you can use the best service for your situation however, remember you will need two of them. 

Some systems do allow more than two WAN connections, but with UNIFI there is a limit of two which should be enough for most cases. Personally i hope they introduce more flexibility here, and definitely the option of more than one LAN SFP+ or even SFP28 ports

The really good news is that with UNIFI both options are included out of the box, and with policy routing you can control how traffic flows. e.g. You may want all requests to certain websites to go through your second internet connection. 

For failover it's important to have your second connection available if the primary fails, that's why you often see 4G or satellite used, there is even a dedicated product to provide a 4G connection fully managed in the Unifi Network controller. 

This is what Failover is about, it's designed to protect and keep you running. 

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