Modern Connectivity for Irish Enterprise – Part 1

Owen Kirwan
On: 12 Apr 2018
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remote connectivity

As more services move offsite to data centres and the cloud and as they become ever more bandwidth hungry, robust and resilient connectivity becomes mission critical. There is no point in having services such as Office 365, Azure and AWS in a state-of-the-art data centre if you can’t access them.

In Part 1, I go through the common connectivity challenges that face enterprises in Ireland and some of the ways to design and build robust and resilient connectivity. In Part 2 next week, I will go through layering services onto your connectivity infrastructure, security management and my predictions on the future of connectivity.

Connectivity Challenges

The connectivity challenges that face Irish enterprises differ by sector. In the construction industry for example, the types of remote sites that need to be connected and the haste at which they need to be deployed are challenging. It’s not unheard of to get a phone call on a Friday that a new site needs to be live on the Monday. Rural and urban sites each bring their own sets of challenges too. The rural site rarely has any kind of physical connectivity infrastructure available. The cramped urban site may have connectivity infrastructure, but often space is limited so the port cabin housing the equipment on site will move throughout the project.

There’s also the challenge of security. Due to the nature of many sectors, it is often impossible to control what contractors are on your site, what devices they are using, if they are secure, and if they are accessing your infrastructure of not.

And with any sector, budget is always a challenge, and it doesn’t help that sometimes ICT is seen as a cost centre.

Know Your Connectivity

To put it simply, there are two categories of connectivity: wired (e.g. fibre and xDSL) and wireless (e.g. WLL and cellular).

Here are some of the most commonly used types of wired connectivity and each of their speeds:

  • dedicated fibre leased lines – ranging from 1Mb to 100Gb+
  • DSL – up to 24Mb
  • fibre to the cabinet (FTTC/ vDSL/ eFibre) – up to 100Mb
  • fibre to the premises (FTTP) – up to 1Gb

In terms of wireless, there are licenced uncontended wireless leased lines (WLL), unlicensed contended wireless connections, and cellular: 3G, 4G and in the not-so-distant future 5G.

Whether wired or wireless, the connection that goes to your sites is known as a tail circuit or `last mile’. This lingo is just worth knowing.

I’m often asked: “Should I use wired or wireless?” The answer is, ideally both. With both, you have no single point of failure and it shouldn’t matter if you lose your primary connection.

I’m also often asked: “Should my connections be straight out to the internet or private connections to my own network for you to control and secure?” The answer is, it all depends on your organisation’s needs. A good provider can offer you either.

Key Design Principles for Solid Connectivity

As mentioned, more services are moving offsite to data centres and the cloud and are increasingly bandwidth hungry, making robust and resilient connectivity mission critical. This means the same design principles should be used for connectivity at remote sites or branches as at the head office, i.e. no site should rely on a single connection and those dual connections should be diverse. This is known as east-west redundancy and ideally combines infrastructure in the ground and in the air, with wired and wireless networks, to eliminate any single points of failure. This can mean combining a leased line fibre in the ground and a WLL in the air; a WLL primary and a FTTC or vDSL backup; or a vDSL primary and cellular backup. Each combination gives full connectivity redundancy and can meet most needs and budget. However, your provider should ensure your tail circuits do not traverse the same infrastructure and terminate in the same data centres to retain full redundancy.

Often when looking at bandwidth requirements, only the download speed is looked at, but upload speed should not be overlooked. For example, file management services such as Citrix ShareFile and Sharepoint require robust upload bandwidth.

To be continued next week!