One connection is not enough

Jacob Nthoiwa
By Jacob Nthoiwa, ITWeb journalist.
Johannesburg, 11 Apr 2011

While many companies believe it's important to have a backup Internet connection in case of failure, only two-thirds actually have backup systems in place, according to a recent survey.

Network Platforms, in partnership with ITWeb, recently ran a Network Connectivity Survey, which revealed that 84.91% of respondents felt it is important to have a backup connection to ensure they are always up and running.

The survey was run on ITWeb for two weeks, from 31 January to 14 February and attracted a total of 454 respondents. However, the survey showed that only 69.82% of respondents' companies have backup.

Backup connections are very important, especially in SA where copper theft is rampant and ADSL has no guaranteed turnaround time for Telkom to resolve a reported issue.

This is according to Network Platforms MD Bradley Love, who says companies have become reliant on e-mail and other IP-based services, which enable trade. “Not having these services running can impact on the ability to trade.”

The survey was aimed at finding out the degree to which South African companies suffer from slow and unreliable Internet connections, as well as the measures taken by these companies to maximise bandwidth and connectivity.

Love says having a backup Internet connection is always a good thing. He gives an example of a company with multiple offices in different geographical areas and has centrally located servers at headquarters.

“If the Internet connection goes down, this will impact the company on a national level and employees will not be able to assist customers with orders, prices, and account information.” This usually results in loss of revenue not to mention productivity, he says.

Love says reliability affects many aspects of the business. “Morale of the employees can be affected if they are continually being disrupted and hindering their ability to complete the tasks,” he says.

When asked to rate the reliability of their Internet connection, just under a third (31.22%) gave the dependability of their Internet connection a rating of five, indicating they were very happy with it.

This is compared to only 15.38% of the respondents who were very happy with the speed of their Internet and gave it a five rating.

During downtime

Most respondents (58.56%) wanted e-mail to be restored the soonest if their Internet connection failed. This was followed by Internet, virtual private network (VPN), and finally voice over Internet protocol (VOIP).

E-mail has become a standard means of communication and all companies use e-mail, where not every company has VPNs or VOIP, Love points out. “So I think every company will be different depending on the topology of their networks, but due to the fact that e-mail is a more widely used application determined this result.”

The survey also reflected ADSL to be the most popular connectivity type. “I was very surprised that 40% were happy with the speed as many big Internet service providers that have their own IPC are over subscribing their users. This may also be due to the users never experiencing an ADSL service with a low contention ratio,” Love says.

He says an alternative to the primary Internet connection would be wireless, but latency is generally higher so as a backup for VOIP, which requires a low latency, it will not work correctly.

“This could also be area-dependant; some areas do not have wireless or poor coverage or no coverage at all. Fibre is an option as a primary connection with ADSL as a backup but is very expensive.”

On guard

The survey also revealed that the majority (78.71%) of companies manage and monitor their internal infrastructure from within the company.

Love says connection monitoring is very important; most connections have an auto failover to the backup connection and one needs to be made aware that the primary connection is down so one can log faults with the relevant parties involved.

The biggest security concern with regards to Internet connections is downtime for 55.26% of respondents.

Exposure of sensitive company information ranked second, with 29.67% of respondents selecting this option. Loss of reputation and financial loss due to fraud seem of small concern, with 8.37% and 6.70% of respondents selecting these options respectively.

The majority of the respondents (57.66%) have implemented measures to assist in maximising their bandwidth and/or connections, and 42.34% say they have not. The most common measure implemented is firewalls, the survey revealed.

“Having a backup Internet connection from your current provider shouldn't be that expensive as they can keep it turned down until you advise or they detect a problem with your primary connection,” he says.