When you’re beginning a company, a basic IT network with standard connections between sites and devices may work adequately – but, as you grow, so can the need for improved network performance.
The thing is, improving your network might not be high on your priority list – but, it’s an invest that, once made, will likely bolster your ability to adapt and grow enormously. So, rather than looking for application or end-user level solutions to performance issues, it can be good to take a step back and look at whether your need to consider implementing an MPLS solution to manage your network.
Do we need MPLS?
Ultimately, there’s no solid right or wrong answer as to whether you need a better way of managing your network connection – as what’s right for one business wouldn’t fit the bill for another company.
Rather than offer a prescriptive ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, it’s important to simply consider a few questions that relate to your current networking position:
- Do you handle voice and data on your network connections?
- Does your business IT network currently carry different data types over the same connections?
- Is uptime important across your businesses’ sites?
- Do you struggle with latency and network congestion?
- Would quickly being able to provision new business locations help you grow?
If the answer to one or more of these questions is yes, then finding some MPLS providers and comparing the service they can offer could be a good step for your business. MPLS isn’t likely to be the cheapest IT upgrade you make – but it has the potential to revolutionise the way you deliver your IT related services.
What is MPLS?
If you’ve seen MPLS mentioned, it generally comes in the same breath as ‘connections’ and ‘network management’ – but finding a quick and simple explanation can be tricky.
Expanding on and breaking down the acronym helps! MPLS stands for Multi-Protocol Label Switching – and the concept is fairly simple.
It’s good to start with the ‘Label’ part of the name. An MPLS system allocates one or more labels to data that’s being transmitted over a network. These labels are tiny pieces of data that identifies how the packet should be handled. The ‘Multi-Protocol’ part of the name simply relates to the different ‘languages’ (or, in IT terms, ‘protocols’) that the system can work with. Finally, the ‘Switching’ refers to the dynamic data management that’s done by a Label Switch Router (LSR) as part of the system.
So, in effect, an MPLS system could effectively be considered a network data transmission management system. It’ll order and prioritise data to make sure it’s handled in a way that best suits your business.
It wouldn’t be inaccurate to think about a network in similar terms to a parcel delivery network. A standard network might look a little bit like a poorly run delivery network – inefficient uses of routes between delivery addresses – whereas the MPLS parcel network would be able to consider which parcels were priority – before plotting a route that delivers everything in the shortest possible time in order of importance. What’s more, the MPLS network would be able to adjust deliveries – adapting to the constantly changing priorities the business requires.
What would MPLS offer?
With this simple understanding of MPLS in place, it’s time to think about what the technology might be able to offer your business…
Increased network speed
Networks tend to be very busy areas of IT infrastructure – and busy parts of any network are liable to face congestion and delays. This is especially true is many different programs are passing data over the network – as is often the case with modern hosted telephony systems. An MPLS system will route traffic according to priority and more efficient delivery route – reducing speed and decreasing the chance of latency.
Increased networking efficiency
By dynamically handling the priority level of different data types, an MPLS system can ensure that essential data always gets to where it’s going. It does this by labelling accordingly to priority level – then making sure higher priority data is handled accordingly. The result? When you need an application to run – it will.
Ease of expansion
In the past, growing your IT network (especially into different premises and geographical areas) has required a lot time from your IT team or contractors – especially when it comes to setting up virtual private networks that create data tunnels between sites. With MPLS, this effort is removed, as your system will constantly make sure that data finds the quickest and least obstructed way to your other sites.
Improved user experience
More and more businesses rely on real-time applications to deliver the service their end-users and customers expect. Since being able to maximise end user time and prioritise excellent customer service are both important parts of running a business – making sure your mission critical applications allow for this is paramount. MPLS will deliver the applications you need, when you need them, and at an optimised speed.
A simpler network
Simpler is, in IT terms, almost always better. If there’s ever a need for fault-finding in your network (and there sometimes will be) then one virtual connection between your sites is far easier to manage than a multi-hop route. The right labelling of data allows for simplified infrastructure – and, therefore, an easier system to get to grips with if it needs to be built upon – or if anything goes wrong.
Downtime and data loss can be extremely costly for a business, in fact, recent studies suggest that just one hour of downtime can cost a medium sized business in excess of £100,000 per hour – both in lost resources and miss opportunities. If you want to make sure that downtime doesn’t come to haunt your business, an MPLS solution can be an important part of your arsenal. Since MPLS represents a more ‘hands-off’ managed system, your network will require far less input from real people – and, since human-error is responsible for almost 95% of all IT issues, MPLS will help you remove the least efficient part of your IT setup…