How to protect your business from an NBN outage

 In Connectivity

Internet outages hurt. They plant a roadblock right in the middle of your workflow, and they can mess up your business bottom line.

Think about everything your business uses the internet for. At minimum you’d be looking at your emails, all your cloud software, and all your cloud file storage. And if you’re on the NBN, you’ll be relying on that for your landline phones as well.

This means that if your NBN connection goes down your clients won’t be able to reach you or, if they do, you won’t be able to interact with them in any meaningful way to meet their needs.

The NBN gets a bad wrap a lot of the time. Sometimes it’s deserved and sometimes it isn’t. Like it or not, the NBN is something we’re all going to have to migrate to eventually; and, as with any technology problem, there are ways to mitigate risk and smooth out your experience.

How common are NBN connection outages?

There’s no doubt that the NBN is faster than many of the legacy internet connection types, but at ProITS we have seen first hand the problems with reliability that have been doing the rounds of water-cooler chat since the rollout started heating up.

Outages of up to 30 minutes are not uncommon. The map below is a snapshot of reported NBN outages across Melbourne at one moment in time.

Melbourne NBN outage map
Source: https://aussieservicedown.com/status/national-broadband-network-nbn/2158177-melbourne-melbourne-state-of-victoria-australia, retrieved 24 October 2019 at 15:00

Common causes of connection outages

Network congestion

When demand peaks at certain times of the day, the network can become gridlocked. It shouldn’t happen to you on a business or enterprise plan, but it’s worth being aware of. You can read more about this in my internet speeds infographic.

Some service providers (ISPs) are better than others in this regard. I recommend Aussie Broadband or Telstra. My observation across our client base is that they seem to do well for bandwidth during the day.

Weather

Extreme weather conditions that cause power failures, downed phone lines, or interruptions to cable infrastructure can cause you to lose connection to your ISP. When this happens, it could take anywhere from minutes to hours or days for the connection to be re-established by maintenance crews.

Hardware failure

Having outdated hardware, or hardware that’s not fit for purpose can cause outages.

Human error

Duplicating IP addresses, wires plugged into the wrong jacks and bad firewall rules are all operator installation errors that can lead to outages or the inability to connect in the first place. There is also the possibility for errors on the ISP’s end – such as cancelling your account incorrectly.

How a failover internet connection can get you back to work

What if I told you that when your main internet connection fails, for whatever reason, you could seamlessly shift over to a second connection without moving a muscle?

There are many ways you can achieve this; but I tend to recommend the following.

Telstra 4G failover service

My preferred option is a 4G service using the Telstra network. The monthly fee for this type of connection is inexpensive – much better than fixed wireless fees – however, unlike fixed wireless, there is no guarantee on the internet speed.

That’s why I recommend the Telstra network where you can expect an average download/upload speed of 40/10mbps.

You will need to invest in the right router in order to achieve this auto-failover. Not all are capable; and although Telstra actually supply their own 4G failover routers with their NBN business plan; I don’t recommend them.

They have many problems which likely stem from their cheap, non-business grade construction; including:

  • fewer security features
  • a SIM that can’t be used in any other device
  • a setup configuration that does not like to be changed, and has been observed to reconfigure itself to factory settings at random.

Fixed wireless

Option two is a Fixed Wireless Service running at 50/50mbps. This service will provide a reliable service at a guaranteed speed. The disadvantage of this connection is that excess data charges are high and the ongoing service charge is relatively expensive.

One of the biggest IT challenges for any business is a loss of productivity when the internet goes down. With planning, you can protect your business from internet outages and ensure you’re connected no matter what.

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