When your company's Internet access is down for 2 days...
At ABP Tech we eat our own food. Many of our sevices run over the internet including the most critical systems for our operation such us our ERP system our phone and e-mail.
Murphy is always around and this week the worst happened: our main Internet connection was down for almost two days, our ISP had major problems with their infrastructure and wouldn't even provide ETA.
In a highly competitive world companies can't afford not being responsive to their customers and having their operations paralyzed. Upper management won't accept excuses or allow IT department blaming anybody else. Large corporations have fat budgets allocated to IT departments to have a resilient IT infrastructure and manpower to maintain and manage it. Small/medium companies don't have such resources but have to be equally prepared, and in many times it's in hands of their VARs to offer a compelling solution.
We have remote workers connecting to our phone system, of course using VoIP, and to our e-mail server. Both services were primarily linked to our T1 since it is supposed to be more stable than our secondary ISP. Yes, we were prepared and had a second Internet access thru an ADSL link (now you can get pretty good bandwidth with ADSL) but how did we manage to make thru the outage seamlessly?
We believe that WAN management of IP connectivity are becomming as critical to companies as the phone was in the past. Resellers and Telecom providers were the ones to help ensure companies always had dialtone. Today its the WAN - Internet Connectivity!
How can VARS accomplish this? Resellers that come from a Telecom background have recently been more involved in connectivty side but lack a lot of the know-how to help provide uninterupted services and pristine quality of service. At ABP in our special ABP P3 Partner training series we developed a special training program for resellers called IP Essentials and Professional VoIP. Today I will give a brief overview on how to set things up:
1. Redundant Internet Links: Customers need to have two ISPs ideally from totally different providers and classes of service. Ideally you would want them to come from different Central Offices and DSLAMS. (Cable and T1, DSL and T1, Wireless Internet service). ABP sells the Astrocom Powerlink ProVoIP a router that not only does automatic fail over, routing among multiple Internet links but also load balances the traffic and aggregate the bandwidth available and most important handles VoIP Traffic. Who likes to pay for a second Internet link and not use it for more speed just waiting for the primary access to fail? With this device you get the full benefit of having two circuits and the seamless redundancy when one of the services fails. The Powerlink ProVoIP has us covered for all outbound traffic including VoIP.
2. DNS server management: Services that are run in-house are linked simultaneously to two public IP addresses, one in the T1 space and the other in the DSL space. For inbound connections a DNS server can be configured with special kind of records so it can resolve multiple IPs for the same domain name queried. For e-mail it is MX records that do the trick and pretty much all SMTP (email) servers support it. For VoIP, it is SIP SRV records. Not all sip endpoints support dns srv queries but the Aastra and Snom IP phones, we standardize on and use for all remote SOHOs, do. When the T1 link went down and primary IP went unresponsive, the remote IP phones register and send calls to the secondary IP as resolved by the DNS. No user intervention needed. Of course the Astrocom router will also notify the administrator and/or the reseller of the failure so someone can start the process of getting the failed service back up.
3. Bandwidth management: Once service is reestablished in our case with two links all traffic will flow thru close to half the bandwidth we used to have. Real time traffic like VOIP would normaly suffer provoking real bad audio quality but our CTX-600 Voip accelerator/traffic management or our Exinda WAN manager takes care of that preserving the quality of the voice by prioritizing real time packets.
As always every contingency plan needs to be tested and with everything planeed out we still had to deal with a couple remote IP phones not configured correctly to support DNS SRV records and had to add some routing rules on a couple servers that were not behind the Astrocom (automated now with some scripts) but we passed the test. 100% of the services continued to run and eliminated any economic impact due to the outage.
ABP is a VAD ( Value Added Distributor ) of Voip and IP communications products that provides its reseller partners not only the hardware or software but also the expertise, support and training to get best of breed, multivendor solutions working together.
Try to join us for the IP Sizzles this summer to learn more about WAN management.