Protect against an outage, make a plan

Something we always like to discuss with new customers is the necessity of backup, or more importantly a plan should the worse happen. As important as an SLA (Service Level Agreement) is as to the intentions to repair, it doesn’t guarantee against downtime. Our industry has always focused heavily on SLA’s to give customers the warm fuzzy feeling without fully explaining exactly what it is or how you are protected when you suffer an outage.

An SLA is just an intention to fix a service in an agreed timeframe and compensate should it fall outside of this. So basically it is a promise, and while it is good to have one it certainly won’t compensate your business sufficiently should you suffer from a fault that isn’t repaired within the given time frame. The problem is there are so many possible faults in delivering service to a site that sometimes it is just not technically feasible to repair within an agreed eta.

One of our carriers recently suffered from a particularly nasty fault in the Luton area. While installing some new street lighting the contractor went straight through a BT Openreach duct with a ban saw cutting all the fibre. This meant that the backhaul for five exchanges, including Luton itself was offline affecting thousands of customers. The fault was so severe that two carriers were affected by the outage.

Unfortunately the fault meant that some freshly laid tarmac needed to be dug up and the police would have to give special permission to close the road. This being Britain, I am sure some health & safety officials were involved as well. What this meant was an extended delay in fixing the fibre meaning the customers found themselves without service for over 72 hours.

However all the customers who had taken our automatic failover (Advance) or bonded products (PureFluid) didn’t suffer any outage and continued to operate as normal. This is because we ensure that delivery is always over more than one carrier. This not only minimises downtime but enables us to offer an even higher SLA….

For some businesses this sort of automatic failover is not always cost justified as staff can quickly switch to 3G dongles or work from home. Key message is to think about it and work out how your business could be affected by downtime and what could be done to minimise any potential impact before it happens.

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