Imagine you manage a technically sophisticated, digitally oriented business that has a pressing need for consistently reliable service. You need it to be as absolutely interruption-free as possible. You also need your company to maintain constant network availability and robust connectivity between several different systems and servers scattered across multiple geographic locations.
Your business might offer hosting servers, an SaaS platform, VOIP communications, financial services or any number of digital services. It might even be a physical service/product company backed by a need for constant digital connectivity (think Uber or something of that type). The reality is that the above description fits an enormous amount of companies today, whether they offer internet services or not, and the percentage of these is growing.
In all of these cases, network strength is vital, and the only way to achieve it is by applying network redundancy in a number of different ways. With these fundamentals in mind, here are the essentials to keep in mind.
What is Network Redundancy?
Simply, network redundancy is a dynamic set of processes, devices and protocols for offering multiple, maximally secure paths for data and data traffic between servers, networks and computers.
These different paths are ideally available simultaneously so that any single failure or even multiple failures along the network in question don’t lead to disconnected services or data flows. In other words, a network is never allowed to hang in the balance over the possible failure of any one device or pathway.
Network redundancy seems to be about adding complexity to a network in order to strengthen it, but in reality it’s more about keeping things as simple as possible while toughening them with redundant additions. In fact, the strongest aspects of network redundancy lie explicitly in keeping multiple systems simple and easy to monitor or repair for secure data flow. Too much complexity is instead one of the enemies of resiliently strong systems.
How is Network Redundancy Applied?
There are many ways to make sure that network redundancy is applied well enough for organizations with high reliability and security needs. However, all of these multiple methods can be boiled down to two key overall strategies. These are fault tolerance and high availability. Each has its specific job.
With fault tolerance, the hardware aspect of network redundancy is handled. This involves making sure that all the hardware used for a particular network is fully redundant via two or more available copies of any physical devices used for the network. Ideally, a full second version of a whole hardware system should be kept ready to run at a moment’s notice in case the main hardware fails at any time.
In the case of high availability, you establish redundancy procedures for the software side of a network. This means running several servers at the same time and having them all monitor each other’s behavior. If any one or more servers have a problem, internal protocols among them cause an immediate switch to a backup server that’s still running.
Within these two basic applications of redundancy, several subtypes exist. These are as follows:
Pathway redundancy: the maintenance of several different network paths that can be switched to as needed for information to flow between points uninterrupted. This type of redundancy is a part of fault tolerance.
Power redundancy: Network devices need electrical power and this can leave them deeply vulnerable to a single possible point of failure. Power redundancy tries to mitigate this by making sure that backup electrical systems for a network’s hardware are always available at the quickest possible notice.
Geographic redundancy: Nobody can be sure that any one physical place won’t catastrophically fall victim to fire, flood or some other major disaster. Geographic redundancy mitigates against this by making sure that a company’s data, hardware and software contracts aren’t all concentrated in the same general area, only to later be brought down by some local disaster.
Data redundancy: This deals with the robust preservation of data despite hack attempts or any number of other IT security and data disasters. Like servers, data storage systems should be diversified geographically and with procedures in place for backing up to them securely and frequently.
What are the Benefits of Network Redundancy?
There’s no doubt at all or absence of reasons for why data redundancy is a good thing to have. No digital system, organization or business environment of any kind that’s worth its salt at staying robust should be slack about applying protocols for resilience to disaster situations. This isn’t to say that redundancy can 100% failure-proof anything, but the benefits of trying as hard as reasonably (or even unreasonably) possible are enormous because:
Uptime is preserved: having your network clearly, visibly working 24/7 without interruptions will enormously expand user trust and decrease the scope of costly disasters. This applies especially critically for facilities such as hospitals or other emergency services.
Security is kept tight: High redundancy goes hand in hand with strong security. The two depend on each other to be effective and if you’re hoping to build a redundant network, you will be default have to make it a very secure network.
Business reputation is saved: Businesses are particularly sensitive to stains on their reputation, particularly in a competitive environment. If you want your business to avoid falling behind on how clients perceive it, having visibly robust systems that rarely if ever fail is a major part of a positive impression. This applies especially if your business offers mission critical services or products to clients with vital external needs of their own.
What About its Risks?
There are virtually no downsides to seeking maximal latency. While it is possible to take precaution to expensive and time-intensive extremes, your threat profile and the importance of your services will ultimately decide how you conduct this cost/benefit analysis. Strong latency in any IT network and hardware system that your organization uses is a firmly, clearly good thing in all circumstances, so long as its applied with an eye to keeping your efforts practical.
Third party digital service providers can help here enormously, by allowing you to outsource certain parts of your own basic needs to their expertise. VOIP First Media is a perfect example of exactly this. By providing multiple levels of outsourced voice over internet protocol communications for companies all over the world, we firmly understand how to ensure our clients’ capacity for constant, resilient communication with their own customers and employees.