35%. That, according to Gartner, is the average percentage of business processes that have been digitalized across all industries. Some industries like retail, financial services and transportation are slightly ahead of that average, while others like health payers, healthcare providers and education are slightly behind. The top performers by industry tend to have processes that are more digital –some surpassing 50%. When it comes to digital revenue, that average is at about 20%. Of course, that too varies by industry and top performers have a higher percentage of revenues that are digital. This reliance on digital processes and digital revenue has changed the way IT departments view network outages. Not so long ago, when digital was a small sliver of the overall picture, network outages were an unpleasant, yet tolerable part of doing business. No more. Today, business reliance on digital processes and revenues means outages cost money and IT departments know it.
To meet this need for reliability, IT departments rely on a playbook that includes a highly reliable access medium like fiber or multiple access mediums through diversity (increasingly powered by SD-WAN).
Fiber optics are highly reliable and keep business connectivity, well… regular (sorry, couldn’t resist). Seriously, though the arrival of Ethernet transport, high-availability electronics and with speeds of 100+ Gbps, fiber is the king of access. Businesses of all sizes know this and have been demanding fiber optic connectivity for their key locations. This demand has resulted in an explosion of fiber-connected business buildings. According to Vertical System Group, the availability of optical fiber connectivity in commercial buildings in the U.S. jumped to 54.8% in 2017. While not ubiquitous by any means, fiber is now available to a large portion of the business population and competition has driven prices down, making it more accessible as well. Like all things, fiber is not perfect. Among its shortcomings, if not already available, fiber builds can take several months (assuming there is a network nearby), and fiber cuts, although infrequent, can cause long outages.
Diversity is the networking version of the portfolio approach to mitigating risk. While outages are a certainty, if you have multiple connections, the likelihood of all of them being down at the same time approaches zero. Additionally, newer technologies like SD-WAN allow multiple paths to be used dynamically – and even route based on the quality of connection—eliminating manual intervention while optimizing routing. This allows for less reliable connections like broadband and 4G to be used as part of a high availability service.
The pursuit of zero outages
In the never-ending quest for zero outages, preparedness is the name of the game. Encrypted digital microwave access technology is an often-overlooked tool which can help decrease the likelihood of an outage. Commonly referred to as “fixed wireless”, this technology should not be confused with cellular or satellite, as its characteristics (bandwidth, latency, reliability) are far superior than either. A better analogy would be to think of it as an over-the-air extension of the fiber network. A hybrid fiber-wireless network, if you will. With connection speeds of up to 5 Gbps, it can serve to add diversity to, and supplement fiber connectivity. And, with reliability levels approaching that of fiber, it can even be used to provide high-bandwidth connectivity to buildings not served by fiber.
As business reliance on digital technologies continues its upward trend, risk mitigation from network outages will continue to grow in importance. Fixed wireless, now available in more than 50 markets, might just be the missing piece in your business continuity strategy.