Got enough Internet connections to the cloud?

A lot of people with their heads stuck in the cloud never thought about having more than one way to get there. The sad news is while most cloud service providers have an excellent up-time availability, your local Internet service provider may occasionally have trouble keeping you connected to the cloud.You know how important your Internet connection has become when email or Web browsing is unavailable even for a few hours and people don’t know how they can communicate with customers and co-workers. Phone and fax are still available but it may take retraining people on how to communicate using these legacy, non-Internet, technologies.All kidding aside, an Internet service outage does strike fear into the hearts of most businesses. And with more and more information services being migrated to the cloud, the loss of Internet connectivity means those services will be unavailable until it is restored.So what can you do to improve the reliability and survivability of your Internet connection to the cloud? The short answer is to have multiple Internet connections and a way to balance your cloud services traffic over them. If you have more than one Internet service provider in your area, then you need to have additional Internet connections to your premises. The marginal cost of adding a second or third Internet connection is outweighed by the inconvenience and loss of service from not being connected to your cloud computing services when your Internet service provider can’t get you there.At a minimum, having two Internet connections from two separate Internet service providers would be prudent for every business using cloud computing services. If your area is only served by a single DSL or cable Internet service provider, then consider adding a second DSL connection from the same provider or adding a satellite or wireless Internet connection from another Internet service provider.Because of the expense of using a mobile Internet connection for data transfers, it should be considered as a last resort for the time being.Installing multiple Internet connections to a load-balancing router means you will not be paying for Internet service that is merely spare capacity waiting for an Internet service outage. A load-balancing router can spread your Internet sessions over your available Internet connections. And if one of your Internet connections goes off-line, the remaining Internet connection(s) will handle your cloud services traffic.Does having multiple Internet connections mean you have “one big pipe” available to the cloud? Only under certain circumstances can you aggregate your multiple Internet connections into one big pipe.Typically, your multiple Internet connections will provide you with the ability to balance your Internet traffic over the available connections but not aggregate your Internet bandwidth. This difference is subtle but important to remember.The good news is you can increase your total Internet bandwidth availability by adding multiple, inexpensive DSL and cable modem connections to your business while gaining important redundancy and not paying for Internet connections that you don’t use every day.Isn’t adding additional Internet connections and a load-balancing router going to be expensive? Well, the price of Internet connections varies from provider to provider, but in areas where there are multiple Internet service providers you can expect that competition will tend to keep prices lower. Having multiple, relatively inexpensive Internet connections is still less expensive than paying for a single, higher-capacity Internet connection that would not give you any redundancy.The cost of load-balancing routers can vary a great deal too, but there are vendors with good load balancing router technology that are relatively inexpensive and can accommodate 3 or more connections to the Internet.Suppose you don’t have multiple Internet service provider connections from your business to your cloud services providers. Is there anything else you could do if your Internet connection goes down?Given that you are using information services in the cloud, you could declare a work-at-home day or work-at-the-local-Internet-cafe day. The cloud is agnostic when it comes to how you get to the Internet, but remember to use https (secure) rather than http (not secure) connections to your cloud service providers when using public, Wi-Fi connections. Also, consider subscribing to a cloud-based Internet security service that scans your Internet sessions no matter where you connect to the Internet to use your cloud computing services.Tim Wessels, cloud navigator at Oort Cloud Computing, Rindge, has worked with small and medium businesses building and maintaining their IT systems for over 25 years.