Internet Fail Over Strategies for Small Businesses

Method 1 - Single Device - Two Internet Circuits - Network
Congratulations! You are on the leading edge. You’re blazing a trail into the future and leaving your competitors in the dust. Your company is saving buckets full of money on information technology by wholeheartedly embracing the cloud. You are even using the cloud for mission critical applications and data. What if your connection to the Internet goes down? Here is how to make sure it doesn’t, with automatic Internet fail over.
It’s not as if you haven’t thought of this before. You may have even justified your plan to use the cloud by telling yourself and management, that if your Internet connection goes down, your road warriors and employees that work from home can still access their applications. 

What if you have an office full of employees? You could send them home to work, or to your other office if you have one. But either way, production is going to suffer, opportunities will be missed, sales will be lost, and you are going to get behind schedule.

Fortunately, there are cost effective methods to protect your small business from Internet service outages. Even if your business is only using DSL or cable Internet, there are affordable ways to install a system that provides automatic fail over to a backup Internet circuit.

Building Internet Reliability

Business class Internet service

Building more reliable Internet connectivity is not complex or expensive. The first step is to upgrade to a business class Internet service if you are not already using one. Business class Internet circuits provide higher priority service levels than consumer class Internet services. They are more suitable for the up time requirements of a business. They also include dedicated IP addresses and greater upload speeds, for on-site web or email servers.

Internet circuit redundancy

There are a couple of different methods I have used for small business clients that work very well. Both methods need a second Internet circuit with a different ISP than your current connection.

Using a different ISP for your fail over circuit protects you if your ISP has infrastructure or routing problems. If both circuits were with the same ISP, the fail over circuit would have the same issues as your primary circuit.

There are also methods to load balance your Internet traffic between the two circuits, but our primary goal here is to automatically fail over to a secondary Internet circuit.

Method 1 – Single Router/Firewall – Two Internet Circuits

Single Router/Firewall – Two Internet Circuits

With this method, each ISP Internet circuit connects to a single Internet router/firewall. In a typical configuration for a small business, one circuit is business class Internet service with your local cable TV/Internet company, and the other is business class Internet service using DSL provided by your local phone company.
If fail over redundancy is your primary concern, the “backup” link doesn’t necessarily need to be as fast as your primary link. You may be able to use a slower, less expensive link until your primary Internet circuit is functioning again.
The cost of deploying this solution includes the one time cost of an Internet router with fail over capability and the monthly cost of another Internet circuit. Both Cisco and Dell SonicWALL offers affordable router/firewalls with fail over ability. 
A backup, business class, DSL Internet connection in my area starts at $40/mo for a 3 Mbps circuit and goes to $120/mo for a 40 Mbps circuit. My local cable TV/Internet company provides business class Internet starting at $80/mo for a 7 Mbps circuit and goes as high as $466/mo for a 100 Mbps Internet circuit.
Method 2 – Two Router/Firewalls – Two Internet Circuits
 Two Router/Firewall – Two Internet Circuits
With method 2, each ISP Internet circuit connects to its own Internet router/firewall. 
The advantages of using this method are fewer single points of failure and better overall Internet connectivity performance.
There are more options for configuring fail over with this method. If routers are already in place, you may be able to use another routing configuration called OSPF (open shortest path first). In other words, if one router fails, computers on your private network will automatically use the other router to get to the Internet. This configuration is more complex, but it may save you the cost of new routers.
Method 3 – Two Locations -Two Router/Firewalls – Two Internet Circuits
Two Locations -Two Router/Firewalls – Two Internet Circuits
With method 3, like method 2, each ISP Internet circuit connects to its own Internet router/firewall, but the router/firewalls are in different locations, and the locations connect with a private WAN (wide area network) circuit.
There are also more options with this arrangement. As in method 2, you can configure the routers to use OSPF routing. If the WAN circuit fails, you can use a VPN (virtual private network) over the locations’ existing Internet circuits, to keep your offices connected.

Dynamic DNS

If you plan to host your own web or email server on-site, you will need a dynamic DNS provider. DNS is what translates a web address (domain name) like to an IP address. 

Each ISP will assign you IP addresses from their respective networks. Because you will want your customers to reach your web server if one of your Internet circuits goes down, you will need a dynamic DNS service 

A dynamic DNS provider will constantly monitor each of your Internet connections from multiple locations. If they detect that one of your circuits is down, they will change the corresponding IP address of your server’s domain name to an address assigned by the ISP of the circuit that is still up. 

Normally DNS changes can take a while to propagate to computers and other DNS servers, but dynamic DNS services will set the TTL (time to live) of your domain names to one minute. When a computer looks in its cached DNS records, it will see the one minute TTL, and request a new record from the DNS source of authority – your dynamic DNS service. 

Two reliable dynamic DNS providers are zoneedit and Dyn. There are others, but many only provide services for home users that need to access their computers remotely.

The combination of router circuit fail over and dynamic DNS, will provide reliable Internet connectivity for your employees, web servers and mail servers. I have used this exact method with an organization that had over 100 users in two locations. Of course, they were using high speed circuits and not DSL or cable Internet, but the concepts are the same. While testing, I have walked into the wiring closets and unplugged the Internet circuit in both of their locations, and no one ever knew! 

All of these methods are too complex for DIY (do it yourself). You will need to hire an IT network professional to spec, install and configure your equipment. They will need to work with your ISPs and DNS providers, to ensure the needed services are understood, delivered, and configured properly. 

There many advantages of cloud computing: 
  • Access your systems and data from anywhere
  • Savings from less IT infrastructure
  • Rapid deployment of new systems and applications
  • Ease of collaboration with remote employees and customers


The biggest concern of most businesses is their Internet reliability. The overall costs of deploying Internet fail over is small, compared to the savings and advantages businesses can get from using cloud computing.
If you would like to know more about Internet connection fail over, 
South Side Tech can help you see if it’s the right solution for your business.
For more information:


Sync your Cloud with CloudHQ

By Tom Ledford | The Practical Computer 

What if you could have two months to backup your Gmail to Microsoft OneDrive, and your SharePoint files to Dropbox, so you could put your BaseCamp files on your Google Drive? You could make sure you had room to backup your Evernote files to OneDrive and around again but asynchronous instead of bisynchronous this time. 

If you could bet a $5 Trifecta, three horse box, full wheel at Keeneland, it would cost you… Nevermind. They’ll tell you at the window. Might come in big though!

Please forgive me but, calculating, prestidigitating, and creating a big lead-in graphic, were all sacrificed for the sake of expedience. 

CloudHQ is the eel’s hips baby!

At least until your time runs out…
But until then, you can sync up to 10GB with 3 synced pairs for a trial period of up to 62 days, by doing this:

Post to Facebook, LinkedIn, Tweet and Invite for 8GB more and 62 days!

When your time runs out, you can remain on the free version, but it allows only one sync pair and is limited to fifty files. 

If you would like to continue the sevice, three synced pair and unlimited files will cost you ten bucks ($9.90) a month. You can have 10 synced pair and unlimited files for $11.90 a month (or 3 for $99/yr, 10 for $119/yr).

The business plan allows 10 synced pair plus administration from your Google Apps domain or Box org. It is $29.90/mo, or $299/yr.

Ok, enough math. Pshew! Let’s watch a movie.Yea!!


Ok, back to the math

But it’s good math this time. You can swap up to 10GB of stuff betwixt and between three synchronized partners for 62 days. 

If you’re hooked after that, ante up the appropriate fee. If not, the amount of storage on your cloud services doesn’t change, and the data that CloudHQ synced to them, stays put.

Synchronizable Cloud Services:

CloudHQ Syncs Them All!

If you want to know more about CloudHQ, make the jump ~


The Biggest Risk in Moving to the Cloud

The Practical Computer | By Tom Ledford

The biggest risk businesses face when migrating to cloud computing, is disruption of process. No matter how businesses attempt to improve their technology, processes must continue uninterrupted. It has always been so. The cloud doesn’t change this. The age old question is still the most important question: How do we get from here to there, while continuing to execute vital business functions?

Invoices need to go out. Customers need to place orders. Shipping needs to ship. Claims need to be processed. Financial reports need to be delivered. If business needs to change tires in the middle of the race, it must do so while the car is moving!

Cloud Integration Takes Time 

Smaller businesses may have an easier time migrating functions to the cloud, but even many small businesses have spent considerable time and effort in integrating their systems and data.

After spending many years helping businesses of all sizes integrate systems, I finally came to the conclusion: Systems integration takes time, and lots of it! We have made great strides in the way we go about integration. We have deployed new technologies and standardization to integration methods, and those methods have matured and have proven themselves. 

Middleware has helped us to marry disparate systems. ODBC helps us to connect different databases within a single application. XML and Web Services help us connect applications. SOA, with workflow orchestration and messaging, helps us connect processes and systems. These are tried and true methods of integration, and many businesses have successfully utilized them to improve their systems and processes. What these businesses all have in common, is the investment in time that was required to get to where they are today.

I have no doubt the cloud will eventually offer any business many advantages. Scale and operational discipline will substantially lower the costs of data processing. The ability to ramp up processing power and prototype quickly will provide many businesses with a degree of agility, otherwise impossible to obtain. However, businesses cannot make a pit stop; they must refuel in the air, while on their way to their cloud destinations.

The cloud adds degrees of complexity if the integration must marry on-premise and cloud applications and data, especially if workflows are defined between systems. However, new tools and technologies are emerging that can help.

Information and Resources for Cloud Integration

Jitterbit – On-Premise and Cloud Integration Made Easy

Dell Boomi – The #1 Integration Cloud

Snap Logic – Enterprise Cloud Integration

Tier 3 – The 4 Cloud Integration Dimensions

IBM – WebSphere Cast Iron Cloud integration

Oracle – Cloud Integration – A Comprehensive Solution (PDF)


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Hype, The Cloud, and Why Small Business Should Move Now

Hype cycle

Just a little over 3 years ago (July 2009), Cloud computing was at a stage of the Gartner, Inc. Hype cycle called “Peak of Inflated Expectations.” Gartner has since segmented Cloud technology into several components, most of which they now (October 2012) show on the “Slope of Enlightenment.”

I believe several components of Cloud computing are now at the “Plateau of Productivity,” especially for Small Business.

At the beginning of the hype cycle, many different but related technologies are lumped together in one big family and given a catchy name. While this may be necessary in order to generate the excitement or “buzz” that motivates investment and product development (the trigger), it confuses many potential customers, especially those without ready access to technical knowledge – small businesses.

Later in the hype cycle, each technology begins to be scrutinized separately and the group fragments into different components again. But, it can still seem to the less technical, like an all or nothing proposition. Small businesses need to understand what pieces of cloud technology are important to them and which pieces can be left for service providers and others to worry about.

Cutting through the hype

All small businesses use electricity, but most don’t need to understand how it is generated. Virtually none of them generate it for themselves. Cloud computing can be thought of as a utility, much like electricity. Cloud computing encompasses many different outsourced data processing services. There are three major categories of services:

IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service

Infrastructure includes server and network hardware, operating systems software, backup systems, data center cooling, fire suppression and operations services like monitoring and maintenance. Companies that use only IaaS have to provide platform, application and other software, as well configuration and maintenance of the software.

One of the promised benefits of IaaS is “on demand,” scalable processing power. It is hoped that when this technology matures, a more cost effective “metered” approach to billing for IaaS services will develop. IaaS customers will likely be larger businesses. They will migrate slowly by business unit and application. Some will deploy “private clouds” and many will adopt a hybrid of private and managed services clouds.

PaaS – Platform as a Service

Platforms are database systems and middleware – application, web, email and groupware servers. Companies using PaaS will also need IaaS. Like most technologies, once widely adopted, IaaS and PaaS services will move down market as they become more and more affordable.

SaaS – Software as a Service

SaaS includes applications like, Google Apps for Business, and Microsoft Office 365. Accounting, finance, customer relationship management, expense reporting, project management and many other types of business software are available as SaaS.

SaaS can be thought of as “off the shelf” application software. Most small businesses will be able to find all the SaaS applications they need to run their business. It is configurable and customizable, just like other “off the shelf” software, but with the major advantages that come with not needing to provision and maintain platforms and infrastructure.

Businesses using SaaS only need to worry about inputting, processing and retrieving their data. They access their applications via the Internet. Their employees need only a computer, web browser and Internet connection. Businesses large and small will benefit from greatly reduced costs for information technology. Existing IT staffs will need to become more business oriented and use their skills to focus on integration, solutions and training.

Many SaaS cloud offerings available today are already in the “Plateau of Productivity” stage of the hype cycle. SaaS is secure, reliable and affordable. Remote computing, real time collaboration, and video teleconferencing are just some of the affordable features included in many SaaS products and services.

Small businesses should start taking advantage of the cost savings, flexibility and capabilities of cloud computing now. If you would like more information about cloud computing, please visit our website for videos, links and other resources. South Side Tech can help you get there!


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