As we discussed in our last blog, extending your network capabilities to keep up with the growth of your business presents a number of different challenges. As you open new premises in different locations, running individual IT systems for individual sites ceases to be efficient.
For centralised management, for cost control, for allowing staff to communicate and collaborate securely and effectively, running multiple sites creates a need to integrate local area networks (LANs) into much larger wide area networks (WANs).
Last time out, we looked at one of the traditional solutions to creating a business-class WAN – setting up point-to-point leased lines between locations to create provide private, dedicated network resources for IT and telecommunications. We outlined some of the limitations of this approach, before describing possible solutions for the growing business – MPLS IPVPNs, SD-WAN, and hybrid combinations of both.
In this article, we will take a closer look at MPLS IPVPN, describing what it is, why it continues to play an important role in WAN solutions for growing businesses, and what can be done to get the most out of it.
What is MPLS IPVPN?
You may be familiar with the concept of a VPN, or virtual private network, which uses encryption technology to create private ‘tunnels’ through public internet connections in order to increase security and privacy. VPN apps are becoming increasingly popular as a means to support remote and home working – with a VPN installed on a device, employees can access a business network from any internet connection in relative safety.
An IPVPN is a special class of VPN focused on establishing a dedicated pathway between two locations – sometimes referred to as multi-site VPN. IPVPN therefore offers an alternative method of creating a wide area network to traditional point-to-point leased lines. Like VPNs, an IPVPN makes use of existing infrastructure, making it much cheaper than installing a new point-to-point leased line. But unlike VPNs, IPVPNs avoid the public gateways which manage access to the public internet. They do this using the routing technique MPLS (multiprotocol label switching), long used as a way to speed up traffic flows across WANs by directing data packets to their destination via the most efficient route possible.
The benefits of MPLS IPVPN
The point of combining the traffic routing capabilities of MPLS with the VPN virtual network concept is that it creates a fully-functioning alternative to traditional leased line WAN solutions – private, secure, but with the advantage of being much more flexible, scalable and cost effective than leased lines.
VPN is known for being a highly secure way to access the internet because of the way it encrypts traffic and protects privacy by hiding a user’s IP address. But compared to IPVPN it’s a lower grade security – it still uses public networks, and that presents concerns for businesses looking to send high volumes of sensitive data between sites. A site-to-site IPVPN built on MPLS not only creates completely private tunnels, it also allows an entire WAN to be enclosed by the same networks boundaries and protected by the same firewalls. MPLS IPVPN therefore provides a robust security solution for transmitting highly sensitive data around a network, such as the private financial details that need to be processed in electronic payment systems, as it never touches the internet.
Compared to point-to-point leased lines, MPLS IPVPN offers much more in the way of flexibility and scalability. The network can be optimised at different points with more or less available bandwidth to handle different traffic requirements (for example, the difference between a call centre handling large volumes of voice traffic, and a store mainly processing data through its EPoS terminals), or you can configure different security requirements at different points with a suitable firewall as part of your solution.
Because of the intelligent routing offered by MPLS, speed and reliability on IPVPNs are ensured for all traffic, maximising efficiency and performance throughout the network. MPLS has long been used in network infrastructure design to increase stability, availability and to optimise performance across all IT assets.
This is particularly evident on the quality of service that can be achieved for voice and video communications – MPLS minimises latency and jitter, so you get a smoother experience with real-time communications platforms. But MPLS lines have also traditionally been viewed as expensive, leading to many companies choosing to run separate networks for voice / IP telephones and computer systems, deploying MPLS only on the former. That way, the service benefits could be enjoyed for voice without having to pay for full MPLS roll out.
MPLS IPVPN services are more affordable, giving businesses a viable option for consolidation all IT and telecommunications traffic in the same place again. Quality of service for real-time applications is protected, while the increased efficiency of having a single service with a single point of control brings further savings in operational costs.
MPLS IPVPN in Practice
So when and why would you opt for MPLS IPVPN? For the reasons explained above, MPLS IPVPN provides a great option for consolidating all of your communications and IT requirements into a single network without a) compromising quality of service or b) seeing costs spiral out of control. In fact, if anything, MPLS IPVPN should deliver lower total cost of ownership, with only one set of operating costs and one network to manage and maintain.
When you add in the flexibility and scalability MPLS IPVPN offers, it is ideal for growing businesses that expect to scale quickly and want to remain agile in their IT options as they expand. If you are a company runs contact centre solutions over 2 or 3 locations and your business plan is to expand to 10 locations over the coming years, then MPLS IPVPN allows you to adapt quickly while controlling costs, protecting network performance for all assets.
We have discussed how being platform agnostic means MPLS IPVPN helps to future proof your network capabilities. This characteristic also allows you to create WANs between premises that are running different last mile connectivity solutions, meaning you have the option of choosing different last mile connections to achieve different goals. For example, if speed was a particular priority at one location, you could opt for 4G in the last mile. If you were particularly concerned about resilience and redundancy elsewhere, you could choose radio.
The key to accessing these benefits is choosing a provider who is able to deliver last mile connectivity. Many telecommunications companies nowadays offer WAN services, but only build on the existing infrastructure.
At M247, we offer end-to-end, fully managed connectivity services, from scaling IPVPNs globally to delivering customised last mile connections to each individual premises. That way, we are able to ensure our clients get the full benefits of MPLS IPVPN in terms of cost savings, flexibility, scaleability, QoS, protecting legacy assets and establishing foundations for the future. Get in touch with us today to find out more.