Opening a new branch is a significant milestone for any business owner. And it’s even more special when you go on to open your third, fourth and subsequent branches.
It usually means you have achieved your original goals, and that you are now ready to move to the next level. That’s why we want to make sure you’re fully prepared when it comes to running a multi-site business.
A new branch means taking on a new lease, employing more staff, paying more overheads and having to divide your time between different locations. It also means investing in more IT infrastructure such as new computers, desk phones, servers and routers. Not forgetting, the new requirement of a multi-site network solution must be secure and reliable.
The Challenges of Multi-Site Networking
Before considering the need for a new networking infrastructure, telephone and business grade connectivity lines, to connect your new site to the rest of the business, you need to look at overall needs and requirements of your business.
It’s not just a case of ensuring each site has access to the internet, you want to make sure all your branches follow the same operating procedures. Your staff need to use the same business applications and comms systems across all sites. And more importantly, they need to access the same data, which should be stored in a central location.
If your branches aren’t all sharing the same data or resources, then you’re more likely to discover data discrepancies and your information will be out-of-sync. You’re also at risk of data breaches if each site is using a different system. Let’s not forget about unnecessary time spent managing various systems performing identical tasks too.
Why Are Your Current Multi-Site Network Solutions Not Working?
The most common approach in ensuring all your business data is stored in one place was to create a private network known as a Wide Area Network (WAN).
WANs are built on the infrastructure of local networks, or LANs, which are used to connect multiple users and multiple endpoints to a single IT system. When you have several LANs operating at different locations, a WAN connects them all together, meaning all IT assets across a dispersed geographic area all work together as part of a single system. This way, your staff across different sites have access to the same resources and they’re connected to a single server to avoid duplication.
Most WANs connecting two locations are established via a point-to-point leased line. This setup allows you to get exclusive network resources, as well as having security and privacy benefits, for all IT and telecoms functions. This means they are used by your company and your company alone.
The downsides to point-to-point leased lines become apparent the more you have to add. Each new line to a new location is an additional cost, and the longer the connection is, the more you have to pay. Other costs arise from the fact that each new premise will need equipment such as routers, switches, and firewalls.
Plus, each location requires you to manually create a gateway via a firewall to each new site to access to the WAN path. And when you add more sites, the bigger the task of managing these configurations becomes.
This is where you need to look at alternatives like Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) or SD-WAN which enables you to add new sites seamlessly and cost-effectively.
If your business is looking to branch out, then get in touch with M247 to discuss your network requirements.
What Are Alternative Multi-Network Solutions?
Once you notice that growing your WAN in line with your expanding business is becoming costly and complex, and network performance is also suffering, it is time to look beyond leased lines to see how other networking technologies can help you.
Below, we highlight two different technologies.
1. Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS)
The first solution that comes to mind is MPLS. It is a relatively old technique introduced in the 1990s to help speed up network connection.
Before MPLS, data was transferred from one router to another in data packets. The route that it took to get from A to B depended on the size of the data. If the size of data being transferred was too large, it would break it up into smaller packets. The problem arises when multiple packets are being sent to one destination at the same time. Depending on the network availability, each data packet would go on a different route, jumping from router-to-router. This led to slower transfer of data. And if there are a lot of data packets going on the same route, it will lead to a bottleneck.
MPLS alleviates this by assigning a predetermined route, speeding up the transfer of data.
When it comes to a multi-site network, MPLS is able to find the most efficient way of organising your data and sending it to its destination in the fastest way possible. This helps to reduce the burden of cost, network congestion and performance issues normally associated with a multi-site WAN.
You’ll notice the efficiency benefits of MPLS when using VoIP telephone lines or other real-time services like video conferences. Having a dedicated route for transferring real-time data or media avoids latency and improves quality of sound and video.
Plus, MPLS is also completely agnostic. This means it will integrate with any IT, data and telecoms systems, so you won’t need to invest in new infrastructure.
Want to know if MPLS is right for you? At M247, we can help you decide which multi-site network solution is best suited for your business.
While MPLS physically defines set routes for efficient transfer of data between sites, SD-WAN takes a cloud-based approach.
SD-WAN allows you to migrate your comms, core business applications such as Sage 200, Microsoft Dynamics and Intuit as well as your data to a single cloud-based platform. This way, you’re able to access your data and applications anywhere with internet connection.
Whether it’s through wireless network, WAN or 4G/5G, SD-WAN lets you access your key business resources remotely or onsite. Similar to MPLS, you don’t need to invest in a new network infrastructure, as it uses your existing infrastructure.
SD-WAN is largely utilised by enterprises who want to take advantage of the business benefits it provides in terms of flexibility and scalability in how they integrate and manage multinational, not just multisite, networks. Not to mention how businesses are using SD-WAN to implement hybrid and remote working.
That said, in the majority of cases, businesses are looking to SD-WAN to complement their existing technologies – 78% of SD-WAN adopters in one study said they had no plans to stop using other technologies. One of the main reasons for this is to avoid the disruptions that come with completely overhauling their infrastructure.
Secure Access Service Network (SASE)
SASE (pronounced “sassy”) is the most recent multi-site network solution. The SASE architecture first came to prominence back in 2019. It combines the network benefits of SD-WAN with the specialist cloud-based security services.
While SASE, much like SD-WAN, allows you to effectively share resources between multiple sites, it also provides more control over who can access your business’ shared resources while preventing unauthorised website access to your network. This way, you know your data is much safer and protected against data breaches.
Just as a note, SASE is not going to replace SD-WAN. In fact, SD-WAN is used as part of the SASE architecture.
Make Sure Your Multi-Site Network Solution Meets Your Business Demands
As your business expands and opens multiple branches, you need a reliable and efficient multi-site network solution. While achieving this goal comes with its challenges, investing in the right networking infrastructure is crucial for seamless operations and data management across all locations.
Current methods like point-to-point leased lines have limitations in terms of cost, complexity, and scalability as the number of branches grows. However, exploring alternative networking technologies such as MPLS, SD-WAN and SASE can alleviate these issues and optimise network performance.
MPLS provides a secure and efficient way to create a multisite WAN that optimises data packet routing while reducing network congestion. Additionally, MPLS is agnostic, accommodating various telecoms and data systems, making it highly flexible.
SD-WAN allows for cost-effective private connections over the public internet, simplifying network extensions to new sites and resources. And SASE provides the benefits of SD-WAN, but with the added layer of security to give you more control over who accesses your data.
When selecting a multi-site network solution, your business must have seamless access to your critical applications and data, and should continue
Your multi-site network solution should deliver seamless communication, data access, and network performance as your business grows and expands across multiple locations.
At M247, we specialise in building and managing high performance Wide Area Networks to suit businesses of every size and type. With our expertise and commitment to delivering quality bespoke solutions for every client, we’re the partner you need to help your business grow.
For more information about M247 MPLS and WAN solutions, contact us today.