By Russ Hamm, President and Founder of Rainbow Broadband
It was the irony of all ironies: Last week in Manhattan a manhole explosion disrupted TechCrunch Disrupt, a conference focused on the latest technologies, forward-thinking ideas, and ways to make life easier for everyone.
While the event eventually carried on after the initial Internet outage and no serious injuries, many other businesses had connectivity problems for days afterwards. It’s a reminder that before we can move ahead with the next-generation, Internet-dependent ideas, it’s vitally important for New York businesses and event hosts to make sure that they’ve got a completely reliable and up-to-date high-speed Internet situation -- and aren't relying solely on an aging, fragile, and highly vulnerable infrastructure.
People don’t intend for their broadband to suddenly go dark and their businesses to lay idle – but they often don’t know the right questions to ask their service provider about their broadband network and what kind of redundancy is in place to keep the connection up and running.
So in light of this latest disruption, here are four key questions about redundancy that every business and building relying on the Internet needs to ask:
What is Redundancy?
You may have heard of "redundancy," but likely not in the context of broadband Internet. Redundancy means that if the unexpected outage occurs for reasons technical, natural, or man-made, your Internet provider has your back. How? By making provisions for duplicate systems or pathways built into their network, with automatic switchover. If your broadband provider has a rigid design, they may not have the flexibility to keep your business up.
What Does An Unreliable Network Look Like?
Picture this: A common example of this outdated design might be a customer on the corner of 57th and Madison Ave., whose Internet is powered via an underground fiber line, going across 57th St heading west, cutting south down to 16th St. and 8th Ave., where there's a data center (or carrier hotel) that serves as the backbone for the whole system. In this layout, if there's a disruption such as a manhole explosion, anywhere along the route - let's say 40th St and 8th Ave. - then connectivity is lost all along the way, despite not even being in or near the same neighborhood.
At Rainbow Broadband, we've seen this movie far too many times: companies don't offer the proper protection - or customers who decline the options that are offered to ensure they stay connected. When a construction crew accidentally cut through a fiber provider's wires on 8th Ave. several years ago, taking out Internet access for various buildings along the fiber wire's path, we found out that the initial fiber provider offered them the option of having a fully protected network for an extra price. Those who passed paid the price.
What Does a Reliable Network Look Like?
So what is a fully protected network? Instead of that unreliable, two-dimensional path used to power the aforementioned building on 57th and Madison, a network from Rainbow or any other responsible provider would feature several different paths, along with an intermediate building along the way to lessen the load of the carrier hotel. In addition to a core fiber network, Rainbow's carrier class fixed wireless network is built on highly reliable, point-to-point microwave links that are impervious to weather conditions like ice, rain, or snow.
So it's a hybrid system, providing layer upon layer of backup to customers (without an extra charge every time an incident cuts into an underground fiber line). Think three-dimensional instead of a simple, rigid set of lines - like having the freedom to hang-glide in nearly any direction over the city as opposed to being stuck in a cab navigating a set of streets and avenues.
How Does a Business Make Sure It's Being Taken Care Of?
No company will remain completely unaffected by events like manhole explosions, hurricanes, or anything else that might disrupt the daily life and flow of businesses. The key is being prepared for it, and assuring customers that they'll be covered no matter what happens - without the surprise of extra charges and fees. This is what we do at Rainbow Broadband and it’s what your broadband provider should be doing -- so if you haven't already, find out what their system and backup plan looks like.
We're hoping that all broadband providers decide to leave their outdated systems behind and join us in the 21st century, to ensure that New York City’s buildings and businesses have all of the resources and opportunity to do so as well.