Network equipment takes central role as cloud connection becomes critical
As businesses of all sizes have migrated to the cloud, it has fundamentally changed the way they operate. We’re seeing a huge uptake in flexible working and home working because the technology enables it without compromising on productivity. This migration to the cloud has also changed how resellers and technology providers do business.
With the previous model of IT, a business customer would buy physical equipment like servers, networking equipment, or PBX systems, and their IT partner would install it in their offices. Now, the availability of high-speed broadband and the breadth of applications available in the cloud means that everything from CRM and office productivity tools to telephony can be hosted and delivered remotely.
So what does this mean for resellers who used to sell hardware products, make some margin points in the process, and who earned extra revenue for installation services or ongoing support? In today’s cloud-enabled world, it’s harder to survive just by selling tin. Resellers now have to rethink their entire business model when they can no longer rely on sales of physical products. Today’s IT services are entirely ‘virtual’, sold on a per user per month pricing model that customers can choose to scale up – or down – as their business needs dictate.
Ironically, as businesses depend on the cloud even more, they must be always on. Connectivity is critical, and DrayTek has a comprehensive range of networking products that includes routers for connecting businesses to the internet, access points for providing Wi- Fi everywhere in a customer site, and switches for providing physical LAN connectivity where needed.
One of the key features in our suite of routers is the multiple broadband connectivity option. This is useful for Irish companies with branches throughout the country that may rely on different broadband services depending on their location. In places where traditional broadband isn’t of sufficient quality, the business may need to use satellite or 4G as an alternative. Instead of having to use a particular product for ADSL, one for cable and a different solution for 4G, resellers can install the same DrayTek router on every customer site and it will connect to whatever kind of broadband capability available at that location.
When a business makes the decision to rely on the cloud, it needs resilient networking infrastructure to avoid a single point of failure for its critical systems like payment or telephony. DrayTek’s business-class routers have a built-in broadband failover option to address this risk. It works like this: as well as connecting to broadband, the router also has a data-only SIM card that lies dormant until the device identifies that the main broadband connection has failed or is unavailable. The 4G connection automatically kicks in, so the business doesn’t run the risk of network downtime and potentially losing sales. Once the main broadband line is restored, the 4G link disconnects and data is directed back to the primary connection.
One Irish customer that’s already using this option is Life Style Sports, the sportswear and fashion retailer. With 58 stores around Ireland, it meets the description of an always-on business. Staff in every shop need constant, consistent internet access for the EPOS systems, payment card processing, stock levels and workforce management software. Life Style Sports wanted a contingency plan in case its primary broadband link failed, and also wanted to provide managed private and customer Wi-Fi in store. In a scenario that will be familiar to many businesses, Life Style had previously relied on multiple providers for the various elements of its branch network WAN and LAN. This caused problems whenever troubleshooting was needed, and the older equipment was preventing Life Style Sports from upgrading its primary links to ADSL2+ or VSDL.
Another aspect of the DrayTek product set is VigorACS, our hosted remote management system that is free to authorised DrayTek resellers. It gives them full visibility of all DrayTek networking products in the field, allowing them to identify potential issues with customer equipment, and proactively address them by making changes to that customer’s network configuration. This is a value-added service that resellers can in turn offer their customers by providing a high level of management and control. It addresses the customer’s need to be always on, and it can help resellers to fix problems at a network level without needing to dispatch engineering resources to the site.
Another factor that affects the quality of network connectivity is traffic. For email or web browsing, minor delay doesn’t matter. For Voice over IP telephony or videoconferencing calls, it’s a different story: they’re far more sensitive to bandwidth blockages if the line is clogged with other traffic. In an environment where VoIP connectivity is always needed, it’s important to ensure the router can protect the bandwidth that’s required to deliver high-quality voice or video calls.
DrayTek’s firewall includes high-grade quality of service features that I liken to a three-lane motorway that has one lane permanently free for high-priority traffic such as voice, irrespective of other demands on the network. Our products also come with granular web content filtering that blocks certain categories of sites completely or at certain peak times of the day. Resellers can enable this feature remotely, as another service to their customers.
Completing our networking range, we have wall-mounted Wi-Fi access points that are easy to install, with high capacity. Their mesh capability means there’s no need to connect each access point with a cable, just plug it in and it automatically connects to the other access points. This dramatically reduces the time and cost associated with implementing Wi-Fi in a warehouse, office block or campus environment – and it eliminates the need to carry out a site survey in advance. DrayTek also provides a flexible range of switches, in various configurations from 8 port up to 48 port devices.
I believe DrayTek’s solution set is ideally suited to the needs of small-to-medium sized businesses in the Irish market, from single-site operations to companies in retail or hospitality sectors with several locations. Resellers in Ireland can now source the DrayTek range through our partnership with CMS Distribution, and we also have a DrayTek specialist based directly in Ireland to provide support.
Julian Hubble is head of sales and marketing for DrayTek UK