I have this meeting often… nice people who often ask what to do when their Internet goes down. Very often, those same people that I meet in-fact have two providers. Provider 1 is who their IT department our outsourced IT department set you up with. The second connection is the one that you ordered about a year ago, it sits unconnected — you are still waiting for someone to plug it in.
Seems easy, two connections, just ‘plug them in’. Fact is, it is not that easy. But, it also is not that hard.
Short of providing a long boring explanation on how ‘everything’ works, how about we just draw it out.
Here is what a good, no… great design looks like:
Item 1 – Access provider
It starts with two connections out to the ‘cloud’. The Cloud can be either Internet, your private Wide Area Network (the link or links that you use to connect your offices together privately vs. over the Internet) and even Voice lines.
With Frontier, we can provide two links that will behave as one link. Pretty easy. If the second link is not from Frontier, it can be done… a bit more work ahead. See point 3.
Item 2 – Two Routers
We prefer two routers, than one that is supposedly redundant. It is just a good practice. Both routers need to support a few protocols, unless you keep your expectation simple.
Here is what we mean.
If you just want to ‘access’ Internet and your VOIP is provided by us, the Cloud will make most of the decisions an its own. If you want the Internet to ‘find you’ it again is a bit more work… Point 3 is coming.
Item 3 – AS number
Welcome to Point 3. If you want the Internet to find your servers (ie: mail servers, on-site servers etc.) which is different than you ‘browsing’ out or sending email ‘out’ to other people’s mail or web servers you need to register for an AS Number and run a protocol called BGP. We will explain.
Within the Internet, an Autonomous System (AS) is a collection of connected Internet Protocol (IP) routing prefixes – in English, it is a way to register your routers on the Internet for ‘inbound’ calls into your routers. Kind of the same way a call is placed to you over the phone vs. you simply calling out. When you call someone, you need to know their phone number, and the phone companies need to ‘know’ who is hosting the phone number and ‘where’ you are located.
A unique ASN is allocated to each AS for use in BGP routing. AS numbers are important because the ASN uniquely identifies each network on the Internet.
Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) is a standardized exterior gateway protocol designed to exchange routing and reachability information between autonomous systems (AS) on the Internet.
In English, this protocol is often classified as a path between routers and managed ‘how’ the router paths fail-over. Good to know that this exists. Less important to know how it works.
But you can see who and why most people don’t know how to connect two routers to two different providers and make it work. It is easy, but you need to know how to do it. And you need to work with a provider who wants to do this.
Most don’t. Or… want to sell you very, very expensive connections to do this. Don’t expect your ADSL provider or Cable modem provider to take your call when you ask them for a Class C of IP address’ to support your BGP configuration. And asking them to ‘host’ your AS Number will likely lead in a polite ‘no’ after a few weeks of asking.
We do it, we also don’t care about what type of circuit it is for, or on.
Item 4 – Office LAN Switch
We think if the goal is to reduce the number of fail points in a configuration and we have two Broadband access’ and two routers, it seems logical to reduce the domain failure with not one (1) but two (2) network switches.
Item 5 – Phones
Item 5 and 6 can be reversed. The traditional way is to pull a cable to each (one for the PC, one for the Phone). The new way is below.
There is always talk about office cabling. Cat 5e, Cat 6, 6a, 6e etc. Lots of types. No real bad decision to make. If you sincerely need massive bandwidth to the desk and if you own your own building I would get 6a or 6e. In most offices today, LAP top users are wirelessly connected and the phones are wired. Cat 6a and 6e is a wee overkill in this case.
Item 6 – PC
I don’t think having two PC’s at your desk is the right call. Not even sure having two Ethernet Cards (NIC cards) connecting you to each is the right call – it is a bit overkill, but having two does potentially reduce the resolution time to minutes vs. hours and days. Simple reconfiguration of cablings can swing live users from one failed switch to the second live switch.
If you want to take a deeper dive on this topic feel free to reach out.