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Bandwidth Aggregation – Better Safe Than Sorry

Since the internet became a staple in the American home countless surfers have felt the dreaded sting of that one word: “Disconnected.” To some people this means having to wait just a few hours to find their true love or check their email. With the rise of the internet as a business application, however, has come an increased importance on having a reliable internet connection.

Take, for instance, a sales office. Most sales offices now rely on the internet for lead distribution, order processing, order tracking, etc. For a high-volume sales office an hour with a dead internet connection could easily set the company back ten thousand dollars. Other industries also deal with the realities of downtime – how much money could a day-trader lose by not covering his short by the closing bell?

The fact of the matter is that time on the internet is quite literally money for some. Having more of it gives them a competitive advantage and losing some of it results in serious financial losses. As obsessed as most serious business-people are with data redundancy (fact: more paper is consumed per capita in this digital era than at any time preceding the internet), most don’t even consider the potential benefit of having redundant internet access. For many forward-thinking people who actually have a redundant option, they don’t leverage the power of bandwidth aggregation to take advantage of the increased bandwidth.

So what is bandwidth aggregation? It’s a pretty simple concept, actually: simply taking two broadband internet connections (T1, cable, DSL, fiber, etc.) and turning them into one fat connection. You could, for instance, have two DSL lines aggregated. You could also aggregate two different types of broadband – for instance, you could aggregate one T1 connection with one cable connection.

Aggregating two broadband connections gives you more bandwidth, but not necessarily speed. This is where many people get confused. Let’s assume that you have a 3 Mbps DSL connection and you own a small business. This is a pretty fast connection, but you have ten employees and have noticed that at peak times the internet slows down or, in a worst case scenario, won’t work at all for some people. By ordering another 3 Mbps DSL line you will still hit max speeds of 3 Mbps (note that this is a theoretical max that you will almost never hit with ADSL) but you will now have twice the bandwidth. In other words, if five simultaneous connections were feasible before, now you will be able to have ten.

Doubling your bandwidth (also known as your “pipe” or “throughput”) is a great benefit of broadband aggregation, but it’s not the only benefit. When using a broadband aggregator, a router specially designed for load-balancing, you will also immediately have a fail-safe in case one of your internet connections goes down. Obviously the speed will be slower when one of the connections is out (because your bandwidth will be cut in half), but at least you will still be able to perform critical office functions.

Let’s assume that you operate a small company with ten employees and you have a T1 for everyday use. Your T1 is probably pretty reliable, but once or twice a year there is a glitch (like somebody kicking a cable at the ISP) and you lose, on average, two hours a year of internet access. By using a broadband aggregating router and adding a DSL line, when the T1 is out you will still be able to take orders, ship orders out, track orders, check inventory, etc. And if the outage is longer you won’t be running around trying to find a backup data source. Employees might grumble about the slow speeds on the internet, but at least they will be able to get their work done. Also, as an added bonus, you will have more bandwidth for your employees when both internet sources are working.

The benefits of broadband aggregation greatly exceed the costs of not using it for virtually every established business. Broadband aggregation offers the flexibility and reliability for small businesses who cannot afford an expensive, customized IT solution.