January 6, 2010
Providence hosts compliance and environmental data for customers. Providence’s e-mail, accounting/timesheet software, and compliance/monitoring applications all function over the Internet, for its employees, subcontractors and clients, and all are hosted internally. The company has approximately 120 employees located in Dallas, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, La., and home offices, all of whom are entirely dependent on having reliable high-available WAN performance.
Due to the high standards of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), companies are required to keep records of all emissions. Providence assists its customers by hosting regulatory compliance applications online. If Providence’s clients are unable to access the servers, or if Providence cannot notify them about their chemical emission levels, this results in compliance hazards. For example, if a petro-chemical client is validating how much chemical is in the air, and Providence is unable to notify them due to a network outage, the client will not be able to get its notification, and find out its compliance status.
“When I started with the company, we had a single T1 connection for e-mail, VPN, hosted applications and Web access,” said Wesley Corie, a network administrator for Providence. “We then added a secondary business-class cable connection for redundancy. The problem was that we had no network link load balancing or domain name system (DNS) failover, which is critical for us, because we host resources internally. If one ISP link goes down, we would be offline.”
Providence records data from its clients’ facilities, analyzes the data and provides the results to them in real time. Within Providence, down time (meaning, no Internet or access to a file server, etc.) means a loss of billability across its staff of engineers.
“With automatic ISP failover,” continued Corie, “if one ISP goes down, another ISP link needs to respond to the DNS requests on the outside, so we have maximum availability to outside access. So, we purchased a Cisco ASA 5510, with the promise of dual ISP support. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the automatic WAN link failover or intelligent link load balancing that we needed, so we had to continue our quest for a better solution.”
Internet link redundancy
“Today, we have two Ecessa PowerLink WAN optimization controllers for high availability, and we deployed them for site-to-site channel bonding within our Baton Rouge office, where we have a Cox business-class cable connection, an AT&T T1 connection, and a DeltaCom T1 connection,” stated Corie. “In our Dallas office, we have a Time Warner Telecom business-class cable connection and a Telnes T1.”
Bonding Internet links creates a larger “virtual connection”
Site-to-site channel bonding is a form of WAN link load balancing that can increase the total combined network bandwidth of multiple network connections between two locations. Site-to-site channel bonding conducts continuous health checks (up/down status) of all the network connections, and uses packet-based load balancing to distribute traffic among the network connections. With site-to-site channel bonding, two T1 connections with 1.5mbps network connections will equal approximately 3mbps, providing all network traffic with the combined throughput from the multiple network connections. The need for this level of bandwidth is critical for Providence users who need to access, and back up large documents, e-mail and drafting/CAD drawings across multiple locations.
Cost-effective network and site disaster recovery
Providence also utilizes the PowerLink to provide failover to a disaster recovery site. If connectivity in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles or elsewhere is disrupted, Internet traffic is redirected to Dallas or the other remaining location. PowerLink helps reduce the cost to ensure that site failover and failback occur automatically and reliably, making this functionality practical and affordable.
Since PowerLink automatically monitors and manages the multiple Internet connections, traffic is rerouted only to the working connections in the event of an outage. Providence’s clients are now able to view their compliance status with uninterrupted network connectivity.
“PowerLink delivers the uptime we require, which has been a huge stress relief. A case in point – recently, our Dallas cable connection went down for a week, but we were able to reroute,” says Corie. “The users were telling us that the network was slower than usual, but they were still working! That’s what mattered. Once the cable connection was back online, the users were thrilled, but they never stopped working at any time. Also, the ability to bundle multiple, less expensive ISP connections is much more affordable than having to pay for an expensive T3. That is a huge savings for us.”
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