When your business grows, the chances are, you’re going to need more from your internet connection – but how do you make that happen?
While there are plenty of companies who’ll be happy to help you upgrade your internet connection or talk to you about new devices, for many businesses, proper management of your network is all that’s needed.
One of the more sophisticated ways to better manage your network is through an MPLS system. Generally, IT acronyms are hiding a world of complexity that’s difficult for non-IT professionals to understand – but MPLS isn’t difficult to get to grips with. Here, we’ll explore what MPLS is, what it might offer your business, and a few tips to make sure you’re getting the very best service from a provider.
What is MPLS?
While there’s unquestionably plenty of complex explanations that will go into the intricate technical detail about what MPLS is, it’s useful to understand the technology is simple terms. It’s worth starting with a breakdown of the acronym. MPLS stands for Multi-Protocol Label Switching – and we can break that down fairly easily.
Firstly, a ‘protocol’ is essentially a language or decoding method with which different IT devices can communicate. Different devices and applications use different protocols – so, quite simply, ‘Multi-Protocol’ means an MPLS system understands all the different types of data crossing your network. Furthermore, the MPLS system will attribute a ‘label’ to each of those packets of data, allowing a Label Switch Router (LSR) to consider the priority of the data, and the best route for it to take considering that priority.
So, it’s fair to think of an MPLS system as a traffic management system. It understands what you’re trying to send, before deciding on the best way of prioritising the traffic – and the best route for that traffic to take across your network – and, to some degree, the internet as a whole.
Will MPLS fit with our business?
Now we understand MPLS to be something of a traffic management system for your IT network, it’s worth considering whether or not you’ve got the type of network that would benefit from such a system. There’s no right or wrong answer; MPLS isn’t the right solution for everyone, but it could be – if your IT system hits some of the following criteria.
- You need your network to carry real-time data – such as voice or video calls
- You’re finding that latency and network congestion are causing you problems
- Your connections carry different types of data at the same time
- You would benefit from the quick provisioning of new geographic business locations
- You have applications that would damage your business if they suffered downtime
If you feel that one or more of these situations is familiar to you, it might be worth exploring MPLS is a little more detail. Realistically, MPLS is unlikely to be a cheap upgrade to your system – but it’s important not to make the mistake of immediately considering a network upgrade with a big ticket price to be poor value – because, when you consider quite how much downtime can cost a business, MPLS often looks like exceptionally good value.
It’s not just downtime that will cost your business either – if you find your paying a lot to have an older system maintained, MPLS might be the step forward that you need to make to reduce maintenance costs and free up your IT team’s resources to work on pushing your overall business forward.
What does MPLS offer?
MPLS will impact your network positively – but, since shareholders and directors aren’t losing sleep over the way your network runs, it’s probably worth considering what MPLS will mean in real terms for your business.
Since downtime can impact businesses so significantly that they end up having to permanently close their doors, it’s clear that uptime is key. An MPLS system is a very good way of making sure the applications that you need to run keep running, without the need to an engineer to roll up their sleeves and try to retrospectively remedy problems.
Less network maintenance interruptions
When a network is congested, it needs an engineer to step in and fix the problem – and that takes time. While we’ve already covered ‘improved uptime’ in the list, you can never rule out the possibility that something goes wrong when it’s being administered – after all, around 95% of issues with IT systems come as a result of human error. MPLS reduces the need for lifting the hood on your system, and thus, reduces the chances of knock-on issues that cause downtime or delays.
An improved customer experience
More and more businesses rely on cloud-based applications to deliver their service to customers – and, if your internet connection or network is running slowly, that chance of being able to support customers in real-time while using those systems is diminished. MPLS will make sure you can access your systems when you need them, reducing the number of instances where you’ll have to tell your customer that your system is down or running slowly.
A quicker network
Above all, MPLS will bring increases speed to your network – thanks to the quicker or unconventional routes it uses to make sure your data has an uncongested journey. With an understanding of which traffic is the most important, even if that’s on a changing basis, MPLS will make sure that data always follows the quickest route. What’s more, you can always quickly step in to change those priorities, depending on the changing needs of your business, minute to minute.
A network that you can grow quickly
Setting up a WAN is no mean feat. Connections between different geographical locations take a lot of configuration – with engineers generally needing to set up virtual ‘tunnels’ that connect your sites securely over the wider internet. An MPLS system somewhat does away with this hard work – as it understands how your different sites and devices need to communicate with one another – and will make sure that the most appropriate routes are used, even if there’s significant real-world distance between the devices.
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