Operating an enterprise spanning multiple distributed locations introduces unique connectivity challenges. Each site likely has distinct needs—the solutions powering a small regional sales office will vastly differ from a customer support call center or R&D hub.
Despite varying demands, every site requires reliable, high-performing internet access tailored to its work patterns. Choosing improperly can severely impact productivity and customer service, with revenue losses mounting rapidly from inadequate connectivity.
This 2023 guide examines key considerations when selecting business internet across distributed environments, including:
- Comparing Connection Types – Weighing wired vs wireless technology tradeoffs
- Assessing Reliability – Guaranteed uptime and redundancy requirements
- Evaluating Security – Unified cyberthreat protection mechanisms
- Provider Checklist – Steps for structured comparison and selection
Follow these best practices to make optimal connectivity decisions for each location. Get it right, and you gain the foundation for seamless cross-site collaborations.
Table of Contents
Dimensioning Unique Needs by Location
The first crucial step involves thoroughly evaluating the usage needs, network traffic patterns and bandwidth requirements at each individual office site.
While standardizing on one homogenous setup may seem easier operationally, a tailored approach based on the unique needs of each location prepares the business more effectively for today’s needs and future growth.
Consider key aspects like:
- Application Usage – The specific apps used at a site directly determine peak bandwidth needs. A regional sales office may rely heavily on cloud CRM tools, while an animation studio streams massive media files, and a dev team requires rapid access to centralized git repos. Profile how bandwidth-intensive apps are leveraged throughout the workday.
- Latency Sensitivity – Some sites may have use cases with little tolerance for lag or delays. For example, a contact center fielding customer calls needs perfectly smooth voice connectivity without choppiness. An IoT manufacturing facility requires instant sensor data transfers to optimize production. Assess the impact of potential slow internet speeds or congestion issues.
- Uptime Requirements – Continuity of operations is also site-dependent. A customer support hub will mandate ultra reliable 99.99% internet to always be accessible, while a small satellite office may tolerate more occasional downtime. Set uptime KPIs per location based on operational criticality.
Profiling these parameters accurately will reveal the internet speed, latency, reliability specifications, and traffic volumes you must deliver at each distributed point. This orients provider comparisons later.
Comparing Connection Types
With needs established, now compare offerings suiting each site. Two predominant technologies power modern multi-point connectivity:
Copper or Fiber Connections Like Cable, DSL, T-Lines
Wired options like cable, DSL, and T-carrier lines transmit data over physical copper or fiber optic cabling. This provides:
- Speed – Cable and fiber deliver fast, low latency connectivity with guaranteed bandwidth allocations to prevent congestion issues. Actual throughput speeds depend on the contracted plan, but can exceed 1 Gbps on fiber easily.
- Reliability – Physical cabling uptime tends to be robust once installed, outside catastrophic localized damage. Connection redundancy options also exist.
- Availability – In urban dense metros, wired infrastructure offers wide access. But availability still varies greatly by region in suburban or rural locales.
- Cost – Installation expenses for cabling, routing, equipment are high initially. But monthly access fees for allocated data tend to be more affordable long term. Scales well with usage levels.
With the exception of physical availability limitations, wired options excel on key connectivity metrics—making them the right choice where accessible.
Cellular, Satellite, Microwave, Mesh Networks
Alternatively, wireless connectivity leverages cellular towers, satellites, and other over-the-air access point infrastructures. This enables:
- Mobility – Wireless shines for temporary sites, short-term offices, mobile vehicles by removing geographical restrictions. Hardware is portable – an antenna and modem connects your network.
- Quick Deployment – No construction or cabling allows rapid setup, even instantly in some cases. Move or add sites faster.
- Availability – Rural regions lacking wired connectivity get coverage options through wireless towers and atmospheric satellite coverage.
- Reliability & Speed – Wireless is impacted by both:
- Atmospheric interference degrading or blocking signals
- Network congestion contending with consumer cellular users for limited bandwidth
This makes reliability and peak speeds less consistent than wired options. Latency is also higher typically over these long signal distances.
Evaluating tradeoffs for each location, wireless fits use cases tolerant to occasional slow internet speeds or lag spikes. Wired works better for latency-sensitive needs requiring rock solid throughput. Also assess setup costs, monthly fees, and data caps when comparing budget impact.
Reviewing Reliability Via SLAs
For distributed organizations, downtime can be exponentially more damaging depending on workloads running across sites. Assessing connectivity reliability through provider Service Level Agreements (SLAs) is therefore critical.
Key parameters to evaluate in SLAs include:
- Guaranteed Uptime Percentage – 99.9% uptime translates to nearly 9 hours of annual downtime. Is that acceptable based on each site’s operations? 99.99% cuts this to under an hour.
- Speed Commitments – Given wireless speed variability, ensure minimum throughput levels.
- Support Response Times – Issue resolution SLAs ideally should be under an hour for infrastructure hosting vital apps.
- Accountability – If SLAs are breached through no fault of your own, providers should offer 100% reimbursement for outage periods through account credits.
Scrutinize agreement fine print to ensure connectivity meets reliability KPIs tailored to the business criticality of each location. Avoid providers lacking suitable coverage.
Safeguarding Multi-Site Infrastructure
Geographically dispersed offices also multiply the attack surface vulnerable to security threats or breach risks—with widespread potential damage.
To mitigate this, implement unified cybersecurity mechanisms that connect securely across the wider network, including:
- Next-Gen Firewalls – Advanced models like UTM appliances go beyond blocking known malware signatures to filter traffic more dynamically for anomalies. This prevents zero-day threats also.
- Access Controls – Limit network, device, data and application access granularly by user group/role across all locations centrally. Disable ex-employee credentials instantly when staff switch sites or depart.
- Endpoint Security – Multi-layered antivirus, malware/ransomware scanning, sandboxing other defenses prevent infections, detecting advanced persistent threats through coordinated threat intelligence.
- Encryption – Multi-standard algorithms for data at rest, backups and transfers protect proprietary information from compromise. Mandate encryption across managed and unmanaged devices.
Together, these controls curtail attack paths through apps, networks, endpoints simultaneously—sealing connectivity comprehensively.
Evaluating and Selecting Providers
Once needs are detailed for every location by available options, follow a methodical procurement process evaluating providers. Key steps include:
- Consolidate Core Requirements – Compile must-have criteria by location—speed, technology constraints, redundancy needs, security services required, etc.
- Research Market Options – Identify all providers operating in the area for each site. Compile available offerings in a features matrix.
- Shortlist Best-Fit Vendors – Eliminate providers lacking appropriate service capabilities or strength in a given locale. Focus further comparisons only among top contenders per location.
- Assess SLAs Carefully – Validate agreements guarantee suitable reliability levels for each individual site based on uptime needs. One provider may be reliable for a sales office but not an essential distribution facility.
- Network Security Evaluation – Review proposed solutions end-to-end—connectivity plus layered defenses across devices, network, cloud, applications and data. Assess efficacy against modern cyberthreats.
- Final Vendor Selection – With consistent criteria applied across all distributed offices, determine best-fit connectivity and security providers optimally meeting requirements per location. Execute appropriate agreements.
Undertaking this structured procurement process ensures networked solutions suit the unique environment and applications of each enterprise site.
- Avoid one-size-fits-all connectivity. Dimension options based on usage needs per location—bandwidth, speed, uptime sensitivity, etc.
- Compare tradeoffs of wired vs wireless thoroughly by site for reliability, speed and mobility.
- Carefully validate provider SLAs deliver contractually guaranteed availability levels meeting operations requirements of each individual office.
- Implement consistent networked security controls across the wider environment to curtail cyberthreats at scale.
Analyze current bandwidth peak demand by location and expected multi-year growth by application. Over-provisioning carries extra costs, while under-provisioning risks outages. Model headroom for spikes.
It depends. Evaluate tradeoffs like speed consistency, reliability, availability, and mobility for each site’s workloads. Balance business need with cost.
Multi-homing connections, automatic failover, redundant hardware/circuits. Determine exact mechanisms contractually through SLAs guaranteeing reliability levels.
Unified cybersecurity platforms with integrated functionality like next-generation firewalls, intrusion prevention, sandboxing, encryption, access controls and more.