From field services providers who complete all of their “paperwork” online to retail outlets that host their inventory tracking software entirely in the cloud, we are now living in an age where modern businesses require constant Internet access in order to remain competitive. Additionally, connections between business units, vendors and Small Office Home Offices (SOHOs) are all needed for continuity purposes, which in turn are expected to run around the clock, seven days a week.
For these reasons, businesses are always looking for ways to improve Internet uptime, the gold standard that is often referred to as “five-nines (99.999%) uptime.” This level of uptime guarantees virtually constant connectivity while allowing for a small amount of downtime due to unforeseen incidents and scheduled maintenance. This may seem like an unachievably high standard to set; after all, things break, and events outside our control inevitably occur. But, given the importance of connectivity for business success, a highly available architecture needs to be created in which such unforeseen events will leave your Internet access unaffected.
Network Redundancy: The Common Sense Solution
The standard solution to the problem of Internet uptime is network redundancy. If you only have a single point of failure, then when it fails you lose your Internet connection. By putting in a second, redundant access method, you will be able to connect to resources and maintain business operations should your primary connection go down.
Installing a redundant Internet connection makes sense intuitively: if your Bell connection goes down, you’ll be able to switch seamlessly to your Rogers connection. Right?
On the surface, a redundant Internet connection seems like the perfect solution. However, when examined more carefully, it becomes apparent that it solves only half the problem. While a redundant ISP allows you to access outbound services, such as web browsing, they do not make inbound services like email and applications servers redundant. This is because inbound services are reliant on a host name lining up with an Internet Protocol (IP) address, which in turn is tied to an Internet Service Provider (ISP). This means that, with a basic redundancy solution, when your ISP goes down you lose access to any mission-critical inbound services that are tied to it.
Achieving Redundancy the Hard (and Expensive) Way with BGP
For years, the only way to achieve inbound service redundancy was to use Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). BGP involves taking the prouting of your IP away from your ISP, severing the tie between them, thus enabling you to direct all of your outbound services to any ISP.
There are two main problems with BGP:
- BGP input/output routing is complicated to configure, which means that you’ll need a full-time IT staff present to ensure that failover occurs quickly and seamlessly.
- BGP is expensive. Most network providers’ SMB packages don’t include BGP capabilities, reserving them instead for enterprise-class corporations.
Because BGP is largely inaccessible for Canadian SMBs, many struggle to overcome the challenge of meeting five-nines availability standards. Fortunately, there is a solution.
Meet Microsoft Azure Traffic Manager with Azure DNS
The solution to achieving inbound redundancy alongside outbound is found in the combination of Azure DNS and Azure Traffic Manager. Azure DNS replaces your current IP address for all of your inbound services. Then Traffic Manager checks your services for the ISP they are tied to, and sends back an IP address from one of your active ISPs. Traffic Manager then gives Azure an available IP address, while sending the correct IP address to the inbound service.
If this sounds complicated, that’s because it is. The important thing to note is that, with DNS and Traffic Manager, you gain inbound service redundancy without the expensive BGP routing.
Attempting to implement Traffic Manager and Azure DNS solutions represents a significant challenge for the IT departments of most SMBs. At Broadview, we help our customers assess which of their inbound services benefit from Azure Traffic Manager/DNS. We then ensure your firewall environment is set up for secure failover. We also configure your entire Azure environment, ensuring that everything works as it should.
For more information on how your organization can benefit from Microsoft Azure Traffic Manager and Azure DNS, contact us today to get started!
Author: Michael Orloff