Don’t Panic—Have a Broadband Backup Plan

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

You have customers lined up at the counter to pay for their purchases. Then—out of nowhere—your Internet connection goes down, along with your ability to process credit and debit cards.

Proper backup is a must to avoid frustrated customers, lost sales and a mountain of anxiety. Here are some solutions to keep business moving with minimal interruption when your DSL or cable goes down.


Double Your Coverage

Adding a second DSL or cable provider is an expensive option, but it can save the day in the event that your primary broadband fails. Taking on a secondary wired provider may offer a backup solution, but there is a catch.

Many DSL and cable companies use the same infrastructure as their competitors for their wired network. If one company has an outage due to line damage, repairs, etc., your backup provider could be experiencing the exact same downtime. Simultaneous downtimes tend to be rare, so it’s still worth investigating.

Consider a Dial-Up Solution

This more affordable option may work well for your business, especially if you currently use cable broadband. Telephone lines aren’t connected to the same lines as cable, so the chances of both lines being disrupted at the same time are reduced.

The downside to dial-up, aside from slow speeds, is that it’s now incompatible with many IP-based point-of-sale (POS) systems. See if your POS is capable of running on dial-up before installing a line. Without a dial-up compatible POS system, you’ll need to acquire a standalone terminal. This will require training staff on how to plug in and operate the terminal in the event your primary broadband goes down. If you don’t currently use an IP-based POS, you might consider trying dial-up as a backup solution in the short term.

Install Cellular Broadband Backup

Cellular broadband backup will maintain the most critical business functions when DSL or cable fails. If only used for backing up key functions—like credit card acceptance—the service typically has a much lower month-to-month cost. Cellular modems don’t rely on physical cables, meaning they won’t experience the same outages as your DSL or cable. If you select this option, make sure you can restrict it to payment processing and that automatic cutover is included in your service (so that cell backup kicks in automatically when needed).

Cellular broadband is available from a variety of providers, but it may require additional hardware or firewall security in some cases. Many providers focus on large enterprise solutions for multiple sites, making it difficult for the smaller retailer to find the right solution. Some high-bandwidth cellular backup solutions are capable of supporting all devices and applications during downtimes. These can be costly if you try to back up all applications (such as streaming music and security monitoring). Cellular providers often levy overage fees for extensive data use.

There are a few items to consider before making your final backup plan choice. First, decide what parts of the network your business must have to keep operating. Primary broadband could be out for an hour or the rest of the day. What devices absolutely must be running during this time to ensure business can continue?

  • If you need DVR security, streaming music and other applications running at full speed all the time, adding a backup DSL or cable line from a different ISP is probably the best solution for you.
  • If you only require your payment transactions to function, cellular backup will be a more cost-effective option.

Next, make sure your backup choice includes automatic failover. Manually switching to a secondary broadband source can take time, especially if the primary broadband outage is not spotted immediately. With automatic failover, you can continue on with business without interruption.

Finally, no matter what solution you choose, make sure the provider’s support team’s business hours line up with yours. Some companies offer limited-service request plans, while others offer unlimited service requests within the scope of your agreement. You may want 24/7/365 support access, or you may not require any additional services beyond installation. Whatever the case, do your research and know what service package includes backup.