Causes of Network Failure: How Retail Businesses Can Eliminate Downtime

Digi International Digi International
August 26, 2019

Network failures can be caused by a range of issues, from human error to DDoS attacks, and can cause businesses to lose revenue, fast. This is especially true of retail and other transaction-based businesses. Cellular network failover can virtually eliminate retail business downtime. By ensuring that another connection kicks in if the primary connection fails, your stores, branch offices, digital signage and kiosks can maintain business continuity.

When paired with out-of-band management, automated failover to a cellular connection &mdash' either from a wired connection or another cellular connection — can ensure your business operations remain up and running, and always on.

In this post, we will talk about why cellular failover is a key strategy for retailers seeking solutions that help avoid network outages, and why, in fact, cellular is starting to replace retail reliance on wireline networks.

The Causes of Business Downtime

Whether you're managing ATMs, digital signage, food service locations, POS terminals, branch offices, hotels, convenience stores or shopping malls, one constant remains: unshakable Internet connectivity is a non-negotiable business imperative. Customers expect it. Retail businesses, grocery stores and financial institutions rely on it for transactions and revenue. And increasingly, your brand and reputation require it. But in the real world, business connectivity can be impacted by many different things.

It could be a wayward backhoe cutting through a LAN line, faulty equipment, severe weather or human error. Your retail operation could be a victim of a cyber crime. And then there are natural and catastrophic disasters such as a hurricane or flooding, an out of control wildfire or an earthquake.

Regardless of the cause, network downtime carries a high cost. According to a report by IDC, network downtime costs 80% of small- and medium-sized businesses at least $20,000 per hour.[1] Then factor in the damage to your brand, reputation, and customer loyalty that is hard to quantify but also hard to ignore.

Most wireline/broadband connections can provide 99.5% uptime. But even that level of reliability can still translate into dozens of hours of unplanned outages annually that disrupt your ability to process credit card transactions, track inventory, dispense cash at ATMs, or perform other mission-critical office or store tasks.

To reduce risk, many companies augment their primary connection with a redundant backup connection using a second wired line. Unfortunately, these backup lines are equally vulnerable to the same risks, since they run on the same conduits, or are strung on the same poles, with the same termination points. In most instances, they even connect to the same service providers.

Benefits of Cellular Backup

In response, many forward-thinking companies are turning to wireless cellular connections for backup connectivity, both to rely less on expensive wireline solutions and to enable the ability to grow and upgrade with cellular network enhancements.

Cellular failover provides a seamless fix. When the wireline system fails, connections automatically failover to a 4G LTE connection, ensuring that Internet connectivity — and vital business operations — are virtually uninterrupted. The advantages are significant:

  • Reliability: Cell carriers are steadily increasing the reliability and availability of their 4G LTE networks — usually reaching 99.99%. What’s more, broader LTE coverage is erasing any speed discrepancies between wireline and wireless connections. With the advent of 5G, this trend will only continue.
  • Better Redundancy: A cellular failover connection avoids the inherent problems of shared devices, conduits and carriers. In this model, you have a separate cellular modem and dual sim card enabling you to switch between different wireless carriers for even greater redundancy and cost-management.
  • Security: A stateful firewall with best-practice configurations, automated patches and updates provides the right level of security.
  • Manageability: A cellular connection offers simplicity; there's no need to replace your existing router, firewall or SD-WAN appliance. An out-of-band port means you can configure and troubleshoot the device remotely even when the connection has failed.
  • Ease of Adoption: A cellular connection complements and supplements the existing wireline Internet connection. There's no rip-and-replace cycle; just incremental protection against connectivity downtime.
  • Costs: Early implementations of cellular failover were often constrained by expensive data plans. Today, however, as both the quality and cost of cellular improve, many companies are finding that cellular connectivity is attractive as a backup option or even as the primary connection, especially for remote locations. In fact one Digi customer — a major retailer that previously solely used wired broadband in all of its stores — is now transitioning to a cellular-only strategy for primary and backup connectivity due to its greater cost-effectiveness.

The cost of running wired cable is significant. Many companies today are turning to cellular in cases where it is cost prohibitive to run landlines, and the pace of improvements in cellular technology is supporting this shift.

What Is Out-of-Band (OOB) Network Management?

When a device is offline, or when a network is down, an administrator must be able to reach remote equipment to restore normal operation. Out-of-band management ensures that a network administrator can access a remote site for remediation if remote WAN or LAN networks are down, and does not rely on the production network. This methodology is enabled via a serial console port that offers a management interface for troubleshooting issues with networking equipment, devices and servers.

How Cellular Failover Reduces Retail Operating Costs

One of the key benefits of cellular failover is that it will make your business more efficient, and that can have an enormous impact on operating costs.

For example, without an automated cellular failover solution, troubleshooting and fixing a network connectivity issue is a multi-step process. In the event that your primary network connection is disrupted, you're typically going to have to send a truck out to a site to determine the problem and schedule service.

Following that, you may need to send a second truck out to the site to implement the fix with the right parts. This process can take many hours or even days to complete, during which the business can lose a range of functionality, from email service to POS connectivity and the ability to process transactions. Therefore, in addition to the costs of service personnel and truck rolls, your business can quickly lose revenue.

With a cellular failover solution, a backup connection automatically kicks in if the primary fails. What's more, with out-of-band access, the problem can often be identified and handled remotely, avoiding a truck roll altogether. If the issue does require a replacement part, instead of rolling trucks twice — once to identify the problem and once to service the issue — you can send just one truck to implement the fix. Meanwhile, your cellular failover keeps your business up and running with no perceived downtime or revenue loss.

Business Continuity and Cellular Failover Solutions

Digi recognized the opportunity to provide the exceptional advantages of cellular to enterprises that require always-up, always-on connectivity, and today has multiple enterprise solutions with cellular backup options to suit any need across the retail and branch office landscape. You can choose the device that best supports your connectivity requirements, as well as the connection type best suited to your application, and evaluate upgrades such as the Digi 1002-CM CORE plug-in modem with dual SIM support.

Contact us to help determine the right solution for your business.


>> See the Retail Industry Storefront flyer to learn how retail applications can set up connectivity for optimal data connection.