April 2009 IT Business Consulting Newsletter

Improve the Reliability and Speed of your Business Internet Connection

By Tom K

Your Internet Gateway has become one of your most important business IT resources. While critical to mundane business functions (email, research, purchasing, banking, etc), the Internet is absolutely essential to YOUR business, as it is your primary contact point with your guests and your owners.

Most of our Vacation Rentals clients derive 60% - 80% of their bookings directly through the Internet, and at least 40% of your customers who book through reservationists have researched your company and properties on the web.

If you host your data locally (Property Plus, RNS, First Resort, Barefoot, Entech, etc) and your office Internet is down, your potential guests can’t view real-time inventory or book on-line, your owners can’t access their accounts, and your staff can’t access your web site.

If you host your data off site (Escapia, V12, Barefoot, VRM, etc) and your office Internet is down, your staff can’t access your data to make reservations, to check guests in or out, to check property status, or to run reports.

In either instance, loss of office Internet Access for even a short time is a critical issue, costing you customers, productivity, and revenue. Now, imagine losing office Internet Access (and access to your data) for a full weekend in peak season, as happened to one of our clients last year!

There are high-end, but relatively inexpensive Firewalls on the market today that can Load Balance two separate Internet circuits from two independent providers – usually Cable & DSL. Since the two circuits are “load balanced” your inbound and outbound Internet traffic uses the full bandwidth of both circuits simultaneously, essentially doubling your Internet bandwidth. But, since the two circuits are also redundant, if one circuit goes down your business stays connected to the Internet on the remaining circuit. When the down circuit comes back up, the Firewall again uses the full bandwidth from both circuits. This is all completely transparent and automatic... outbound traffic goes out the least used circuit or the up circuit if there is an outage. Inbound traffic can use either circuit, and will find the up circuit if one is down.

And it really is inexpensive...Several Firewall manufacturers have models having this capability at various price points ($1000 to $3000). We’ve found a vendor who can provide our preferred Firewall for less than $400, which includes lifetime support and firmware updates so there are no recurring hardware costs. The required second Internet circuit typically costs around $100/mo.

So your outlay for this solution would involve a one-time $400 capital expense and a $1200/yr (or $3/day) operating expense to eliminate Internet Outages while doubling your Internet Bandwidth… That’s why we highly recommend this solution!

There are a few caveats... aren’t there always?!?

While the solution is simple in concept, designing and implementing the Firewall configuration to work with multiple circuits can be complex. Setting up DNS records to properly provide outside access to your multiple public addresses requires insight. And there are some “gotcha’s” that need to be resolved due to the way the firewalls load balance the circuits. But once these issues are understood and resolved, the system runs seamlessly and transparently!

Claire Reiswerg of Sand N’ Sea Properties, Galveston, TX writes:

“On Galveston Island, Internet service outages are frequent, but 70+% of Sand ‘N Sea’s bookings come in via the Internet. Three years ago, Tom K implemented his recommended firewall solution, and since then, we’ve had no downtime at all. The results to our bottom line have been noticeable, as is our staff’s efficiency... and their sanity!”

Bernie Roache of Century 21 New Horizon, Ocean City, MD recently called to say:

“A few weeks after you deployed the new firewall and added DSL, Comcast had a trunk failure affecting all of Eastern Maryland for almost 36 hours. We didn’t notice, and only knew about it when we saw it on the news. Three weeks ago this would have taken down our business. Thanks!”

And that company who lost access to their data for a whole weekend? Since we implemented this solution, they have experienced ZERO Internet downtime!

If you have any questions concerning this solution, would like more detail, or have any suggestions for future articles, feel free to contact me at TomK@TomKConsulting.com, or via my cell 443.310.5110.