By | November 16, 2023
Can businesses trust the internet?

Dependence and trust have a complicated relationship, and this is especially true when it comes to companies’ view of networks. If you ask business leaders which network service has been the most disruptive to their business, almost 100% will say “the Internet.” If you ask them which online service has caused them the most problems, you will get almost exactly the same answer. The internet, they tell me, is insecure (87%), unreliable (81%) and lacks quality of service (77%). And yet its loss would create “a major business disruption,” according to 97% of those users. Do you sense a contradiction here? Well, we’re just getting started with that question.

Starting with money is always a smart idea. Over the past three decades, the cost per bit of consumer broadband has plummeted. You can get a 100 Mbps consumer broadband connection for less than $40 in many areas. However, a business connection with dedicated Internet access at the same speed, with fiber or Ethernet, costs more than 20 times so much. An MPLS VPN connection is 20-35 times as much, according to 121 companies I checked with. In areas where business density is low, the cost of dedicated Internet access or an MPLS VPN can be much higher than these averages due to the lack of appropriate access infrastructure that “passes” sites, if the service is available at all.

It’s no wonder that CFOs often find it difficult to accept network pricing. A senior network planner at a healthcare conglomerate told me that he got a big kickback on a 500 Mbps MPLS VPN connection cost of more than $4,000 a month when the CFO had 1 Gbps home broadband for just over $100 a month. But the deal was approved because the CFO accepted a simple rationale: “You can’t trust the Internet.”

Cost Comparison: MPLS VPN, Dedicated Internet Access, Consumer Broadband Infrastructure

The problem is that the companies is trust the internet, more and more every day. We can compare the experience of the company that paid $4,000 per month for a 500 Mbps MPLS VPN connection with another company to show that the classic trust argument against the Internet is looking increasingly weak.

The healthcare conglomerate selected 500 Mbps MPLS VPN connectivity at a particular location serving 24 employees, one-third of whom were medical staff. Another medical conglomerate in a similar area used dedicated internet at the same speed and paid $1,300 per month. I could not find a similar medical site that connects via consumer broadband infrastructure (cable or fiber), but I did find one that connects financial services sites of comparable size with both 500 Mbps and 1 Gbps service. They paid an average of $110 per month for connections.

All three of my sample sites said their network services were “satisfactory.” The consumer broadband site reported four periods of service outages in six months, the direct access site reported two, and the MPLS VPN site had no service outages.

If you ask companies whether going from four outages per six months to zero warrants a cost increase of about 37 times, most will ask how long the outages were. On my sample sites, outages for the consumer broadband option were less than 10 minutes for three of the four, with the longest being 45 minutes. Outages at the direct access sites were all less than 10 minutes.

In the group of 121 companies to which I refer, there was a general willingness to tolerate outages of less than 15 minutes, even at a rate higher than four per six-month period. On the other hand, only one-third of companies said they would tolerate four outages with an average duration of more than one hour, and none said they would tolerate outages with an average duration of more than two hours without seeking a service option. If we compare tolerance with the experience of the three companies I have cited, all services fall within tolerance.

Then there is the issue of internet for connecting outside of secondary sites. All businesses say they are “dependent on the internet” to reach and support prospects, customers and partners. While 14 companies in the group said cloud provider outages had affected their reach, none said so about the internet. For this very critical mission, obviously the internet’s best effort is good enough.

What about connecting workers, either in branches or in remote locations? Well, 97 of the 121 companies said they didn’t trust the internet overall as an alternative to MPLS VPN, although 104 said they would consider it for sites where MPLS VPN was too expensive, and of course all said they would . consider that where the MPLS option was not available. Then consider that of the 35 who said they used the Internet and the cloud to connect remote workers, only 3 said the results were “unsatisfactory,” and of course the connection between workers and the cloud was done via the Internet. Also note that of the 26 currently using SD-WAN over the Internet for some branch connectivity, only 5 found the service problematic at some sites, but all but 6 were using some form of managed SD-WAN service from an MSP or CSP . There were two in that group who found internet performance problematic; the other three had built their own SD-WAN.

One of the interesting things about managed SD-WAN users is that the cost of managed SD-WAN service is significantly higher than the cost of consumer infrastructure enterprise broadband, and yet the majority of SD-WAN users choose to go that route. These companies say that a managed SD-WAN service eliminates the problems they would have with managing local ISPs in all locations, and that they were concerned about ISP support for their applications. But of the 35 using the cloud and the Internet to support remote workers, 11 had sites where they used managed SD-WAN services in the same geography, and the same ISPs were making connections with their prospects and customers.

Balances reliability and cost

It seems like we don’t trust the internet in general, but we trust it specifically? This doesn’t just sound confusing, it sounds illogical, like companies have a deep-seated distrust of the internet when their own data doesn’t support the view. To try to get some sense of it, let’s turn to the 23 companies that did trust the internet as an MPLS VPN alternative. Why do those who overcame internet mistrust think internet trust is so hard to come by? It comes down to a kind of popular mythology called “the myth of the five nines.”

Everyone, so they say, knows that telecom services should have five-to-nine availability, although only a little over 40% of companies believe that to be true today. Everyone knows the internet doesn’t. Popular wisdom is also what gives rise to fairy tales, but we should suspect this statement not only for its accuracy but also for its relevance. All of these 23 people who trust the Internet said that yes, MPLS was more reliable, but that the difference was not worth the cost. That argument was made by every of the group to its CIOs and CFOs. In some cases, they backed it up with a promise of managed service. In some, they priced a wireless backup or (in two cases) a second ISP. Exactly half of those who included a backup lost it on all, or a majority of, sites after the first year. No one went back to MPLS VPN.

I think the conclusion here is inescapable. The companies’ own data show that they Can trusts the internet, and really trusts it for the most business-critical tasks of all – connecting their business to their prospects and customers. The real question is whether they can justify the trust. And our group of 23 had some insight on that point as well. Everyone got online two years ago or less. Why? Because the cost difference was simply too great to ignore any longer. Guess what? It gets bigger and harder to ignore every day. Businesses are apparently about to learn a lesson in trust, whether they like it or not.

#businesses #trust #internet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *