Backup ISP and Why Your Business Needs It

In this episode of Tech Tuesday, Dave Hodgdon from PCG talks with John Maher about why businesses need a back-up internet service provider (ISP). He compares having a backup ISP to having a generator in your home and explains why they’re critical for reducing unwanted gaps in productivity when your main ISP isn’t working.

Portsmouth Computer Group · Backup ISP and Why Your Business Needs It

John Maher: Welcome to Tech Tuesday brought to you by PCG, a managed services and security provider in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I’m John Maher, and with me today from PCG is Dave Hodgdon. Welcome, Dave.

Dave Hodgdon: Happy Tuesday, John. I love Tech Tuesdays.

Why Do Businesses Need a Back Internet Service Provider?

John: Great. So Dave, today we’re talking about backup ISPs and why your business needs it. So why would a business want a backup ISP or internet service provider?

Dave: John, it’s all about uptime and making money today, that you can’t, just like your house, you can’t always rely on power always being on. You’ve got that generator just in case. There are times the internet’s going to go down from your carrier. It could be weather-related. It could be the pole’s been hit, but you need to give that peace of mind knowing that your circuit’s up.

If your staff can’t access the needed resources to serve your clients, they’re not going to have a great customer experience. Loss of email, their voiceover IP system, their CRM. Their line of business applications. It could be costing you thousands of dollars per hour if you’re down. Think of this like your house, with that backend of the built-in generator like I mentioned before, you want that automatic failover. Your power’s always on. You want the same for your internet. If the primary circuit goes down, I want to know just that it’s happening automatically and I’m up and running.

How Do Businesses Choose a Second Carrier?

John: Okay. So what should businesses do then to help solve that problem?

Dave: I think, first of all, we need to understand who your current carrier is. And then you want to get a redundancy circuit, getting a second connection coming into my business from a different carrier. Plenty of options out there, FirstLight, Consolidated, Comcast, Spectrum, Verizon, there’s many players. So based upon your address, we’ll decide who’s a good option for you.

How Do Businesses Know Which ISP Is Right for Them?

John: And how does a business know what’s right for them?

Dave: You got to take a good look, John, and that’s kind of like the assessment our engineers do, we have to look at what their current internet usage is. A lot of people, it’s really not that heavy at all. Then there’s other people that are very heavy, transactional.

They have a lot of applications in Azure. They have a lot of remote users. There’s a lot of activity coming into an FTP server. There’s a lot of R&D or CAD work. You really need to understand the environment. Depending on your industry, it kind of gets us in one direction. But then really, how is the culture of that business using the internet? Getting a good list of all their applications they’re using, whether they’re on-premise or the cloud.

How many users are on this network? Five users is different than a hundred users, John. You get five users and then you get a hundred, and you’ve got 20 of those hundred’s streaming music, and you’re just blogging, and strike a traffic jam.

You feel Saturdays and Sundays on the highway. It’s the same thing. I live near the beach, John, and I have a great signal during the week. I go there on a weekend. I can’t get on it. There’s just so many people sucking up that bandwidth, I can’t get on the service. So you got to look at the history trends and how often you’ve been down before. So once you have all those, kind of give you a checklist, John, now you have the ability to go to the provider and come up with a few options.

What Equipment Do You Need to Use a Backup ISP?

John: And, what kind of equipment is needed? Especially in terms of how does it switch over from one to the other, if one system goes down and the other one needs to come online? Do I need any specialized equipment for that?

Dave: A good question, John. First of all, you need a business-class firewall. A lot of firewalls only have the ability to manage one ISP circuit coming in. You definitely want the dual-wan connection, so two services can come into that firewall. They call it the edge router. That’s the one, the device.

So, each company has their own edge router coming in. So, that’s kind of be managed on their end. You just want to make sure that you have the right switches in place to allow that traffic to go through. If you’ve got an old school, 10/100 switch, you’re not going to get the performance like you would on a gigabit switch. It’s kind of like riding on route one, verse 95 in a traffic jam. But, the key is the business class firewall and getting that edge router from your provider.

How Do You Know Your Backup ISP Works?

John: And how do I know that it’s working, so that if something does go wrong, I know that the backup is going to be available for me?

Dave: Then what do I do every winter, John? I get out my generator. I verify it’s operational. I put in gas, I test it up. I turn it off. I turn it on. And, hopefully, I know it’s there to work for me. It’s not automatic because it doesn’t go out that often where we live, but you need to test it quarterly.

It’s all about testing. And we will unplug your primary circuit, verify that the other circuit is kicked in, and know that your staff is operational. And, it’s important to always test and know it’s part of your continuity plan.

How Can Businesses Control Costs Related to a Backup ISP?

John: And how do I control the costs? Do I just have to pay for two services completely? And so, it’s double the cost for my ISP now?

Dave: Think of it as a new car, John, you have your normal four tires and if there’s a flat, you have your other tire. I always call it the donut tire. Maybe it’s not the exact same tire, a little bit smaller. It’s, you’re not going to be able to drive 90 miles an hour, but you’re able to go operational.

You are correct. With a hardwired circuit, you are going to pay twice. Hopefully, you’re not. It’s insurance. So, let’s say that first, you’ve got a great symmetrical line, but maybe I use Comcast as my second. I don’t need to go as high as that. It’s a backup line. Hopefully, it’s not going to be there, but enough to get me operational. The problem with the two hard wires is that you are correct, you’re always paying for them.

So, over time, we have realized that running into a wireless option like Verizon gives you that flexibility. You’re only paying if you use it. So it’s there, it’s running. But if you suck up the minutes, that’s when you’re going to pay for it. So similar to you at your house on your electric, John, you’re paying for what you use or in the old days, like your cell phone you’d have the basic plan, but you’re going to pay for extra minutes should you go over. So we like having the wireless in place for a nominal fee. And then should you use it, then the fees actually kick in more. So it’s short money to have peace of mind. It’s operational.

John: Right? But you’re not paying for it on a month-by-month basis and if you’re not using it?

Dave: You’re paying the minimal fee to have the service there with the gear they’re running. You then, yeah, then if it’s out for a day, you might use a gig. You might pay 30 or $40, but that’s very short money instead of paying a couple hundred a month to always be on.

Hardwired Vs Wireless Internet Signals

John: You mentioned a hardwired service. What’s the difference between a hardwired internet connection and a wireless signal? You mentioned Verizon or AT&T.

Dave: Hardwired will, typically, you always talk about they’re at the pole. So from the main pole, from the street, that service, whether it’s a Consolidated, FirstLight, Comcast, Spectrum, they’re bringing that service from that pole into your building. We had one of our clients last week that was in downtown Portsmouth. The pole got hit. So all services from that pole went down.

I had another client, there was a fire on the pole, that businesses were all down. So it’s hardwired. And, if we have two providers, if something goes wrong with one of those utility poles or something, you are down. There’s nothing you can do about it. The value we like of the wireless, John, is we’ve taken the hard wire out of the equation. Now the signal is coming from the sky to the wireless provider.

And, just like all wireless, some buildings are in a great area to get it. So we need to understand your address. What’s the building like, and then what’s the coverage? So, I always ask the person or, “How are your cell phones in the business now?” “Oh, great. I got great coverage. What plan do you want?” “Oh, great.” So it kind of tells you, you’re in pretty good shape with that phone because you’re going to put that router in place there. And if you’re in a big metal building, John, we have the ability to get an external antenna to improve that signal. But the best thing about it, you’re paying for what you use. And, it’s unlikely a pole is going to get damaged, but if it does, both my circuits, you could be down on both.

PCG’s Solutions for Backup Internet

John: And what solutions does PCG offer specifically? Are there certain carriers that you work with?

Dave: For hardwired, John, there’s many that we work with, so that we’ve mentioned a couple of them earlier, but you know, FirstLight, Consolidated, Comcast, Spectrum, Atlantic Broadband, a lot of the major players, and it’s important for us because our clients are using those services.

We have relationships with them because, if there’s an issue with the internet, we’re helping in that direction. We feel that over time, it’s a good time to be looking at the wireless because I think it’s a better cost-effective solution. It is a very reliable solution now. And it gives you, I feel, some better uptime knowing that if that pole gets hit, both my services could be down. But I mean, it’s a great value. You’re going to get the performance you need. And I think it’s something every business should be looking at in their continuity plan.

Why Wireless Is a Great Backup Option for Businesses

John: Yeah. Tell a little bit more about the wireless solution and why you think that that’s a really great option for businesses.

Dave: I think, first of all, John, it’s the cost. It’s a nominal fee that you put in the router, you have the base, that some of you, your cell phone, it’s there. So I think the average cost is going to probably be 50 to 75 bucks a month. It’s always there. Then if you use it, there’ll be a nominal fee on top of that. Having internet access on, 100% of time’s a key element to your continuity plan.

We’ll help set up there, a wireless internet service. We’ll put the router in, we’ll get it configured with your firewall. We’ll test it for you. We’re basically giving, adding insurance, giving you peace of mind at a minimal cost. And if there’s an issue, we know there’s a plan in place and PCG has you covered.

A Backup ISP Provides Peace of Mind

John: Yeah. And like you said, these days with everybody having their jobs be online, and servers in the cloud, and everybody working through the cloud, your phone system now is there as well. So just having that backup means, like you said, peace of mind so that you don’t just have to send all your employees home for the day if your internet goes down.

Dave: Yeah. Especially in today’s world, we spoke earlier, John, about the 24 by seven. So pretty difficult to support someone if the internet is down. So whether it’s the evening or a weekend. So if customers want 24 by seven, it’s almost, I don’t want to use the word mandatory, but if you expect us to give you 24 by seven, your internet is down, there’s very little we can do.

But if we have that second internet circuit, we know it’s tested and it’s up. There’s a very good chance we have the ability to support your help desk, have the ability to support your network and operations center.

Contact PCG to Talk About Your Business’s Tech Needs

John: All right. That’s really great information, Dave. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Dave: You have it, John.

John: And for more information, visit the PCG website at or call 603-431-4121.