Imagine you run a retail business and your customers are ready to check out with their credit card and your cashier has to tell them, “I’m sorry but our system is down.”  This downtime generally results in one of three consequences: 

  1. Your business is unable to accept non-cash payment types resulting in some customers leaving without purchasing, since they have no cash on them.
  2. Your employees will have to phone in for credit card approval resulting in long lines due to delays in voice calls.  This will likely cause customer frustration with some not willing to wait for approval.
  3. Your business accepts the cards without authorization if the transaction is below a specific amount (floor limit).  This means customer lines don’t back up, but the business is liable for any losses due to accepting lost/stolen cards or cards that don’t have enough credit available on them.

And let’s not forget the negative hit the business takes due to all the social media available to customers for venting their frustrations.  When networks go down, it’s a given that customers will vent on a number of social networks.  Therefore, it’s best to mitigate these risks of network downtime than defend your brand, which could be far more damaging than revenue losses.

Lastly, network downtime can impact the retailer’s bottom line in numerous ways.  A network outage, at the worst possible moment, can be catastrophic.  In some cases, as much as 2 percent of the retailer’s total annual sales can happen on the busiest day of the year.  And as much as 1 percent of total annual sales can happen during the busiest hour of that day, resulting in huge losses to the business.

Eliminating Downtime

Without a comprehensive WAN failover strategy, the above scenarios are almost a given.  So let’s talk about best practices to avoid a potentially devastating outage.

Traditionally, retail businesses relied on T-1 lines as their primary WAN connectivity.  There has been a trend, more recently, where many retailers are moving to lower cost and less reliable connectivity such as cable and DSL.  Some will also use cable and/or DSL as a wired WAN backup solution for their T-1 lines.  While it’s good to have some WAN failover solutions in place, cable and DSL are not always the most reliable.  With all of these types of services, there are often time delays associated with getting the telecommunications company to complete installation at your retail site(s).

Typical DSL services can have as much as 5 percent downtime.  DSL is a residential type of service which can take up to 72 hours for the local exchange carrier to repair and restore.  Wireless providers restore service within hours, so combining wired and wireless connectivity can improve uptime to 99.9 percent or greater.

Given the growth and improved speed in cellular data networks, as well as the technology advances by the leading machine-to-machine (M2M) manufacturers, the above business problems can be solved easily and cost-effectively by deploying cellular routers as your WAN failover solution.

The benefits of using cellular routers for WAN failover include:

  • Meeting deadlines for store openings, since the store will have connectivity through a cellular router
  • Executing easy, fast and multiple deployments with most cellular routers able to be managed through vendors’ cloud management software (zero-touch deployment and management)
  • Enterprise-grade failover
  • Less wiring required
  • Significant cost savings compared to traditional T-1 line charges

Like any industry, the explosion of the Internet of Things and increased M2M use cases means the cellular router manufacturers will continue to improve their products with new features designed to keep retail stores up and running while improving security.

New trends and features we are seeing from the leading manufacturers include:

  • Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance of their cellular routers along with alert systems to notify retailers when an event could compromise compliance.
  • Dual modem routers with the capability to switch carriers over the air (OTA).
  • Dual modem routers allow for load balancing of traffic.
  • For new store openings, dual modem routers give you cellular redundancy, so when a hardline is installed, you can pull the second modem and deploy elsewhere (or simply keep the two modems in place as an extra layer of redundancy).
  • Employing out-of-band management (OOBM) to the console port of the primary router is a value-added layer to any distributed enterprise.  A secondary secured path to devices at remote locations, when the primary network fails, means minimized disruption and downtime, ensuring business continuity and a happy staff at remote locations.
  • OOBM currently requires a static IP address and Secure Shell (SSH) configuration, but later this year, one of the leading manufacturers in the space will be able to provide OOBM without the need for static IP addresses and opening an inbound SSH port.
  • Bundling leading security solutions such as unified threat management (UTM) and web filtering solutions to cellular routers is now available.

Without a doubt, having a WAN failover solution is critical to today’s retail businesses. With cellular routers, retail business can have safe, secure, fast and easy-to-manage solutions to keep the cash registers ringing.

To learn more about WAN failover solutions, contact your CDW account manager.

One thought on “3G/4G/LTE WAN Failover for Retail Businesses

  • Jason Brown says:

    Excellent blog entry Remy. These are very important points when you are looking at your retail strategy. It is very easy to take your communication data channels for granted until they are not available.

    Reply

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