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Why MPLS for Retail

If you are considering subscribing to an MPLS service, it can’t hurt if you know a bit more about the different service options that available to you so that you can make an informed decision and one that’s best for your business.

My intention therefore, in writing this article, is to help you understand why MPLS is a better alternative to more traditional WAN services, especially IP VPN services. 

Also, with security and compliance at the top of everybody’s agenda, it’s important you understand the challenges a service like IP VPN can create and how these can be mitigated by MPLS.

The main reasons retail organisations are migrating to MPLS are usually:

•  More Bandwidth for less money to address budget constraints.

•  Guaranteed levels of service (QoS) to enable the deployment of network performance related applications like voice and video.

•  Increased availability and redundancy to ensure store transaction are never effected.

•  Flexibility to…

- Allow the creation of temporary “Pop Up Stores” and…

- Address the necessity to close stores or move location

Questions to Ask Yourself:

1. One of the first questions to ask yourself is how much do you want to outsource?

If you're a retailer with two overworked networking staff, outsourcing everything is very attractive. If you're a larger organisation with in-house expertise, then you may not want to pay for a service you can do yourself, but…

You do have ask is this the best utilisation of the resources you have, when a Service Provider can take advantage of the economies of scale and do it for you at a much better price point; especially when competent engineering resources can be an expensive asset.

2. A second question is whether cheaper IP VPN services are adequate?

There are a number of factors to consider, which I’ll explain in a minute, but more often it comes down to the size of your business and how many stores you have.

Once you go over about 10 stores, then the cost, the management, the security considerations and the ability to stay on the right side of compliance would lean towards a MPLS service from a reputable Service Provider.

Note that when we say reputable, we don’t mean large (expensive) Tier 1 Service Providers like BT.  Smaller businesses offer the same technology but are usually more flexible in what they can do for you, they typically cost less and offer greater, more personalised levels of service.

3. A third question to consider is: do you require a single Service Provider or dual Service Provider for redundancy?

With a sole Service Provider solution there’s always the risk of “lock in”, especially if you are signing long term contracts to try and get a better rate.

The key benefit of a dual Service Provider solution is, as we’ve said, about being able to take advantage of having redundant links and therefore higher availability and less susceptibility to outages. 

It’s often said that having dual providers does give you some bargaining power to enable you to drive down prices and get the best deal.

With all that said, your management overhead and associated cost will increase.  The “finger pointing” between Service Providers when you do have an issue, can seriously delay fault resolution and directly impact business performance; and no IT Manager wants to be held responsible for that.

I’ve always looked at finding an independent company that can provide a dual Service Provider solution and manage everything for you to be best.  They can negotiate hard, using their economies of scale to get you the best price.  You have one “Throat to Choke” in the event of an issue, and you can let them deal with the challenges of honouring the SLA with you.

One fear with this approach is that can get locked in, particularly if you co-locate equipment at their site(s).  The hassle of migrating to a new SP limits your ability to react to poor service.

 However, with dual Service Providers, your costs may increase slightly, but at least your network may stay up even when one provider is having problems.  By working with two Service Providers, you can pressure them on pricing, and you can also compare the levels of service they actually provide. (Experience says that sales folks make all SLA's sound great, but what you really get can be somewhat different!).

So… these are just a few of the benefits retailer can experience by moving to MPLS.  


CLICK HERE to get my full Retail IT Buyers Guide

This report provides must ask questions of a Service Providers when considering MPLS and shows how you can get a full MPLS network implementation for ZERO capital outlay, so it’s a must read.  There’s no email required and it’s ABSOLUTELY FREE-  IMMEDIATE DOWNLOAD



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