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What the Telstra outage means for businesses relying on one carrier

Monday, July 22, 2019

As reported in iTnews1, the recent national Telstra outage meant many consumers were unable to withdraw cash at ATMs or make digital payments. The outage is believed to have cost Australian retailers an estimated $100 million in lost sales. While some of those lost sales may be recouped, the event highlights the impact carrier network faults can have for a range of organisations that rely on a sole provider.

It was reported that the outage related to a Telstra network specifically catering to finance institutions, retail, EFTPOS, and ATMs. The exact cause of this issue is still being investigated at the time of publication, but early investigations suggest it was caused by a higher-than normal volume of traffic across network links in NSW. Businesses from major finance institutions to smaller retailers across Australia, said they experienced disruptions to their services.

We hear words such as network diversity and redundancy thrown about in the news after an event like this but what do these words truly mean to an organisation? Reliable network connectivity is critical for most organisations today. Aged care facilities, schools, government organisations and financial institutions all need network connectivity in order to operate. Guaranteed connectivity is no longer considered a nice to have. Consistently available connectivity to customers, corporate offices, data centres and the internet is now considered mission-critical. If connection is lost, it may be challenging for many modern businesses to continue operating.

Following a spate of network outages from different carriers over the last year, now is the time to consider whether relying on a single carrier is risking your business operations, customer relations, profitability, and stability.

Realistically, from time to time all carriers will experience network problems, with potential consequences for your business. This is particularly important to keep in mind as more organisations embark on digital transformation (DX) journeys, and migrate data and workloads to public or hybrid cloud infrastructure. While data is based on external servers, relying on just one carrier and one wide area network (WAN) connection can lock you out of your stored information and records when a fault occurs.

No individual carrier can completely protect their network against failures.

Vertel urges businesses undertaking DX to consider whether they can afford to depend solely on one carrier for the provision of their critical telecommunications services.

Economics sometimes limits the level of network services redundancy you can afford. A cost-effective risk mitigation approach that can be considered is software defined-WAN (SD-WAN) to prioritise critical traffic over different carriers’ services. SD-WAN can run across existing legacy WAN networks, which means businesses can have an integrated mix of multi-protocol label switching (MPLS), internet and wireless connections, that enhances cost-effectiveness, but also offers guaranteed backup, and the continued ability to do business, access to data and business processes in the case of outages.

The vulnerability of carriers to experience outages should motivate businesses to move away from traditional WAN platforms and towards virtualised platforms based around SD-WAN. Businesses can make this change by seamlessly moving across providers, without needing to reconfigure entire networks.

Provision of a mission-critical service requires careful consideration in terms of how true redundancy can be achieved. Carrier duplication with media diversity is the best form of network service diversity because, if carefully constructed, true network and media redundancy can be achieved resulting in an ultra-high availability service environment for critical applications.

Find out how Vertel delivers true carrier diversity and network redundancy here.

1 Bajkowski, J 2019, Retailers demand Telstra pay for massive payments outage, accessed 18 July 2019.

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