Use the Internet as your WAN

To make sure employees in branch offices have quick and reliable access to information and applications, many businesses rent a dedicated, leased line to support their wide-area network.

According to Sukhi Gill, a fellow at HP Enterprise Services, this became best practice at a time when fast, highly available Internet connections could not be guaranteed everywhere.

Now, though, with broadband readily available around the country, businesses are beginning to question whether the cost of a dedicated WAN is still worth paying. “Most of our enterprise customers are asking us why they can’t just use the Internet,” says Gill.

In many circumstances, he says, they can. “If you have branch offices of around five to 20 employees, and they use the network for standard information-sharing systems like document collaboration and email, then a dedicated WAN may not be necessary.”

Using the public Internet of course brings with it a number of security concerns. Gill says highly sensitive applications such as banking systems should not be delivered in this way. However, many of the risks can be mitigated with encryption or by setting up a virtual private network, he says.

Gill argues that even if it requires investment in supplementary technologies such as these, using the Internet as a WAN has the potential to deliver “order of magnitude” cost savings compared with a leased line.

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Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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