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Out-of-Band Management: Supplying Retailers with Network Resilience

Out-of-Band Management

Out-of-Band Management

Solutions Review’s Contributed Content Series is a collection of contributed articles written by thought leaders in enterprise software categories. Tracy Collins of Opengear walks us through what it takes to supply retailers with network resilience by means of out-of-band management.

The retail industry continues to undergo significant technological change, with many incorporating solutions like point of sale (POS) stations, security cameras, and self-service checkout kiosks powered by Internet of Things (IoT) devices. At the same time, network devices and software stacks are increasing in complexity and delicacy. Likewise, more data today gets sent over the network, and much of that processing happens at branches and other edge locations. Simply put, the modern retailer depends on always-on network connectivity – and should that connection become compromised, everything from transactions and communications to store security and digital signage could cease functioning.

During a network outage, retailers can lose money from missed revenue opportunities and recovery fees. Research shows that the cost of downtime for retailers is $1.1 million per hour. Larger businesses are likely to lose more money from downtime – a single hour of downtime costs small businesses roughly $24,620, compared to $540,000 for enterprises. Downtime can also decrease employee productivity, damage customer relationships, and result in incomplete or corrupted data. With such severe consequences, it’s crucial that businesses leverage strategies like out-of-band management and Failover to Cellular to create a more resilient network and overcome challenges like the last mile problem.

Building a More Resilient Network to Endure Outages 

Out-of-band management is a network strategy that provides an alternative means of accessing devices at remote locations when the primary network is unavailable. By leveraging out-of-band management, retailers can enable network administrators to securely and remotely monitor, access, and manage critical devices without disrupting normal operations. Out-of-band management and Failover to Cellular can also help retailers maximize uptime at dispersed locations while minimizing network disruptions through always-on connectivity. This means customers can continue to enjoy their shopping experience even if the primary connectivity method goes down. Failover to Cellular also allows retailers to maintain visibility of their entire network during an outage, helping administrators rapidly spot and remediate issues. Additionally, leading out-of-band solutions will help administrators adhere to security and encryption requirements while easily integrating with established IT networks and management systems.

An out-of-band management or other set-it-and-forget-it solution that can maintain network connectivity during disruptions is invaluable, saving money and reducing sleepless nights. Case in point: A large US furniture retailer utilized resilience gateways and LTE modems to promote robust network connectivity, ensuring business continuity for its nationwide stores, delivery centers, and data centers. Should the furniture retailer’s MPLS connection go down or a storm or natural disaster affect the broader carrier infrastructure, the compromised location will immediately switch to LTE, avoiding downtime. In one instance, the retailer’s outlets underwent a major circuit outage that lasted several weeks. Despite stores being cut off from their primary connectivity method, they relied on the retailer’s out-of-band provider’s LTE connection to seamlessly continue business operations.

What Is the Last Mile Problem, and How Retailers Can Overcome it

In addition to creating a more resilient network, retailers must account for the last mile problem; this is the final segment of the WAN (wide-area network) network that connects stores to data centers and distribution outlets to SD-WAN (software-defined wide-area network) and cloud services. These last miles are the weakest links of one’s connectivity; currently, many retailers depend on cloud services and SD-WAN, further exacerbating the last mile issue. Because all the network traffic for a store, branch, or distribution center funnels through single links with limited bandwidth, the amount of data transmitted through these links to one’s ISP gets significantly restricted. The resulting bottleneck exposes retailers to DoS (denial of service) attacks and human error, causing more outages. This last mile is also susceptible to physical issues, such as an accidental fiber cut that knocks out an entire network.

Retailers can protect themselves against the last mile problem through extra bandwidth and availability, along with uninterrupted Internet connectivity for branch LANs and equipment. Thankfully, the previously mentioned Out-of-band management and Failover to Cellular network strategies can detect outages and leverage alternative network pathways separate from the last mile. Combining Out of Band management and Failover to Cellular will provide retailers the speed to preserve a smooth network, including sufficient WAN resilience. Moreover, network engineers will be able to remediate issues remotely without having to make on-site visits.

Enhancing the Entire Network Lifecycle 

Recall the US furniture retailer: As well as needing a more resilient network, it had to accelerate the process of establishing remote connectivity to set up new store locations. The retailer used its Out of Band provider’s zero-touch provisioning solution. With this solution, the company could request initial setup resources through the local management network for its unconfigured devices. In this way, provisioning became automated, eliminating manual intervention. While having network strategies for first-day provisioning and days when the network goes down is essential, these events represent only a fraction of all network-related scenarios. That’s why, as retailers continue to adopt more advanced technology, it’s vital that they invest in solutions that can streamline daily management and monitoring activities, bringing greater value to the entire network lifecycle.

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