Wide area network (WAN) outages are unfortunately a fact of life for many enterprises, whether they are caused by natural disasters, unreliable aging networks, or human errors. Just this past week, a well known Tier 1 Internet Service Provider's (ISP) fiber cables outside of Philadelphia and Boston were accidentally cut during routine construction projects. This incident disrupted much of the internet traffic in the Northeastern United States, affecting thousands of businesses and millions of residential customers.

While incidents of this scale are rare, a surprisingly large number of businesses experience outages in their stores multiple times a month due to issues with their local ISPs. When a store’s wired internet connection goes down, merchants are left dead in the water, unable to process credit, debit, gift or loyalty cards. Cayan believes that having a WAN backup plan is critical to ensuring business continuity, especially as the trend toward adopting browser or "cloud" based points of sale accelerates. Having a wireless WAN backup option – such as those provided by cellular 3G and 4G networks - can help keep merchants running in spite of unreliable wired ISPs.

For many, a wireless WAN backup can be not only a lower-cost alternative to ISDN or DSL circuits, but it could actually be more effective in maintaining uptime at remote sites than wired options. In some areas, enterprises can wait months to get wired circuits brought into a location. In these cases, wireless 3G and 4G networks can serve as a quick and easy stopgap measure to get new remote sites up and running while waiting for primary WAN links to be installed and provisioned.

Wireless WAN backup offerings come in several forms. Some vendors offer custom-built modular radios designed to be installed within a router, such as the 3G and 4G Wireless WAN cards available for Cisco’s Integrated Services Router (ISR). Other routers rely on USB ports to interface with 3G or 4G wireless USB dongles available from wireless carriers. These USB dongles can typically be plugged in to commercial off the shelf routers, such as the popular Linksys, TP-Link, or Netgear routers that you can find at any electronics store.

Major wireless carriers in the USA, such as AT&T and Verizon, offer comprehensive wireless coverage (1, 2) at reasonable prices. AT&T currently offers a 90 day pre-paid data plan that provides 1GB of LTE-speed data for $25 [3]. Verizon offers a similar pre-paid plan - $35 for 2GB of LTE data, good for 2 months [4]. Credit card processing won’t use a lot of your data cap, especially if you’re only using your wireless data plan as a backup option.

For those merchants looking for less of a "DIY" approach, there are a number of packaged solutions and vendors to choose from: Cradlepoint Business Continuity - Failover, SimplyFailover.com, No Wire Access Internet or Verizon Wireless Routers among others.

Cayan recommends that all businesses protect their uptime by having a WAN backup plan, whether it’s a secondary wired connection or a wireless connection. Installing a wireless backup solution can be a quick, reliable and inexpensive solution to ensuring your store’s business continuity when your wired ISP fails.

[All products and companies listed above are meant to be illustrative examples of commercially available solutions in the market today. Cayan does not endorse or recommend any particular product or vendor.]

Dominic Lachowicz is Cayan’s SVP of Engineering. When he’s not coding, you’re likely to run into him on an Ultimate Frisbee field.

​​Business Tips: Have a WAN Backup Plan

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