All the jargon and technical terms involved in growing a business IT network can be seriously confusing, especially if you’re not much of an IT person.
One of these scary terms you may have come across is MPLS. Don’t worry just yet though, as MPLS is something that can really add to your business IT network. Prepare for a no-nonsense guide to what exactly MPLS is, and what it can really mean for you and your business.
MPLS stands for Multi-Protocol Label Switching. It’s likely that if you’ve ever come across the term before, it’s been amidst talk of ‘connections’. However, MPLS isn’t something that creates connections between your network and the wider world. What MPLS really is, is a way of managing all the data that travels between all the connections across your network.
Let’s get into what each part of that acronym means, keeping it simple of course. ‘Multi-Protocol’ is referring to the fact that MPLS is a technique for managing data, which will work regardless of whatever language (protocol) each network device uses to communicate with the other network devices.
‘Label’ refers to a very small piece of data, which is added to the existing data in the network.
The ‘Switching’ part of MPLS comes in here – the Label is added so that a Label Switch Router (LSR) knows exactly how to handle data depending on which label the data is given.
Network-wide Data Delivery
Picture all your data as many, many packages, all getting delivered where they need to be over a large geographical area. The Labels mentioned earlier help identify where the packages need to go, and how high their priority is. The Multi-Protocol aspect ensures that whatever language the data is in makes no difference. Finally, the Switching element makes sure the priority order of each delivery can be changed on the fly, according to what the network needs.
This all helps prevent issues such as your package delivery drivers being sent off miles and miles in one direction to deliver their first package, and then finding out that their second package needed to be delivered super close to the delivery depot. MPLS ensures that all your data, regardless of language, gets exactly where it needs to be on time depending on its priority, all the while assessing the priority and making changes dynamically when needed.
How can this help your business?
Hopefully, now you should have a bit of an idea of what exactly MPLS is, and how exactly it does what it does. But this isn’t quite enough for you as the decision-maker for your business. What you really need to know is what MPLS really means for your business, what benefits it has, and whether these benefits are even worth investing in MPLS – and luckily for you, we’re getting into some of these benefits next.
Increasing the speed of your network
Business networks can get tremendously busy. When different types of traffic are all being handled across your network, unfortunately, it is common for congestion to happen. However, with MPLS, each of your different varieties of traffic can be routed through pathways that differ from the standard, which not only makes data delivery faster, it also reduces how much data is held up in heavy traffic.
Ensuring your network is kept simple
It’s possible for an MPLS connection to be implemented between two geographical locations, and the effect it has is very similar to having an extremely long ethernet cable between the two areas. It’s not quite as simple as that – there need to be a few jumps between carriers and devices along the way – but if done right with all the correct labeling, all your data can be sped through the process, ultimately keeping the way your network looks and acts simple and efficient.
A simplified approach to networking is basically always a positive for the IT professionals who work on your network, especially if there’s a fault, which needs to be addressed – a simplified approach removes variables ensuring whatever issues there are can be found much easier.
Improving the experience of users
Businesses are increasingly making use of both cloud-based and real-time applications in order to ensure their end-users can provide an excellent experience for customers. Poor network performance can greatly hinder the tasks of end-users, which is where MPLS comes in – its switching mechanism helps user experience remain consistent, making for much-improved delivery of services.
The benefits of this can be huge, especially for people who have contended with data loss and network latency, which can often occur when their connection is being overwhelmed by all the data, leading to data packets being dropped by the network to prevent applications from freezing and stopping working altogether.
Acceleration of expansion
It’s common for the more traditional approaches of a network expansion to involve a convoluted mesh of ‘tunnels’ being configured – these tunnels protect the routes through wider circuits to make sure data is delivered with speed and accuracy. MPLS can replace this altogether, making use of its speedy systems to get data delivered along the most efficient route possible.
A key feature of MPLS is its ability to help you alter the priority of different types of traffic on the fly. Let’s say you need to ensure that a real-time system stays up – you can simply alter your MPLS settings to make sure that it does. The MPLS system knows when and how to borrow bandwidth from other traffic types in order to make certain higher priority applications and systems stay working, regardless of whether other applications are causing a strain.
Network management becomes increasingly easy the more efficient and simplified your network becomes. Managing a network tends to not be much of a problem for more experienced IT teams or contractors, but even so – with more management comes a higher risk of human error. Once the need for human intervention is gone, the chance that your network remains up is greatly increased, so you can continue to serve the needs of your business and customers.
Is MPLS the Right Choice?
At the end of the day, the answer to this question is not a simple yes or no, and as such, it would be unhelpful for us to give you one of those answers. Instead, consider the following:
- Is reducing downtime and increasing uptime over several locations important to you and your business?
- Does your IT network ever suffer from congestion from extremely heavy traffic?
- In your network, are the same connections being used by many different types of data?
- Is your IT network being used for voice and data by your business?
- Do you consider being able to quickly facilitate new sites helpful to the growth of your business?
Chances are, if you answered yes to any one of these questions, MPLS may well be right for you, especially if your business or company is growing. MPLS isn’t generally the least costly solution, you’re definitely getting bang for your buck, as long as you’re getting the best service you can from whoever is providing it for you. If you choose MPLS, ensure you shop around and communicate with any potential providers as well as asking your current IT team or IT service provider. With the right communication, you can ensure to receive a service that is tailored to your exact needs.
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