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What is Network Redundancy and Why Does It Matter?

By: Blair Felter on July 5, 2019

Reliable networks are more important than ever, as businesses use them to access corporate and cloud resources. Users are constantly connected via mobile devices throughout the day and night. For many companies, their networks are the primary point of contact for delivering products and services to their customers.

A network outage, then, whether it's caused by equipment failure, an unexpected cyberattack, or some form of human error, can be devastating for a business. Every moment of system downtime translates into very real financial losses in the form of lost revenue, diminished brand reputation, and missed opportunities. Whether they’re relying on a cloud provider or a colocation data center for their network services, it’s vital for companies to understand what kind of network redundancy systems are in place to protect them from downtime.

What is Redundancy in Networking?

The underlying concept of redundant networks is simple. Without any backup systems in place, all it takes is one point of failure in a network to disrupt or bring down an entire system. Network redundancy is the process of adding additional instances of network devices and lines of communication to help ensure network availability and decrease the risk of failure along the critical data path.

Generally speaking, there are two forms of redundancy that data centers use to ensure systems will stay up and running:

  • Fault Tolerance: A fault-tolerant redundant system provides full hardware redundancy, mirroring applications across two or more identical systems that run in tandem. Should anything go wrong with the primary system, the mirrored backup system will take over with no loss of service. Ideal for any operations in which any amount of downtime is unacceptable (such as industrial or healthcare applications), fault-tolerance redundant systems are complex and often expensive to implement.
  • High Availability: A software-based redundant system, high-availability uses clusters of servers that monitor one another and have failover protocols in place. If something goes wrong with one server, the backup servers take over and restart applications that were running on the failed server. This approach to network redundancy is less infrastructure intensive, but it does tolerate a certain amount of downtime in that there is a brief loss of service while the backup servers boot up applications.

Network Redundancy and Infrastructure

One of the first steps of a network redundancy plan is to create a network strategy that reviews existing infrastructure. After all, even the most extensive software redundancies won’t amount to very much if servers don’t have electricity. A quality colocation data center should have extensive backup systems in place to ensure that power will always be available. Well-maintained UPS systems can ensure that servers can switch over from electrical power to backup generator power without losing any data or applications.

All valuable data should be backed up regularly, preferably in another location. A good data center location strategy maps out the best places to replicate and store data so it can be easily accessed in the event that other redundant systems fail and the main network goes down. By using more than one data center, companies can ensure that even if some disaster occurs, they will be able to carry on with minimal disruption.

Colocation data centers regularly conduct tests to assess the integrity of their backup systems and redundant networks. They can test different connections by physically disconnecting hardware to make sure failover occurs as anticipated. If things do not go as planned during testing, data center managers then create an after-action report that lists the items they need to fix as a result of the testing. They also create a procedure to follow for both automatic and manual flip over. 

DDoS Protection

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) volumetric cyberattacks are a critical threat to today’s networks. In 2018, these attacks became larger than ever before, with two record-setting occurring within just a few days of each other. Many networks are simply unprepared to deal with the avalanche of access requests that these attacks unleash in an effort to crash targeted servers. Even worse, volumetric cyberattacks are relatively easy to execute, making them particularly appealing for hackers looking to disrupt network services.

While many companies offer DDoS mitigation services, one of the best methods for preventing these attacks is implementing redundant networks with flexible internet access. By blending a variety of ISPs, data centers can leverage their connectivity to help reroute network services when a DDoS attack is underway. vXchnge’s vX\defend, for instance, uses diverse traffic routing options to identify and bypass volumetric attacks without compromising bandwidth or increasing network latency. Services like this are critical to delivering high levels of network uptime that keep businesses up and running. 

Modern businesses require a continuous connection to the internet and cloud for mission-critical applications and resources. Without network redundancy, the failure of one device can take down an entire network, and it sometimes takes hours if not days to restore services.

Organizations must weigh the cost of redundancy against the risk of an outage. In most cases, redundant networks will offer significant value. By creating and implementing a plan for network redundancy, they can ensure that their mission-critical applications are still accessible during times of need.

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