Disaster Recovery Networking Options: VPN, MPLS and Ethernet Pros & Cons

December 3, 2015 Networking Blog Articles

Data transfer is a key component of every company’s day-to-day business. We know that learning about how your data is transferred can be a daunting, acronym-filled task, so we’re here to break it down for you. Three of your primary disaster recovery networking options – virtual private networks (VPNs), Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), and Metro Ethernet (Metro-E) – are explained below. Ultimately, each of these three components works to provide you with a safe and effective method for transferring your company’s data.

VPN – Your Personal Network within a Network

A VPN is a type of secure, privatized network cut out of your usual public internet. This keeps data safe and secure by using encryption methods such as IPSEC, PPP, or SSL as your data is transmitted from sender to receiver. A VPN is established by creating encrypted tunnels within the public internet. So essentially, a VPN is just an encrypted, safe and private network, established within a larger public network.

VPNs have a variety of great features, like seamless integration across multiple networks and cheaper connectivity. Because VPNs utilize the public internet, there’s no need to invest in physical, dedicated circuits to span the distance from source to destination. Best of all, VPNs are both cheap and effective in that they utilize your existing internet connection, allowing coverage in any place that you can connect to the internet.

Unfortunately, VPNs are not without caveats. Because VPNs utilize the internet to send data between different locations, they are subject to issues like network congestion that can slow down your connection. Additionally, you can’t manage the path between the source and destination, so if a problem occurs somewhere in the middle then the equipment can’t be troubleshot. That being said, VPNs still play an important role in data connectivity, providing a safe and cost-effective route for data transfer.

VPN Advantages

  • Private, secure connection
  • Works seamlessly across multiple networks
  • Coverage anywhere with internet connection
  • Typically cheaper than MPLS or Metro-E
  • QoS prioritization can be managed on our routers

VPN Disadvantages

  • Subject to network congestion
  • Cannot troubleshoot equipment between source and destination

MPLS – A Dedicated Path for Prioritized Data

MPLS is a network mechanism that uses a router-based protocol to transport your data. While VPNs are a type of network, MPLS is a type of network mechanism. MPLS forwards your data in a more efficient, scalable and consistent way.

MPLS provides improved performance compared to VPN tunneling. This feature allows you to separate your data and prioritize it by using different categories or QoS, such as real time traffic or low priority traffic. Like VPNs, MPLS also provides a highly secure service, since its traffic is separated on the carrier’s network. One especially helpful feature of MPLS compared to VPN is that you can troubleshoot issues between the sender and receiver. So if a problem like packet loss, latency, or another performance issue arises between the source and destination, you can manage and monitor it.

Although MPLS has the advantage of being a dedicated path for data transmission, it is a more expensive and less universal alternative. Since different carriers have differences in designing and configuring their MPLS, you may need to work with other carriers in order to complete a path. MPLS is an additional expense outside of that of a VPN, since with an MPLS you have a dedicated circuit to your company.

MPLS Advantages

  • Highly secure
  • Improved performance compared to VPN
  • QoS from source to destination
  • Ability to troubleshoot between source and destination

MPLS Disadvantages

  • An additional expense compared to VPN
  • Not universal – need to coordinate with other carriers
  • More features = more expensive

Metro-E – Reliable and Flexible Connectivity

Metro-E refers to Ethernet over a wider geographical (or metro) area, usually city-run or contracted. Metro-E is not a router based technology. Ethernet operates at the more fundamental data-link level, creating peer-to-peer (P2P) paths or multi-point paths using switches instead of routers. While wide area networks (WANs) basically hand you a long network cable that you can build an IP network onto, Metro-E offers all of the advantages of your typical Ethernet connection, with increased reliability, scalability and bandwidth. Just when you thought that was great, it also boasts a very affordable price tag. Overall, Metro-E is often considered to be superior to most proprietary networks, being faster and more scalable.

Metro-E Advantages

  • Highly secure
  • Lower latency compared to router-based protocols
  • Dedicated, customizable bandwidth
  • Allows for custom QoS routing

For more information on your disaster recovery networking options and which is right for your unique IT environment, contact us today.

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