DATA NETWORK | Reducing IT Costs

Internet Service Providers

There have been many advances in internet service provider (ISP) services over the last several years in terms of bandwidth, availability, and reliability. It is true that they do not offer a full service level agreement if you are crossing multiple Internet providers between a remote site and your data center, but it has become reliable enough to use in many situations.

From the chart you developed to define the prioritization of infrastructure components, identify sites that do not perform critical business functions and investigate moving these locations to an ISP connection. The costs will decrease and usually bandwidth will increase to provide quicker response times to the business at this location. For locations with two wide area network (WAN) connections installed in order to provide a more reliable service, consider moving one of these locations to an ISP connection. This will lower the overall cost for supporting each location. Also, set up routing so the business traffic will route over the existing WAN circuit and utility traffic will route over the ISP connection. Then you can route the business traffic over the ISP connection in the event of a failure of the WAN connection. However, since utility traffic is nonessential, you do not need to route it over the WAN connection in the event of a failure with the ISP connection. You will save the expense of upgrading the WAN connection to support all the utility traffic in the event of an ISP connection failure. Examples of utility traffic are software distribution, antivirus updates, and FTPs. You are also able to route Internet bound web traffic over the ISP connection. Routing this traffic over the ISP connection relieves congestion on the primary WAN link and provides better service for business traffic. Since the ISP connection provides higher bandwidth for lower costs, using this connection to support video applications is a more cost-effective solution than using the WAN service.


Users never have enough bandwidth. Complaints of slow response time will come in on a regular basis unless you have oversupplied locations with bandwidth, which is not advisable if you are trying to control costs. Ensure that locations are actually using the bandwidth provided for business traffic before making an upgrade. Bring in tools to provide the ability to analyze traffic at a location. Determine if users at this location are performing nonbusiness bandwidth-consuming functions, such as downloading MP3 songs or listening to streaming audio. If this is the case, have this traffic stopped by talking to management at the location and identifying the staff performing these functions. Taking the time to do this will help foster an environment where employees use computer resources only for business functions.

You can implement many products and services to stop employees from using the Internet for certain nonbusiness traffic. This is a preferable solution as it stops the downloading of MP3 songs, listening to streaming audio, etc. It saves personnel time in tracking down violators and prevents slower response times at a business site. However, this is not a cheap option. If funds are limited, spend the money on analysis tools because you need to know traffic patterns either way.

As a rule, you want to provide enough bandwidth capacity to support business requirements at a location. There may be sites or vendor price points that make oversubscription of bandwidth a good selection. If there are business-critical sites for your organization, then managing bandwidth too closely may cause a significant impact to the business that is not worth the savings. Spending more at these locations to provide extra capacity is worth the cost. The other decision in bandwidth management is looking at vendors' price points. Some WAN vendors have started providing full T1 Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) connections at a lower price point than higher-speed fractional T1 connections.

Multiple Vendors

At a minimum, have two vendors for WAN services. There is no vendor that has the best pricing for all services. As new services are required, have the vendors submit bids. Let them both know that you are requesting bids from multiple vendors. This helps in reaching the lowest cost solution from both vendors with a minimal time investment from your organization. When ordering the same service from both vendors for a single site to ensure carrier redundancy, compare their service delivery time against each other. The more competitive positions you are able to put them in, the better.

two vendors against each other on an on-going basis will provide some savings, the more significant savings will come during contract negotiations. Vendors will state that the larger amount that you spend and commit, the larger discount they provide. It is true that vendors will provide a higher initial discount in the negotiation process, but where the discount ends up is more a factor of how well you are able to convince the vendor that you are willing to switch service to another provider. If you only have one vendor, it is more difficult to convince them you are willing to switch.

Another compelling reason to use two vendors is to provide two physically separated points of presence. For example, a backhoe could sever only one of the cables rather than both.
If using two vendors, be sure you clearly define roles and responsibilities to minimize finger pointing. Vendor contracts should include provisions for working with other suppliers.

Network Design

There are many ways to design a network However, some network designs are more cost-effective than other designs. The following are ways that companies can improve the cost effectiveness of their network design based upon their needs:
§  Dedicated solutions are typically more expensive than shared solutions. A dedicated circuit between two locations will cost more than installing the two locations on MPLS. Assuming one of these locations is your data center, you are now able to use this MPLS connection to support other multiple locations. Once you add a site to the MPLS network, it will have access to all other locations. This solution provides the ability to use more cost-effective bandwidth at the data center (higher bandwidth drives a lower cost per KB), which reduces the amount of equipment required.
§  will substantially save costs with the implementation of a disaster recovery site. You are able to connect the disaster recovery site to the MPLS network and immediately have access to all sites.
§  Use Internet services where applicable. Internet service does not come with a service level agreement (SLA), nor does it require the same time to restore as other services. However, overall Internet services such as DSL and dedicated T1 access have become more reliable. If the particular location does not need the SLA provided by other services, installing an Internet connection saves costs.
§  Supporting Microsoft services over a WAN requires expensive high levels of bandwidth. Investigate WAN optimization products that provide Local Area Network (LAN)-like response times over a WAN without the need to increase bandwidth.
§  Validate assumptions about how the business functions as the business needs might have changed over time and you may need to make network design changes. For example, one company looked at how sales people in the field completed work and was able to reduce costs by making changes to the network design. These changes more closely match how work was being done—including at home, at Starbucks, and at the office. Up-times and redundancy needs in field offices were also different from when they originally designed the network.
§  In times of desperation, approach the business with the costs of backup services to primary WAN connections. Include statistics of outage frequencies and durations. The business areas may be willing to run the risk of an outage given the costs to provide the backup during tough times.
§  of new technologies and consider using them to lower telecom wireless and data services costs. For example, MPLS can carry data and voice traffic at lower costs, or use session initiation protocol (SIP) to consolidate local voice, long distance, and data services.
§  Review chatty applications, the possibility of content or data distribution, and application re-design improvements to reduce network bandwidth requirements.
§  Investigate wide area Ethernet access as an alternative to DS3s and T1s.

Network Monitoring

Monitor the performance of network components to ensure they are operating efficiently. Check network and telephony traffic to find out how much capacity is necessary. Bandwidth may be oversubscribed. Monitor consumption for opportunities to right size and scale back on costs for WAN, Internet, and telephony connections.