Since IT is at the heart of most businesses’ operations, it makes sense to ensure the applications and systems you use are running to their full potential – but, since IT’s such an enormous subject – where would you start? For many companies, MPLS is the answer – so, here we’ll look at what it is – and how it can help to boost your IT network and applications.
What exactly is MPLS?
MPLS stands for ‘Multi-Protocol Label Switching’. Although it’s something that’s often talked about in relation to your internet connection, it’s not actually a way of connecting devices – but instead a way of managing existing connections and optimizing them.
Although the term sounds complex, it can actually be broken down quite simply:
Multi-protocol: A protocol is language type used between IT devices. Multi-protocol simply means that a system is capable of understanding and handling all of the different languages devices use to communicate with one another.
Label: No real jargon here! A label is simply a digital version of a sticky label that’s attached to something physical. In MPLS terms, it’s a tiny digital label (or the number of labels) attached to data as it’s transmitted – and then used to identify how that data should be handled as it crosses the network.
Switching: Within an MPLS system there’s an ‘LSR’ – label switch router – that is configured to make sure the network handles certain labels in certain ways. For instance, if you have an application that is mission critical – an MPLS system can identify data that relates to that application, then make sure its delivery is prioritized across your network.
How does MPLS work?
Now you’ve got a breakdown of what each part of an MPLS system does, you can get a good overview of how it works overall – but to understand why it’s important, it’s worth considering it next to a network that doesn’t have MPLS functionality.
Without MPLS, data transfer is something of a free-for-all. Every network has a bandwidth limit – the amount of data that can be transferred at any one time. Exceed this limit and data starts to bottleneck – causing applications to slow or entirely fail. With MPLS, the most important data on your network is prioritized, so, if an application must run, it will – and, when your throughput starts to get toward the limits of your bandwidth, only lower priority data will suffer.
In real terms, this means that the applications you rely on to keep your business running will always run.
What impact could MPLS have on your business?
So, MPLS sounds useful – but, like all IT infrastructure, it’s going to come with the price tag – so what return on that investment will you see in your company? Obviously, it’s impossible to put a one-size-fits-all value on these benefits – so you might need to do some number crunching – but these are the areas organizations tend to see improve:
Increased IT network speed
Quite simply, MPLS will speed up your network. By using intelligent routing systems, different data types are assigned a priority level, then handled accordingly. As a result, the applications you’re running will respond more quickly – even when there’s a heavy load on your network.
Improved user experience
If your end-users interact with customers, in any way, then making sure they have the systems you use to facilitate that interaction constantly at their fingertips (and constantly working quickly) is the difference between average customer service and exceptional service. Real-time systems can be prioritized to run no matter what else is happening on your network – so you can be sure that both end-users and customers are getting a slick service.
There’s a double uptime benefit that comes from MPLS. Firstly, your systems are far less likely to go down – since the data is being handled more effectively – but secondly, there are a far more ‘hands off’ approach then needed to maintain. With less physical adjustments needed – maintenance time is reduced – and, along with it, there’s a reduction in the possibility that anything will go wrong when maintenance is being performed.
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A simpler and more efficient network
MPLS can be used to streamline the connections between two different geographical locations – so, rather than complex network infrastructure, the systems essentially operates like there’s a long ethernet cable connecting the two sites. This simplification means a massive reduction in variables to investigate should network engineers ever need to work on your IT systems.
If you’ve ever considered growing your network – perhaps to keep up with expansion in the business, then you’d have traditionally needed your IT engineers to create virtual ‘tunnels’ that safeguard the transmission of your data across supplied internet circuits. When you’re using MPLS, this requirement is removed – and a far simpler system ensures that your data always finds the most intelligent route between two locations. As a result, the legwork that’s involved with setting up new sites is significantly reduced.
How would you bring MPLS into your organization?
It would be difficult to look through that list of benefits and not see at least a handful of areas in which your business would benefit – so, what’s the next step? You should definitely make sure the MPLS supplier you’re considering offers the best possible service – and you’ll need to make sure everyone involved with your IT network can have some input – to ensure you’re getting a product that meets perfectly with your needs.
Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer as to whether MPLS will fit your needs, instead, you might want to consider:
- Is IT crucial to your business delivery?
- Is uptime across different locations vital for your company?
- Do you rely on real-time applications to deliver your service?
- Do you ever find that your applications run slowly?
If the answer to any of these is a ‘yes’ – then exploring an MPLS system might make perfect business sense.