Improving Network Uptime

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1 Improving Network Uptime Protecting transactions, critical data transfers, and/or operational visibility from outages Convenience stores sell various combinations of food, fuel and groceries, but the most important thing that they offer is time-saving convenience. Fast service includes the ability to handle credit and debit card transactions quickly and efficiently, but even the most reliable broadband connections fail occasionally. When a breakdown occurs due to telecom issues, server problems or even severe weather, WAN failover automatically moves the convenience store s network infrastructure to a standby Networks fail for many reasons, from severe weather to telecom breakdowns. WAN failover acts like an in-store insurance policy for your network. connection, and business continues as usual. The store continues to handle credit and debit card transactions - at fuel pumps and cash registers - without disruption. As soon as the store s primary service is restored, the network can be configured to automatically revert to the primary circuit. Reinforcing reliable connectivity through WAN failover is the only way a C-store can ensure that critical operations continue without interruption. Why It s Important Reinforcing reliable connectivity through improved Internet connection or WAN failover is the best way convenience store can guarantee swift card transactions and ensure that its critical operations continue without interruption of service. In addition, convenience stores are increasingly relying on web applications and data stored in the cloud to conduct their day-to-day operations. Back-office accounting packages like PDI are moving to a hosted model versus standalone software. All of these changes require VPNs with stable, reliable connections. QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER Why do you need improved availability? What are you availability requirements? What applications are most critical? What are your critical application bandwidth requirements? Are there VPNs? What is your budget? Despite all the things convenience stores have in common, each one is unique. When it comes to selecting a WAN failover system, one size does not fit all. Most convenience store operators want the same thing: a reliable, cost-effective option that will reduce their exposure to business risks. Let s take a high-level look at some of those options. By: Tom Yemington, Vice President of Sales and Marketing Improving Your Primary Connection As a preventative measure, some businesses may choose to improve the reliability of their primary Internet connection. The most common ways to achieve this are through the use of a T1 line or MPLS, but there are others. Refer to Acumera s whitepaper, Getting Your C-Store Connected, for a more comprehensive study of the common types of high-speed connectivity and return on broadband investments.

2 A dial-up connection can handle credit and debit transactions, but is extremely slow taking 10 seconds or more to approve a single transaction. T1 A T1 line is a legacy broadband Internet technology popular among businesses due to its speed, efficiency and Service Level Agreement (SLA) uptime. It is able to carry both voice and data on the same digital circuit and can be capable of transferring signals at up to megabits per second across its cables. Though T1 is technically competitive with DSL or cable broadband, it is also substantially more expensive and is often considered cost-prohibitive for small businesses. MPLS Another option for improving primary Internet connection is Multi-Protocol Label Switching, or MPLS. MPLS is similar to a VPN in that it is a private, secure network. However, MPLS normally travels exclusively over the service provider s network and not across the general Internet. One disadvantage to MPLS is that it is not necessarily easy to manage but, as with a T1 line, the major drawback is cost. Both MPLS and T1 cost more than cable or DSL broadband PLUS cellular failover. Therefore in terms of economics, failover is likely the best choice. Options For Failover For those looking to add a backup to their primary Internet connection, there are several options including dial-up, a second wired broadband such as DSL or cable, and cellular broadband. Again, Acumera s whitepaper, Getting your C-Store Connected, offers an in-depth view of some of these technologies. Dial-up A decade ago, dial-up failover would have been an obvious choice. Today, however, it is considered to be extremely slow, often requiring seconds to approve a single transaction, plus the time it takes to manually connect each time. In addition, dial-up is prone to disconnects and dropouts, especially if your connection is inactive for any length of time. While dial-up service itself might be inexpensive it is likely necessary to have a second phone line installed. Finally, with the advent of EMV and its more demanding communication requirements dial backup may no longer be a viable alternative. Wired Broadband A second wired broadband connection is a relatively simple redundancy measure that a retailer can use to ensure that the store remains connected to critical services. It usually involves a cheaper - and comparatively slower - secondary Internet connection to help secure the store s technology, such as a DSL line backing up a cable connection. Cellular Broadband Out of the many technologies available for WAN failover, the most reliable, cost-effective backup solution for most C-stores is cellular broadband. It s easy to install and offers much faster speeds than dial-up. Most importantly, dial-up only supports transactions while cellular failover can be configured to support transactions, operational visibility and other critical applications. Since it s separate from your traditional high-speed connection, cellular broadband is not External cellular connections provide the most flexibility and cost control of all the WAN failover options.

3 prone to the same outages, and with the advent of pooled data plans, a group of stores can share a savings account of data, which limits the chance of one store going over its data limit if it loses connectivity for several days in the same billing period. The most important consideration with cellular broadband revolves around the hardware used in the setup. There are two types of hardware: on-board cellular and external cellular. The benefit of on-board cellular, where the wireless hardware is integrated into a firewall or other device, is the smaller device footprint. Acumera has significant experience in development and deployment of wireless technology and we believe wireless radios integrated into router and firewall equipment have sub-optimal performance and therefore should not be used for mission-critical WAN failover. Instead of on-board cellular, Acumera recommend s separate, external cellular hardware for best performance, highest reliability, and lowest overall costs. The greatest advantage of external over on-board cellular is its ease of upgrade. Cellular standards and products evolve at different rates than networking standards. For example, in 2006, the best available cellular user equipment (UE) technology in the United States was HSDPA which offered download speeds of about 2Mbit per second and upload speeds of about 300Kbit per second. Currently, the best available cellular UE technology is LTE which offers download speeds of about 50Mbit per second and upload speeds of about 20Mbit per second. Cellular standards and service will continue to evolve and improve and external cellular hardware can be upgraded when necessary. For this reason alone, it is clearly best to use a separate cellular device rather than integrated cellular to take advantage of the most up-to-date and most reliable cellular broadband service. Failover Software Software such as Acumera s Apps for your Network Dual WAN Failover App provide high-availability network connectivity by automatically switching between primary and secondary Internet connections if one or the other fails. Production installations using Acumera s app exhibit better than 99.99% uptime with commercial DSL broadband and commercial cellular broadband. The Dual WAN Failover app has fail-over and fail-back settings, is highly configurable, and includes options to test multiple IP addresses (many commercially available systems test a fixed IP address and are prone to false-negative test that drive network instability). Acumera s Dual WAN Failover App can also be used with wired primary broadband and wired secondary broadband for seamless failover protection. A second advantage of external cellular hardware over on-board cellular is that, the integrated cellular modems are typically tied to a single wireless carrier. This one-size-fits-all approach leaves many store locations with little or no cellular coverage leading to poor network availability. In order to optimize cellular connection reliability and speed, it is necessary to check all major carriers and use cellular user equipment appropriate to the carrier with the best coverage at each given location. Here again, it is best to use a separate cellular device rather than an integrated device. Finally, since the best data throughput and connection quality depend on signal strength it is important to install cellular devices in the part of the store where there is optimal cellular signal. When a cellular modem is integrated into a firewall or router, the cellular antenna most likely ends up in the manager s office in the back of the store or in an equipment cabinet with the rest of the networking gear. Trying to solve the problem by using an external antenna with long RF cables to simply move the cellular antenna only exacerbates the problem rather than improve it because an RF cable longer than a couple of meters can actually reduce the signal strength at the modem. When using an external cellular modem with an Ethernet handoff the entire cellular modem can be relocated to a position with good cellular reception and connected via reliable and low-cost Cat5/6 cable. Screenshots from Acumera s Apps for your Network Dual WAN Failover App

4 Considerations Good business operations require the security of WAN failover connectivity to make sure stores can process customer transactions and share valuable fuel, operations and/or accounting data with the appropriate parties. C-store retailers must evaluate their individual operations and business needs when choosing a backup solution. They should evaluate different hardware types and understand the antenna and signal strength at each store to ensure that a backup connection is available when needed. Because WAN uptime is vital to any retail operation, it is important to work with a service provider that has a proven track record in developing and deploying wireless technology. A knowledgeable consultant or supplier will evaluate hardware options on behalf of the retailer, determine the configuration and signal strength needed for a dependable backup connection for each store and coordinate installations with third party service providers. Equally important, a proactive provider will know how to manage the costs of a reliable system that safeguards a convenience store s business while conforming to all-important PCI compliance standards. A knowledgeable supplier will evaluate hardware options on behalf of the retailer and determine the configuration needed for a dependable backup connection. About Acumera Founded in 2002, Acumera provides Trusted Connection Services to multisite merchants, specializing in the reduction of headaches caused by network management and security issues. Customers are free to focus on running their businesses because Acumera actively manages their networks and provides unparalleled visibility and remote management capability. Acumera gets customers stores, network clients and devices securely connected and keeps them connected. In addition to network status, merchants have real-time insight into key operational measures, such as fuel inventory levels and environmental and food safety temperatures. As a result, Acumera customers say they love their network.

5 Critical Services for Convenience Stores Broadband Qualification, Provisioning & Support Secure Network Development & Management Network/Device Monitoring & Alert Messaging Apps for C-store Operations (ATG, Temperature Monitoring, etc.) Virtual Private Network Management PCI Tools & Support Whitepapers Available from Acumera Improving C-Store Operations with Network Automation A New Era of Security in Convenience Stores Advantages and Benefits of Running PDI/Enterprise on an Acumera Managed Network Improving Store Support and Revenue with Proactive Support Methodology Business Considerations for Leveraging Wi-Fi at C-Stores Technicial Considerations for Implementing Wi-Fi in C-Stores Getting Your C-Store Connected Improving Network Uptime PCI-DSS Compliance Support Our goal is to reduce the headaches our customers experience maintaining their Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance. To that end, we are constantly improving our systems and services to provide the most secure networks and to support our customers compliance audits. Acumera is a fully PCI compliant service provider, which means we have taken the steps to complete our own PCI compliance assessment and obtain an annual Report on Compliance (ROC). Acumera is fully compliant with ALL applicable requirements and controls. Uniquely, we won t promote that our compliance will ensure our customers compliance because it can t. There is no 3rd party service that completely removes merchant responsibility for PCI DSS compliance. Tom Yemington Vice President of Sales and Marketing Nick Franco Senior Director of Sales (512) Dennis Jensen Senior Director of Sales (952)

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