Cloud computing — using the Web for networking, file storage, and to run business applications — has become a viable alternative to maintaining an office server. But the more dependent you become on the Internet, the more critical it is to have reliable Internet access, which is why you need “failover” access, i.e., more than one way to get online if your primary connection goes down.
True story: I was recently at a client’s office when the Internet access failed completely and without warning. This company relies on the Web for everything, including access to its accounting system, its project management system, its document management system, even the office phones. Project managers, salespeople, and others with mobile Internet access were able to keep working, so projects kept moving forward, but the office itself had to be closed until service was restored two days later. A week later, they were still playing catch-up.
Today most areas have both wired broadband connectivity (cable modem or DSL) and 3G cellular broadband available. One cost-effective failover option is a network router that lets you share a cellular data card or even a tethered smartphone. Look for terms like “WAN/WWAN connectivity” (Wide Area Network/Wireless Wide Area Network). The most flexible models will have both a USB plug (so you can tether a smartphone) and a PC-Card and/or “ExpressCard” slot for a conventional wireless data card like you’d use in a laptop. The best models will automatically switch from one connection to the other, but that’s not usually necessary for a small office.
If your office computers have Wi-Fi available, another option is a “personal hotspot” device such as MyFi, available from your cellular provider, or even one of the new hotspot-enabled smartphones such as the AndroidOS 2.2-equipped Droid.
Failover capability need not be expensive. The Top Global 6800, which I’ve used for many years, is available on Amazon.com for less than $200. An old laptop can be repurposed as a software-based router that can drive your network online from a tethered smartphone or a PC-Card/3G modem.
Wireless is not your only failover option. It’s more expensive overall, but you can also purchase routers that will load-balance a DSL connection with a cable modem, or even DSL/Cable with a dial-up modem. Regardless of which technology you choose, being ready with a backup connection is just good business if you depend on “the cloud.”