M2M network resilience: are users under-estimating its importance?

The M2M sector is fast becoming a victim of its own success. As the world wakes up to the infinite possibilities of empowering machines to communicate, the fight for bandwidth and reliability has highlighted the fragility of the public network, particularly when it comes to ‘no fail’ applications.

In the last year, I’ve seen a number of critical M2M failures where traffic over the public network has halted – either through over-capacity or technical issues. For applications where resilience is a ‘nice to have’ but not essential, users can live with such downtime.

But for those requiring total confidence AND security, staying within the public network is not an option. The critical failures witnessed left enterprises paralysed – assets not traceable, CCTV monitoring equipment with no pictures, and a feeling of complete helplessness as the Mobile Network Operators looked to restore the outage.

The M2M connectivity eco-system is following that of office telephony and networking. From public network, to ISDN and ADSL, to leased line – the commercial world soon realised that ownership of their networks was the only way to ensure security and resilience.

Today, organisations of all sizes are now considering the range of options to keep their SIM-enabled connected devices online, all of the time, with end-to end security. And it’s becoming apparent that for many developers and systems integrators, private network connectivity for important no-fail applications is becoming the de facto standard.

Developing a private network is possible but with this comes big capital costs and the need to continually review infrastructure and investment as networks are added to the platform. Complete security, failover and back-up – yes to all of this. However, it is increasingly noticeable that organisations that have already chosen this route or are about to consider their network requirement, are thinking again – for many, managing a private network is not generally core competency to their mainstream business activity.

Overlaying a secure private communication platform that transcends all of the mobile networks is another, more cost-effective option. Here, organisations get all of the advantages of having their own leased line, private access point and data centres… but without the capital cost. In the last three years, such platforms have come into their own as users of all sizes recognise the need to ensure connectivity without outage.

Private networks give systems integrators and their clients unrivalled levels of reliability without the overheads. With no hardware, middleware or software, the private network is a totally secure global environment where connectivity is united across one or many Mobile Networks. Private data networks mean that organisations, whether multi-national or smaller SME, avoid the ongoing challenges of managing their own communications infrastructure.

So users need to explore the risks associated with public network access. Whilst the economic and environmental benefits of M2M connectivity are clear for all to see, it is the reliability factor that must be front of mind as the world continues to make connections with even more devices.

My advice is to put the outage risk assessment high on the agenda as you seek to plan new deployments. Talk to your provider to measure up cost versus benefit. Investigate SLAs, that’s if they are available at all. And remember that with most M2M applications, the success is often measured in their lifetime longevity – reliance on a public network may be good for today, but think again about the usage surge in the months and years ahead.

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Philip Cole started his career in the IT industry selling multi-user accounting systems (UNIX) for Team Systems at Altos. Having visited a show where he came across a ‘luggable’ laptop he realised the future looked portable. At the age of only 19 he set up his own laptop assembly enterprise, with dreams of becoming an IT Entrepreneur. Within a couple of years, the company had achieved an impressive turnover of £4 million and had become a major supplier of removable hard disk laptops to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). In 1996, after a period of significant growth, Philip and his business partner of 14 years, Oliver Tucker, joined forces by merging their businesses to create a distribution and assembly organisation focusing on the supply of PDAs, related mobile devices, and supporting software solutions. They also laid out plans to develop a laptop range – Pico, which was to become the UK’s 4th largest Tier 3 brand marketed directly through Pico Direct. With mobile connectivity in mind, Philip’s entrepreneurial spirit was further seen across a number of online ventures culminating in the formation of Wireless Logic in 2000. Today, Wireless Logic is recognised as Europe’s leading independent provider of M2M connectivity. During 2012, the organisation will approach 1 million contracted SIMs. Its Head office is located in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.