Expanding, improving, or even just changing your IT network is something that can be scary to think about, especially if you’re not all that IT literate.
Don’t let fear put you off though. There are countless ways of realising your IT network, and there are certain elements that can seriously transform how your business works, all for the better – and one of these elements is an MPLS system.
Of course, there’s no way of knowing if an MPLS system is right for your business without understanding what it does, and to that end, we’ve put together a simple guide to help you get to the bottom of what MPLS is, does, and what that might mean when it comes to your business.
Breaking Down the Acronym
If you’re not an IT person, the acronym ‘MPLS’ likely means nothing to you, no matter how many times you may have heard it whipped out by IT professionals. That’s all about to change though, as we break the acronym down in easy terms.
Those letters stand for ‘Multi-Protocol Label Switching’. This may still sound frightening, but fear not, it’s fairly simple to understand if we break it down piece by piece.
A ‘protocol’ can be thought of as a kind of language that IT devices, such as computers, use to communicate with each other. It’s a guide so to speak, a set of rules explaining how the device should use data. If two IT devices share the same protocol, any data that passes between them is handled in the same way. If a system is ‘Multi-Protocol’ data can be managed regardless of what protocol is being used by devices on the network.
The ‘Label’ element is quite self-explanatory, as it works in almost the same way as a regular, non-IT label. When data is passed through a network, it is assigned a digital label, which is used to identify how and with what priority the data should be handled by the system.
The digital label is identified using a ‘Label Switch Router’ (hence ‘Switching’). As mentioned earlier, once the label is identified, the data is handled accordingly.
How MPLS Works
With the acronym out of the way, it’s time to get into how MPLS actually does what it does.
Without MPLS, the only way your network’s traffic is managed is through its bandwidth – which is the amount of traffic that it can take passing through it at any given time. When this is the case, each piece of data moving through the network is considered exactly as important as each other piece of data, and is handled as such. This results in a struggle between high priority data such as the data being used to make sure digital meetings and video conference calls are up and running, and low-priority data such as non-urgent emails.
What MPLS does is provide some order to all this chaos. MPLS makes sure that all the traffic passing through your network is handled dynamically and according to its level of priority. If you have a system which is crucial to keeping your business going, MPLS can make sure the necessary data is considered high priority, meaning it won’t have to compete with those non-urgent emails.
The Benefits of MPLS
On paper MPLS certainly seems useful. But what improvements would it really bring to your business? Read on to find out.
Easier system maintenance
MPLS makes the connections between your devices and locations much, much simpler, which ends up also simplifying the roles of IT professionals who perform maintenance on your network. The simplification that comes from data being correctly labelled and fast-tracked through your network with high priority gets rid of numerous variables that can complicate maintenance jobs, meaning an MPLS system leaves much less room for human error.
Simplified network expansion
Expanding a non-MPLS IT network can be an enormous task for even an experienced team of IT professionals. This is due to the fact that when expanding a network, in order to protect the data as it travels between geographical locations, ‘tunnels’ must be implemented – virtual connections between your location, and the location you’re expanding to. MPLS completely eliminates the need for all this, as it makes sure that all your data gets where it needs to go as efficiently as possible.
Improved experiences for end-users
Most modern businesses deliver their service using real-time, cloud-based applications, as it can have many business benefits working this way. However, as is common with cloud-based services, poor performance can really hinder their effectiveness. With an MPLS system, it’s possible for these cloud-based applications to be boosted by labelling the required data as high-priority. This all makes for much more reliable delivery of services, meaning the end-user experience for both customers and employees is much better.
Unfortunately, congestion can be a common occurrence when you’re dealing with a busy IT network. This happens if your bandwidth is surpassed by the amount of traffic trying to move through the network, and can lead to data needing to be dropped in order to make room – ultimately reducing your service’s quality. This is where MPLS comes in. MPLS makes sure that traffic is passed through more unconventional paths in order for data to be delivered as quickly as its priority necessitates.
How to Implement MPLS
MPLS really could be something that’s right for you and your business, but then again, it might not be. Whether it’s truly the right choice is a question that only you and your IT team can answer, but before you do, it’s definitely worth answering a these questions about the current infrastructure of your business:
- Is your network able to handle data of multiple different types?
- Is congestion a common problem for you?
- Does your business make use of real-time, cloud-based applications?
- Does your network provide service over multiple different locations?
- Do your applications often experience delays?
- Would bringing new sites into your network quickly be useful to you?
If any of these questions apply to your business, looking into finding a good MPLS provider would definitely be worth it. While you’re at it, check in with your IT team to make sure you find an MPLS service suited to your particular business and network requirements. It may take some time to shop around for a well-tailored service, but it’s an investment that is sure to pay off.