Point to Point Leased Lines Explained
Find out what a point to point leased line is and how this highly available, secure solution could help your business
Point to point leased lines are not a new idea. Back in the 1970s and 80s they were frequently used by businesses to connect their sites to a central mainframe-based data centre, or link together multiple locations to allow them to use the same systems. By today’s standards, however, these circuits were relatively slow since they were all copper.
You might think that in the age of the internet and broadband, the need for point to point leased lines has pretty much disappeared. However, there are drawbacks to the internet, not least of which is that it’s a shared connection and subject to various performance constraints. As businesses become more diversified and rely more than ever on their IT systems, therefore, the need to connect different sites together or to a central data centre and have a fast, secure, reliable wide area network has seen a resurgence in demand for point to point services. So just what are the key point to point leased line benefits?
Why leased lines?
As the name suggests, a leased line is one that’s rented for your exclusive use and is not shared with anyone else. A leased line can be used to connect to your ISP’s data centre and provide an internet connection. In the case of point to point leased lines, however, it’s used to link different sites of one business and effectively bypass the internet altogether.
In what circumstances would you want to do this? This might, for example, be linking branches to a head office or a central data centre to locations around the country. At this point, you might be wondering why you can’t do that using the internet, via a standard broadband connection. Well, you can if you want, but as we’ll see using a point to point leased line instead offers a number of features that make it a better choice.
Firstly, since a leased line is exclusively for your use, there’s no contention. What this means is that the speed of your connection won’t be slowed down by other people in the area. One of the drawbacks of broadband is that once it goes outside your building, it uses shared links so you could be competing with 20 or more other people for the same stretch of line; not good if you’re trying to get work done. A point to point leased line is reserved just for you and your traffic, so you won’t be competing with other people trying to use the internet, or indeed with your company’s own internet traffic.
Another difference is that point to point services offer a synchronous connection – in other words, the speed is the same in both directions. Contrast this to a standard fibre broadband connection where the upload speed will only be around a 20th or less of the download speed because it’s an asynchronous connection. This is nothing to worry about while most of your data is incoming such as when you’re exploring websites or streaming movies, but if you need to transmit large amounts of data the other way, to send another user files or to backup data to another site for disaster recovery or archiving, then an asynchronous connection presents a major drawback. With a point to point leased line, therefore, you’ll have no problem uploading and sharing large data files between departments in different locations or accessing data from central storage.
A further leased line benefit is low latency. This means that there’s far less delay in responding to requests for packets from another site, which gives the line a sprightlier feel. Finally, a leased line imposes no restriction on the volume of data you can transfer over a given period. By contrast, if you were using broadband to connect your business sites you can often be subject to usage restrictions which means that there’s a limit on the amount of data you are allowed to transfer each month before you pay an extra charge. Even services advertised as unlimited tend to have a fair use clause which means that the ISP can impose a limit on your service if it thinks you’re using it too much. A point to point leased line gets around this with no data restrictions so you can transfer as much as you want between your locations with no fear of incurring a penalty.
There’s a security advantage to a point to point leased line too. Since the data is being transmitted directly to your premises it effectively never leaves your network. Because it isn’t being sent over shared, public internet connections there’s minimal chance of it being intercepted. You can choose to strengthen security further by using software to encrypt your data in transit if you wish.
In addition, you are not at the mercy of anyone else when it comes to traffic priorities. You can ensure that that the most important information needed for your day-to-day business operation takes priority over less vital transmissions such backups.
How does it work?
In terms of the technology involved, point to point leased lines are not all that different from fibre broadband connections. They are installed via a fibre optic cable which links the two sites directly, effectively making them part of the same Ethernet network. This makes them ideal for linking data centres where large amounts of data need to be transferred quickly on a regular basis. They’re also good for linking remote sites to give them access to the same systems as head office.
Compared to a broadband connection, installation of a point to point leased line takes a little longer since it is a dedicated connection. They’re also rather more expensive but this is offset by speed and security benefits.
We’ve already looked at the technical advantages a point to point leased line can offer. But what about the advantages it has to your business in terms of reliability and service levels?
It’s an increasingly rare breed of business that is able to operate for any length of time without access to IT services. The livelihood of your business relies on having a reliable connection to all of your sites. Without it, you may be unable to process orders or keep stock levels updated for example. When you opt for a point to point leased line you’re buying a business-oriented product and the service level agreements (SLAs) associated with it are designed to take account of just how important connectivity is to your enterprise.
You will, therefore, find guaranteed uptime levels that are higher than on broadband circuits, typically giving you 99.9 percent availability. If your business is a 24/7 operation, or if you’re operating shifts, then it’s important to know that you’ll have a connection to your data centre or between your locations that’s available when you need it.
In the event that something does go awry, the SLA should also guarantee you a faster target fix time, allowing you to get up and running again as quickly as possible. You’re installing a leased line because it’s key to the smooth running of your business, so you can’t afford downtime and having problems fixed fast is therefore vital.
As businesses become more reliant upon technology, this brings with it more flexibility. For example, it’s becoming the norm to allow staff the choice to work from other locations. This allows people to reduce time spent commuting by letting them work closer to home some of the time, or allows peripatetic workers to login via different offices and receive the same level of service. Linking your business locations using point to point leased line connections means that wherever your people are working, they can have a reliable, fast and secure means of accessing corporate systems and data.