Embedded Cellular vs External Dongles: Don’t Get Left Hanging

Cellular dongles are akin to acoustic coupler modems of the late 1980's.

Cellular dongles are akin to acoustic coupler modems from the 1980’s.

Enterprises rely on out-of-band management and wired network fail-over using cellular to deliver up-time and quick recovery in the case of a failure. When choosing between embedded or external dongle-based cellular solutions, one might be tempted by the allure of the low price points of dongles. But this thinking is penny-wise and pound-foolish. Unfortunately, for buyers trying to save money in the short term, external dongles will adversely affect the critical functions of both out-of-band management and wired network fail-over.

With our products, we offer complete and guaranteed embedded cellular solutions.
Because we’ve standardized on an internal module, we have very tight integration for enabling features like SMS alerts and commands, data usage monitoring, signal strength monitoring during connections, as well as offering periodic testing and a connectivity watchdog. Our embedded solutions offer the simplicity of installing and maintaining one piece of hardware that was built to last, with no swapping in of new external attachments necessary. And, Opengear offers 4-year warranty coverage on all its products.

External dongles are consumer-grade parts with consumer-grade warranties, making them risky to use for enterprise-grade needs. In fact, consumer-grade USB 3G/4G dongles have a life span of barely six months, making the risk of obsolescence huge. Enterprises have to deal with concerns beyond the capabilities of consumer-grade gadgets. Reliable out-of-band management and wired network fail-over is essential for preserving up-time and delivering rapid recovery. With enterprise purchasing, it’s a heavyweight process to standardize on a solution, and the cost to keep up with dongles given their half-year life cycle is actually far higher in the long term than the cost of reliable internal cellular.

Security is another issue. Many dongles have x86 code on their flash for their carrier client helper app or dashboard, which could also house nasty files. Attachable devices like dongles are a conduit many viruses use to spread. Opengear products don’t have an embedded web server in the cellular modem and we don’t download updates automatically, making our solutions much more secure.

Attaching external antennae with a dongle solution isn’t just a pain, it’s also physically fragile – remote hands accessing a cabinet can kill dongle-based remote access with an accidental bump. If and when an external dongle solution fails, customers may end up trapped in a no man’s land of blame between the appliance vendor and the dongle vendor, each pointing fingers and neither willing to take responsibility. For functionality like out-of-band connectivity that is a mission critical, “cannot fail” priority to an enterprise, third party external cellular solutions like dongles both look and feel like a bad hack, because they are.

When it comes to ensuring up-time and protecting critical networks, we hope that enterprises don’t have to learn the hard way why they can’t afford the “cheaper” option.