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To better understand the unique challenges facing network engineers managing distributed retail networks, I sat down to speak with Sales Engineer, Jeremy Richie.

In retail network environments where are the network vulnerabilities?

Most retail sites have a T1 connection or satellite link and during an outage both can be impacted. There is a chance that if the T1 path is lost, the satellite link could be lost too, although this isn’t a common scenario. If this does occur however, retailers need an alternate path to the network.

What happens when a network goes down at a retail site?

When a network goes down at a retail site, there is always a sense of urgency to identify this issue for many reasons. The longer a network is down, the more money that’s lost and the more damage to a brand’s reputation that can occur. The first thing that will happen when a there is an issue on a retailer’s network is that a engineer will be alerted. They’ll see the remote site has lost connection to the core network. So the next thing an engineer has to do is to actually call the site and ask, “are there any known problems out there?” If there is some sort of indication on what the issue is and the network engineer has a handle on it, they’ll have to roll a truck, if they don’t have Smart Out-of-Band. This means spending a lot of time and money to send someone technically savvy enough to troubleshoot and remediate the issue.

In some cases, an engineer will open a ticket with the service provider, because the issue isn’t on the retailer’s end. When this happens, the first thing a service provider will confirm is, have you cleared house? This means they’re making sure, that the engineer is certain that the issue isn’t on their end which could be as simple as an equipment failure. If it is on the carrier’s end, retailers have to just sit and wait, and just a few minutes of waiting can result in thousands of dollars lost for the retailer. Retailers always have a service level agreement with carriers. This dictates how quickly an issue is resolved. Depending on this, restoration could take 4 hours or 24 hours, it just depends on the level of the service agreement. Any money that is lost is on the retailer, unless possibly a carrier’s equipment is at fault.

Why should retailers be using Failover to Cellular?

Failover to Cellular is really all about resilience.  Some people think resilience is just a way to get in and troubleshoot a network when there’s been an issue and that is a form of it, but that’s not true network resilience. In retail, most organization’s have distributed networks, so this means that each branch can have a different level of resilience. Failover to Cellular is built into each Opengear device to ensure that if an outage does occur at any site, end users will experience no complications. Seamless, Failover to Cellular takes over the load of the primary network.

What Opengear products are best suited for retail sites?

We find that most retailers choose to deploy ACM7000 Resilience Gateways at branch locations because usually they don’t have a lot of infrastructure at each site. These devices are also data centric, perfect for collecting and processing information from IoT sensors at the edge of the network – particularly important for retail, which is predicted to spend $2.5 billion investing in IoT technologies.1 If there is an outage on the primary network, they can use the LTE modem to get access into the device that manages their primary network.

Why are more retailers seeing that edge computing is beneficial?

It’s weird because technology is cyclical. When we first started out we had all of these services and applications that were being hosted at the edge. Then everything went to the core and for now at the edge again. This is for good reason – by 2020, more than 45% of data created by IoT devices will be stored, processed and analyzed at the edge of the network.2 This is because housing infrastructure and applications closer to where retail IoT devices are hosted allows data to be processed quick. Data doesn’t have to be constantly sent to the cloud and that then reduces latency and improves efficiency.

How does SD-WAN fit into the landscape of retail infrastructure?

SD-WAN enables retailers to get rid of expensive site to site circuits. Using either a terrestrial, LTE or satellite path to access the network, it enables organizations to aggregate multiple high bandwidth internet connections. SD-WAN providers say, “we are the resiliency that your router needs, taking circuits and providing the LAN with access to the router.” What they don’t say though is that there is a chance for the router to go down during these deployments and create points of failure. That’s why retailers are choosing to deploy Opengear devices. If there is an outage during a deployment, our devices allow them to access the network through an alternative path.

To learn more about ensuring network resilience at retail sites using Opengear, schedule a demo with one of our sales engineers or visit our retail page.