It can be hard to know whether your business network is meeting its full potential if you aren’t an IT expert. While they are highly technical, an IT network is effectively just a concept and one that can be changed in a huge range of ways to meet your needs.
An MPLS system is just one of the ways that you can upgrade your network, but if you don’t know what it can do or even just how it works, you won’t have a clue about whether or not it can meaningfully benefit your business.
In this article, we’ll give you a straightforward rundown of what MPLS means, how it functions within a network, how to make sure you find the right provider that fits with your company and your needs, and some of the advantages you can expect it to bring to your business network.
MPLS might be a familiar acronym to IT professionals, but if you aren’t in this industry it may as well be any jumble of letters! So let’s start off this explanation by breaking them down into something more understandable: Multi-Protocol Label Switching.
Okay, that might sound a little complicated at first too, but it’s actually very easy to wrap your head around. Basically, a protocol is a language that devices in a network use to communicate.
Well, it’s more like a set of rules than a language, but as long as two devices are using the same protocol, data can be passed between them in the same way. Therefore, Multi-Protocol just means that MPLS functions in a system where multiple protocols are in use.
Moving on, the Label part of the acronym refers to little pieces of data attached to the data that goes through a network – they actually function similarly to labels in real life, identifying information about the data like what priority it should be given, and subsequently how the network should handle it.
Finally, the Switching part is referring to a Label Switch Router or LSR, which is used to identify the label attached to the data and handle it appropriately.
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So, now that we’ve established how MPLS works on a basic level, let’s apply that to how it functions in a business network.
You can think of MPLS as a traffic management system; without it, your only organization is the available bandwidth (the amount of traffic it can handle at once).
This means that no one type of data is more important than another, so non-urgent applications get caught up in the same network as data from your mission-critical software. You don’t want your network to treat a casual email with the same importance as an important conference call.
A business network without MPLS is a chaotic place, and bringing in a sense of order can revolutionise your network performance
By utilizing the labels and the route switching technique, MPLS can ensure that all of the traffic is routed intelligently, according to its importance. For example, mission-critical applications will be marked at the highest possible priority, while less urgent software will come much further down the list, reducing the impact on your business if congestion occurs.
If you’re seriously considering implementing MPLS into your business network, here are just a few of the advantages you could expect to see:
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MPLS systems can massively simplify the connections made between locations and devices in your network. This is because properly labeled data can be fast-tracked through the network, regardless of distance, taking away extraneous variables that get in the way of solving issues. This makes maintaining your network much easier for IT professionals, and subsequently reduces the chance for human error to mess up any plans.
If you want to expand a traditional business network, your IT team is going to have to put in a huge amount of work setting up virtual connections between your current location and the location you want to expand to.
These tunnels are able to safeguard your data as it crosses an area, but MPLS completely removes the need for this, making sure that your data will find the most efficient route regardless.
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If you have a network that experiences a lot of heavy traffic periods, you’ll likely have had to deal with congestion. This occurs when the amount of traffic attempting to go through the network is higher than your bandwidth, forcing data to be dropped and lowering the quality of your service. Traffic is routed on non-standard paths in an MPLS system, meaning that all data can be delivered quickly.
Many businesses these days rely on real-time, cloud-based applications in their daily operations, and while there are a wide variety of benefits to doing this, these apps are highly sensitive to poor network performance.
The switching technique that an MPLS system uses boosts real-time applications, resulting in more reliable service delivery, and subsequently a better experience for end-users and customers alike.
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We can’t make the decision of whether you should implement MPLS for you – to figure that out, you’ll need to do plenty more research and hold some serious discussions with your IT team and senior individuals in your business. However, you could start by considering these questions:
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might find an MPLS system hugely beneficial. As long as you make sure that the service you’re getting is tailored well to your business needs – which may take some time – it could be a highly worthwhile investment.
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