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What is a Private Network and When are They Needed?

Most of us are generally familiar with the infrastructure and capabilities of the public Internet. For most businesses, it’s a fundamental channel for communication, collaboration, customer engagement and more. But some business owners may not understand how a dedicated private network differs and why their business might need one.

We consulted with Mark Ferreira, a network expert at Bell, for an overview of private network technology and insights into the key benefits that matter for growing businesses.

Public versus private

On the public Internet, information you access or share can be potentially intercepted by third parties if it isn’t properly secured. But with a private network, only the devices and applications permitted to connect to that network can exchange information with one another.

And just like a regular Internet service, private network services are available in different pricing tiers, and can be delivered as a managed service that is monitored and supported around the clock by a service provider. There are also virtualized private networks (VPNs) which run on a provider’s private network core that can be used to connect multiple locations or branches of a business – so that all sites can benefit from a single secure, dedicated connection.

What else makes private networks unique?

Mark Ferreira outlines a few of the advantages that many private networks can offer:

  • Application prioritization: Consider a scenario where your remote team has gathered for a video conference with the CEO to deliver a quarterly update. Only the video stream sometimes freezes or experiences ‘jitter’ due to packet loss or latency. On the public Internet, once a data packet leaves your premises, all traffic is treated equally and packet delivery can be affected by other activity on the network. In contrast, with a private network, you have the option to prioritize bandwidth according to your needs – with some providers guaranteeing such prioritization from end-to-end. It can be thought of as a dedicated bandwidth pipe that can be shaped and managed however you see fit, and the term for this type of network management is called Quality of Service (QoS). In the above example, video conferencing or Voice over IP (VoIP) data can be allocated more bandwidth over what might be designated as lower-priority traffic (for instance data backups or file transfers), ensuring more consistent performance of real-time communications or other sensitive applications.
  • Service level agreements (SLAs): An SLA for a private network service is a contractual commitment with the provider that ensures you always have the bandwidth allocation you need, when you need it.The onus is on the service provider to ensure this commitment is fulfilled and that any service disruptions or latency issues are addressed within the time frame identified in the contract. Some providers even offer reports, either regularly or on request, that outline your service performance to show that the SLAs are being met.
  • Inherent security: We see it all the time in the media – malware infections, data breaches and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Running business applications over the public Internet carries some degree of risk, requiring layers of security defences to protect against threats. A private network substantially reduces and in many instances outright eliminates these risks due to being isolated from the public Internet.

When would a business require a private network?

So what are some of the scenarios where a private network is an ideal option for a business? Ferreira references the following common use cases:

  • Retail: Consider those peak shopping periods around the holidays and other times of year. We know customers don’t want to be stuck in slow line-ups at checkout. With a private network connection, you can be certain you have the dedicated bandwidth required for transaction processing and inventory management systems.
  • Professional offices: From doctor’s offices to law firms and insurance brokerages, the confidentiality of patient and client information is crucial. But this data must be regularly shared with other offices or branches, and a private network ensures maximum security for peace of mind.
  • Remote job sites: Companies in transportation, the energy and resources sector and the construction industry frequently rely on applications that manage schedules, logistics and supply chains. A private network ensures the security, speed and reliability of communications among your team, contractors and suppliers.

The bottom line

A private network may cost more than a public Internet service, but business owners should consider how it can support specific application requirements with the benefits it offers. Ferreira suggests that any business that has a centralized IT system, multiple locations, off-site workers, or regularly sends confidential data to third parties, should look into leveraging private network technology.

“This guarantees that the applications your business relies on are running as you need them to at all times, as securely as possible,” he said. “For businesses that don’t have dedicated IT staff and don’t want to make a large technology investment to protect their data, a private network as a managed service is their best option.”

Bell also has an interactive online tool that lets you learn more about how a private network can benefit your business, depending on your market or industry sector and specific application requirements.

Do you have additional questions about private networks? Please let us know in the comments, below.

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