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If your organisation has multiple locations, using seperate internet and network connections on disperate networks is often not the best option.

It may even be costing you money unnecessarily. It may also not be very secure, despite security measures being in place.

An MPLS solution on a Converged Private Network resolves these issues and more. Not only that - it may be less expensive than having lots of seperate connections (voice and data connections).

We partner with Gamma and Exponential E who both provide a range of networking solutions.

Above is Gamma's video explaining the CPN or Converged Private Networks offering which MPLS is a big part of - this video is not really customer facing as it mentions why we would benefit as a company from marketing it - but if you don't mind, we don't either. Such a solution is great for both you and us!

What is MPLS?

If you are interested, it stands for Multi Protocol Label Switching - here endeth the jargon!

Basically MPLS is a network protocol (language) that makes your network of locations or sites intelligent by labelling packets for more efficient handling and delivery. It can be used to deliver all types of data with some certainty, security, scalabilty, reliability and efficiency, all over a single infrastructure, with a Service Level Agreement.

It is controlled by a Cloud-based Firewall which is configured with all the different nodes (or sites/locations) within it. At each site, a router is controlling local access.

MPLS is sometimes marketed as IP VPN or Metro Ethernet (and other terms!).


What kind of data can and MPLS network handle?

All types really.

Typically, an organisation may have a main site maybe with a secondary site (which could act as a DR site for Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity) plus multiple smaller locations or branches.

See the network diagram below. This is a diagram produced by Gamma, one of our main partners for MPLS. We also use Exponential E.

MPLS network diagram - what MPLS looks like

There may be a requirement to break out to the public internet and also accomodate IP Telephony (Voice) traffic as well as Video.

Business reasons for considering and MPLS or a Converged Private Network

Here are some common points you may be considering in your organisation that could make deploying a new MPLS solution viable and, indeed, necessary:

  • You are about to review legacy voice or data contracts and are looking to save money
  • You want to consolidate voice and data to save money or drive efficiency
  • You want to move to VoIP (IP Telephony) without sacrificing call quality
  • You want to reduce IT maintenance and network overheads
  • You want to plan for business continuity, disaster recovery and resilience
  • You want to review or improve your internet and IT security
  • You want to improve speed and performance of your business critical applications such as Cloud-based applications like email, general internet and various Software applications (SaaS)
  • Prepare for expansion with the right network and IT infrastructure in place


What are the Main Benefits of deploying MPLS?

Well there are plenty of benefits and advantages. The main ones we fell may be relevant to your organisation are below.

Cost saving

If you are like most organisations, you may be using several different suppliers for your internet connectivity, phone lines, voice and telephone system, IT support and so on. This can be quite fragmented and unnecessarily inefficient and expensive.

Deploying a single Converged Private Network can save you money! You may have regular bills for multiple internet connections with different suppliers, bills for voice services such as ISDN with call charges added to this, bills from IT support companies for support, upgrade and maintenance costs for firewalls - the list goes on.

With voice running across your new network, there would be no need for ISDN or, potentially, your traditional phone system meaming less maintenance costs (unless you retain your phone system and install SIP which is a very popular option). Call charges to UK landlines and UK mobiles are often free (or very low cost). Calls to International destinations are also cheaper with our SIP trunks or hosted telephony, compared to normal ISDN charges.

If you have existing staff that currently support the networking infrastructure, they can be freed up on other projects.

To ascertain what the cost differences are, we can visit your premises and complete a full audit on your behalf to illustrate what potential savings might be. The cost of doing this in an optimised way may surprise you!

Ease of Operation and Administration

Our MPLS offering is centrally managed - no internal management required by you!

Also, as your business needs change, so can your set up, including rapid deployment of new sites/nodes.

Everything is managed, supported and billed through ourselves - all invoiced on a single monthly itemised bill.

Reduced Business Risk

A reliable network with resiliency built-in if you need it as an additional option....just what the modern organisation needs. This is especially true if you are running cloud-based applications and SaaS (Software as a Service).

Improved Productivity

All users, sites and locations can have improved, secure,  fast access to essential business information and applications. This promotes more usage of technology of things like Unified Communications and Video Conferencing. As all sites are monitored, downtime it reduced as connections are more reliable. Staff have less interruptions and disruptions to their lives and their workloads.

Security and Cyber Threats

The news is full these days of reports of well-known companies being attacked by hackers and cyber criminals. Only recently, the BBC, BT and Talk Talk has been subjected to a combination of attacks including Denial of Service Attacks.

In a converged managed network, all users and sites can be protected from the latest web threats using the most up-to-date and innovative security and network protection.

Flexibility of Commercial Terms

With a choice of contract terms and a wide variety of access types including fibre ethernet, copper and even aDSL broadband, we can accomodate you with a solution that fits your needs, including zero upfront costs. Services can also be modified mid-contract when your needs change.

Is MPLS right for me?

The best way forward is to firstly have a short conversation on the phone with one of our team. We can then arrange a meeting to discuss your options further, gather some information and then provide a full recommendation and proposal based on what is the best solution for you in our opinion. We will ask things like:

  1. Number of sites and location
  2. Number of users and the main applications used
  3. Details of contract renewals and end dates for network services (and voice if appropriate)
  4. Types of network connections and failovers currently in place at each site
  5. Current voice solution at each site
  6. Location of servers and critical/core devices, services and applications- a network diagram
  7. Any other implications including decision framework, timescales etc

MPLS - Typical deployments

Here are a few typical scenarios where you might find MPLS deployed. Some of them may sound familiar to you!

Scenario 1 - Estate Agent with 3 branches

Current set up -  Using ISDN for voice, Leased lines for Internet and IPSEC for site to site VPN's; IT Manager on site providing management and support.

Proposed set up - Move to a converged MPLS solution; IP telephony delivers cost-saving over ISDN; MPLS network is more secure, flexible and reliable; QoS (Quality of Service) provided; NGFW (Next Generation Firewall) provides cloud-based reliability and protection for the company and it's clients data from threats

Summary of benefits - Better security, perfromance and management, lower costs; resiliency; improved administration, less network problems and disruption

Scenario 2 - Legal firm with 5 offices

Current set up - Using broadband at each office; using our Gamma SIP trunks for voice on converged ADSL broadbands; using a thrid-party MPLS network for data so all users can access a file server (contract to be renewed/reviewed shortly). Data Security is of paramount importance and needs reviewing

Proposed set up - Deploy new MPLS network with cloud-based NGFW (firewall) to deal with security; migrate SIP onto the same network

Summary of benefits - single network; single bill, single point of contact; lower operating costs

Scenario 3 - Retail Business with Head Office

Current set up - Head Office had a fibre ethernet leased line; Branches use ADSL broadband; using MPLS via 3rd party supplier, due for review; Paying a premium for slower connections at the smaller sites; paying for all access points plus Firewall support and maintenance; using SIP trunks from another supplier and is paying for calls.

Proposed set up - Refresh and re-design on MPLS network at a reduced cost; new MPLS includes Gamma SIP trunks and Next Generation Firewall

Summary of benefits - Lower operational costs; single contact, bill and supplier; improved performancel; no need for Firewall maintenance; better call quality; faster network speeds, easier to administer.

Scenario 4 - Start-Up company with expansion plans

Current set up - Nothing! Requires network with maximum flexibility and scalability as well as high performance.

Proposed set up - MPLS/Converged Private Network proposed on an Opex basis to keep up-front costs to a minimum.

Summary of benefits - Scalable, secure and reliable network infrastructure - affordable costs.

Possible barriers to deploying MPLS using First Office Systems

Here are the normal objections we find when speaking to customers and the responses we tend to offer them.

My Existing VPN's work fine

VPN's are ok. However, they are more difficult to administer and manage and, potentially, less reliable than a business-class solution that MPLS offers. MPLS can also provide full QoS (Quality of Service - important when used for Voice) end-to-end. This releases IT Managers, staff or outsourced IT support companies for other projects.

We have never heard of First Office Systems, Gamma or Exponential-e

First Office Systems have been around since 1991 and supply and support many businesses and organisations.

Gamma and Expo-E are UK market leaders in Voice and Data networking.

I would rather deal direct with the network supplier

You can! However, dealing through First Office Systems ensure you get WOW FACTOR customer service as well as a 'coal-face', realistic approach to the solution and ongoing account management and customer care and service. Plus we have other elements of technology that may integrate with this solution that the network provider simply doesnt provide (Eg network switching, telephone system/PBX, Wi-fi, Servers and Applications etc).

I would prefer not to mix voice and data on one network - best kept seperate!

Understandable - we still get this objection sometimes. But it is a little out-dated! Once a voice call leaves your local premises, regardless of whether it is analogue, digital or VoIP, as soon as it hits the loacl exchange, it is all IP-based anyway. And it has been for many years now.

Also, so many businesses have now adopted, or are adopting VoIP. The critical thing is that the solution is designed properly and the connectivity used is suitable - in the past, where VoIP has had a bad reputation is down to the design and the connectivity not being considered properly.

So don't worry.

Plus there are always resiliency options we can introduce. Indeed, SIP trunks are much better when it comes to DR than traditional ISDN. See our SIP Trunking pages.

What our customers say...

As Operations Assistant at Konditor & Cook, I was placed in charge of overseeing the implementation of new telecommunications infrastructure from First Office and they have been great at every step. Much time has passed since then, but no issue was ever too big or too small for them to handle and they have continued to provide support and assistance of high levels all the time. Thumbs up for Matt and Andy from support for their great assistance every time we need it.
Mantas Milunas - Konditor & Cook

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