Multi-Protocol Label Switching – Expensive or Essential?

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Without staying on top of all the latest developments, it is hard to know whether your network is functioning as well as it can. After all, an IT network is just an idea, and it can be designed in practically an infinite number of ways, all with unique pros and cons.

An MPLS system is one way to upgrade your network in a way that could meaningfully change your business and drive growth, but if you don’t know exactly what it’s capable of, you may as well not even have it.

That’s why we’re here to provide you with a straightforward explanation of what MPLS is, how it works in your network, and what it could bring to your business if you decide to find an IT partner who’ll roll an MPLS system out for you.

What Does MPLS Mean?

You might have heard IT staff throw the term MPLS around like it’s part of everybody’s vocabulary, but if you don’t have a marked interest in tech, it may as well be a random jumble of letters! So let’s break it down; MPLS stands for Multi-Protocol Label Switching and is easier to get your head around than you might initially assume.

A protocol is basically a language that an IT device uses to communicate with other devices. Well, it’s actually closer to being a set of rules than a language, as it details how data needs to be handled – but as long as two devices are using the same protocol, then data passed between them can be handled in the same way. Therefore, the MP in MPLS just refers to how an MPLS system can be implemented into a network where multiple protocols are in use.

Next up, the Label part is actually very similar to how a label works outside of the IT world – it’s a piece of information attached to data going through a network that is used to identify what priority should be given to the data. This information can then be used to send data down the correct path, which is where the Switching part comes in; a Label Switch Router (LSR) is used to identify the label and handle the data properly.

How Does MPLS Function In Your Network?

So now that you understand what each letter stands for, let’s start thinking about how MPLS works in real-life terms. You can view it as like a traffic management system – without it, your network traffic is only really policed by the available bandwidth. This means that without it, no data is more important than any other data, and important applications can be held up by nonessential data transfers. For example, data from a mission-critical application might be held up because a non-essential video call is taking place elsewhere on the network.

With MPLS, the chaos of your network is managed in priority order. By making use of labels and the dynamic switching system, MPLS ensures that all of the data is handled intelligently, and according to its importance in the network. For instance, if you have a mission-critical application that you can’t afford to let fail, then it can be marked as the highest possible priority, meaning that heavy traffic will only impact less important applications.

What Could MPLS Offer Your Business?

Investing in an MPLS system isn’t a quick decision, and to do so you’ll need a thorough understanding of what it can do for your company. Here are just a few of the benefits of implementing this IT solution:

Straightforward Expansion

IT teams and business owners alike shudder at the thought of having to expand to a new site – between expanding the network and installation wait times, it can be a lengthy and costly process. Though MPLS can’t solve this issue, it does do away with the need for setting up ‘tunnels’ to safeguard your data between locations, as it always ensures that your data is finding the best possible route to its destination.

Simpler Maintenance

Simplifying connections between devices and locations is a great way of reducing errors within your network, and this is something that an MPLS system can provide. The correct labeling of data allows it to be fast-tracked through your network, regardless of geographical distance, removing extraneous variables that get in the way of IT professionals working on your network.

Faster Speeds

When you have a network that often experiences heavy traffic, congestion is a common problem. This issue occurs when there isn’t enough bandwidth to cover all of the data passing through your network, resulting in a drop in quality when data must be dropped. When an MPLS system is used, traffic can be routed onto non-standard paths, meaning that data can be delivered quickly.

Improved End-User Experience

Many businesses in 2021 rely upon real-time, cloud-based applications when they deliver their services, and although this can offer a range of benefits, there are some downsides too, most notably their sensitivity to poor network performance. But with MPLS and its switching mechanism, these applications can be boosted, allowing for more reliable service delivery, and subsequently an improved experience for customers and end-users.

Should You Invest In MPLS?

This isn’t a question we can answer for you, unfortunately! The benefits of MPLS are highly dependent on what your business requires – after all, no two companies are exactly alike. However, if you answer yes to any of the following questions, it might be time to seriously start looking into providers:

  • Does your network cover multiple locations?
  • Do you often experience congestion and poor performance with applications?
  • Would quicker expansion to new sites be beneficial?
  • Do you frequently use real-time services?
  • Does your network deal with multiple types of data?

Finding the best service provider might take a bit of time, but as we’ve covered, MPLS is an investment that can really pay off in the long term.

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