How to best connect the tubes between our offices
November 5, 2008 9:25 AM   Subscribe

I am working on a project connecting our three plants together, and need help evaluating the options (MPLS vs Point to point VPN over the internet), and bonus video-chatty question inside.

So here are the facts:
- 3 Plants to connect (Ohio, Alabama, and Near Toronto Canada)
- Need to establish a persistent VPN connection to unify Domains, email, Shared Drives, Phone systems (We have a cisco IP telephony system), and support limited (not high usage) video chat between the plants
- We recently put in a brand new all cisco network wired, wireless, and phone (call manager 6).
- We will be consistently transferring large Catia (CAD) drawings between the plants, but we are the hub for those. We will also be hosting the shared drives, email, domain, etc. I am planning on having redundant backups for each location in case of we lose connection.
- We use an online ERP/MRP solution that is entirely internet based, we need to support redundancy on this because if it goes down, plants shut down.
- We currently have a t-1 for our ERP/MRP, and a 2megabit fiber for internet stuff.

I have gotten several proposals, and my concerns are as follows:
- MPLS - All three plants would have 1 t-1 connecting them to the MPLS "cloud" (basically a switch that all three plants would connect to, with an additional T1 to our erp/mrp from the cloud to give us access). We would be pushing all services over a single t1, if we need more bandwidth, we would buy another t1, or multiple t1s. I feel this is much more expensive then just having them bump up our bandwidth in our fiber.
- P2PVPN - Is the latency over the internet going to be prohibitive for things like video chatting, and pushing our phone service over the p2pvpn connection?

Bonus Video chat message:
What are some good corporate messaging solutions that feature video and voice chat? Screen sharing is a bonus!
posted by Jonsnews to Computers & Internet (3 answers total)
VPN with Cisco routers with WAN accelerators (available as router module or appliance). They work fine, and are easy to set up and manage. You have to be careful with bandwidth utilization, especially since your T1's might get tight with your file transfer needs. I've used this kind of set up with no trouble in large ad agencies with similar requirements (large media files, VoIP, video conferencing, etc.).

MPLS is basically the new frame relay, in that it locks you in to a single ISP. It limits your redundancy options and any possibility of using a competitor. And yes, it is much more expensive.

Believe it or not, Skype is an excellent product for voice and video conferencing, and has plugins for things like a shared whiteboard and (I think) screen sharing.
posted by jma at 10:24 AM on November 5, 2008

The selling point for MPLS is that your service provider can offer you a QoS service level agreement across their MPLS cloud. Generally, this is marketed as a specified percentage of the total CIR for your circuit.
posted by aperture_priority at 12:33 PM on November 5, 2008

I have found OpenBSD's IPsec solution to be a very flexible and cost effective. Once set up, it runs reliably forever without touching it again.

We use it for videoconferencing between the US west coast and Europe and people use it for VoIP when working from home. Everybody is quite satisfied with the quality of service.

I find it very easy to set up. And I think the amount of knowledge that you need to do this is essential even with vendor bought solutions. How will you be able to service and troubleshoot your gear otherwise?

All kinds of redundancy is easily implemented, from multiple network connections of the servers to redundant routing between the locations.

In addition to the technical merits, I also like the lack of vendor and ISP lock in.

The only down site is, that you need some technical skill to set it up. But even there you do not have to rely on a single person's knowledge. The information is all out there.
posted by mmkhd at 3:22 PM on November 5, 2008

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