What is Multi-Protocol Label Switching for IT Networks?

There are mountains of complicated jargon involved with IT networking for a business, and struggling to get your head around it can seriously get in the way of your network’s growth.

However, MPLS is something you definitely should not be afraid of. In fact, it’s seriously worth gaining some understanding of what it is. Read on to discover what MPLS really means, get a look at whether you should choose to implement it in your business, and think about the kind of company you’d like on your side to help you implement the system across your network.

 MPLS in simple terms 

First things first – that acronym. MPLS stands for Multi-Protocol Label Switching. You may have heard it mentioned alongside ‘connections’ but if not, don’t fret. In any case, MPLS doesn’t involve connecting your network outwards to the internet – it’s really a method of moving data around the connections inside your network. Let’s have a closer look.

Devices on your network use different ‘protocols’ depending on the date they deal with. A protocol is like a language. ‘Multi-Protocol’ is simply referring to how MPLS works regardless of what protocol each network device uses. As data traverses your network, it’s given a ‘Label’, a tiny piece of data, which works much like a non-IT label. A Label Switch Router looks at the label, and uses it to decide what to do with the data – that’s the ‘Switching’ bit.

Delivering your network’s data

Imagine the data on your network as being a system of many parcels, all of which need delivering over a wide area. It would be silly for one of your delivery drivers to shoot off a long way to their first delivery location, only to find that their second location was a short distance from the delivery depot. If only they’d been given their list of locations in order of priority – that’s where MPLS can help.

MPLS ensures that data can be sent on its way regardless of its protocol, and is able to have its priority and route dynamically altered, maximising the efficiency, accuracy, and speed of your network.

What can MPLS do for a business?

 So now you have a brief overview of MPLS. But what can it actually do, in business terms? Is it a worthwhile investment? Carry on reading for a slightly deeper look at its various advantages. 

Boost network speed 

When large amounts of data are travelling through a network, it can be common for congestion to occur, which can end up having severe negative effects on your network’s efficiency. MPLS allows data to be sent down the best routes (which are sometimes unconventional) according to its priority, meaning the speed of delivery is greatly improved, speeding up the whole network.

 Improve your users’ experience

Many modern businesses utilise applications based in the cloud, to deliver their services to customers and end users. These applications can also suffer if your network is performing badly, hindering the experience. MPLS’s techniques of data switching can save the day here as well, as cloud-based apps can be prevented from experiencing lag, freezing, and loss of data.

Make expansion quicker 

For a more traditional network, expansion can end up being quite a pain. Often, it involves a system of ‘tunnels’ being put in place, which keeps the data safe as it traverses across various locations, and lets it travel quickly. MPLS means this is unnecessary, as it allows the paths taken by data to be altered on the fly, ensuring it always has access to the most efficient route.

Smooth out your network

Imagine an extremely long ethernet cable, connecting two physical locations to one another. This is quite similar to what MPLS connections are like. This is perhaps an oversimplification, as there are often numerous jumps between devices and carriers which must be made, but it has the same effect. In an MPLS system, once data is given the correct label, the process of sending it through a network is much easier. This simplification is also good news for any technicians who may need to work on your network – the simplicity means that less variables need to be considered when there’s an issue to be fixed. 

Increase network efficiency 

As you now know, MPLS allows data to be handled differently according to its priority, which can be changed on the fly. This can be incredible if you have any systems which are crucial to your business’ operations, and have to stay online at all costs. You can simply get the MPLS system to assign a high priority label to the data you need – MPLS takes care of the rest, borrowing a little bit of the bandwidth being used by lower priority data, ensuring the systems you need stay online when you need them.

Keep your downtime low

The kind of simplicity MPLS brings to a network makes management a breeze. IT professionals don’t often have an issue managing even more complicated networks, but whenever you have people working on your network, the risk of human error increases. A simpler network means less people will have to work on it, which reduces that risk. This greatly decreases the amount of downtime your network could have, saving you money, and improving the experience of your customers.

Should you choose MPLS?

You may still not be sure whether to opt for MPLS, and that’s OK. It can help to consider the following questions about your current business network:

  • Would you find it useful to quickly set up new sites
  • Do you make use of multiple types of data?
  • Do you experience downtime often, and want to decrease it?
  • Is voice and data something you use your network for?
  • Is congestion ever an issue for your network?

If you found yourself answering ‘yes’ to even a single one of those questions, MPLS might just be able to help you out. If you do decide to take the plunge, ensure your provider can give you everything you need – finding a service perfectly tailored to your business is an absolute must. This technology is exciting, and a good provider can really draw out its full potential for your business.

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