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Prepping For Internet Outages

In the wake of the Level 3-Cogent fiasco, VARs are making preparations for the next time an Internet provider pulls the plug on Web traffic, which experts say is not an if, but a when.

Earlier this month, partners scrambled to customers& aid after Level 3 Communications disconnected Cogent Communications as an Internet peer. The reason, according to Level 3: Cogent&s excessive traffic volume. Free peering is a common practice among Internet backbone companies as a way to simplify customer access across the Internet. By disconnecting Cogent, Level 3 cut off access to millions of IP addresses.

“We learned about it from a sudden burst of sporadic customer calls,” said Tim Bradley, senior vice president of VoIP at New Global Telecom, a Level 3 master agent in Golden, Colo. “We were given no warning.”

From now on, Bradley will advise customers to have a second Internet provider to act as a failover.

One of Cogent&s largest customers, an online gaming company that survives off the Web, saw Internet traffic plummet 25 percent when Level 3 pulled the plug, said Quy “Q” Nguyen, founder and CEO of Allyance Communications Networks, Irvine, Calif. Nguyen said the experience shows agents and VARs the importance of choosing the right Internet provider partner.

“We are at a turning point,” said Daniel Berninger, senior analyst at Tier 1 Research, who said he expects to see more Internet bullies taking weaker peers& lunch money by forcing them to pay transit fees. “The incentive for the big player to cut off the medium-size payers is pretty high,” he said.

VARs whose customers who can&t afford a backup Internet provider should become familiar with failover Internet features now appearing in firewall products from vendors such as SonicWall and Cisco, said Tom Snyder, COO of Xantrion, a consultant and MSP in Oakland, Calif.

Level 3 plans to cut off Cogent again on Nov. 9 if the two don&t reach a settlement.

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