Not every MPLS service provider offers the same quality of service. If you are thinking about implementing Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) for your company or are presently reassessing your MPLS services, there are a number of important factors to take into account before selecting the service provider. Here are some questions to ask your service provider that will help you better understand each network provider’s MPLS offerings.
The first thing you need to find out is what the carrier’s network architecture is like. Does the provider make use of Frame Relay, IP and ATM in the central part of their system or do they possess a flat architecture which allows for superior transit periods, simpler network troubleshooting as well as better self-healing? If the network is completely IP based, that is best for you as the client. Additionally, if you have several locations and are planning to have all of them connected to the network, it is essential to understand the carrier network’s footprint. Ask the service provider if you can link a place to the network which is not already within the carrier footprint utilizing IP Sec tunnels.
You should also ask about the global footprint of the carrier, if you plan to expand internationally or have international offices already. In which country do they provide MPLS services? If they don’t have presence in the country you need service in, what are the provider’s plans for global expansion? Also do they provide in country global customer support and technical help? Will you have to spend more to prioritize your traffic with quality of service (QoS)? This will obviously increase your monthly operating costs which are something you will need to be aware of.
You also need to find out what the carrier’s Service Level Agreements (SLAs) is. How do they measure up to the ones provided by their competitors? Carriers that assure a high degree of throughput as well as extremely low transit periods and are prepared to support that in their Service Level Agreements will likely perform better. If they provide references, that will be even better as it will enable you to see the kind of service they provide for their clients.
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