This post was originally published on January 4, 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Is it possible to run multiple networks on a single broadband connection to reduce cost and increase efficiency? In short: Yes.

Some benefits of hosting multiple networks on a single connection include:

  • Reduced costs. Lower the overall cost of your service and usage by eliminating the need to buy multiple broadband connections. Costs associated with configuring and managing your network (e.g. firewall, router, cellular failover, NOC/RMM service) can also be significantly lowered since they don’t have to be replicated for each circuit.
  • Completely isolate secure and non-secure networks. Create a highly-controlled and secure network for critical systems, such as point-of-sale systems and digital storage, and another for those serviced by third parties.
  • Improve bandwidth and system performance. Isolate video and other high-bandwidth applications on a separate network to avoid compromising the performance of other systems. This decreases the need to prioritize applications through the use of Quality of Service (QoS).
  • Easily adapt to changing technology needs. With the pace of innovation, it is impossible to anticipate how systems will need to communicate with one another in the future. When on a shared infrastructure, new communication paths can be enabled with a simple switch reconfiguration. Conversely, if the two systems are housed on separate physical networks, options are more limited and expensive, particularly for large networks.

Is One Broadband Connection Right for My Business?

Networks are anything but a one-size-fits-all technology. While a single broadband connection might be the perfect solution for one business, it might be unnecessarily expensive or limiting for another. For many, bandwidth availability and application-specific requirements will make one strategy more appropriate than the other.

For example, if the only connections available at a site are T1s or low-speed DSL, sharing a single connection between multiple systems can become more complicated. You may need more bandwidth than a single connection can provide, and bonding multiple connections together, while possible, may add unnecessary complexity.

It is also possible that regulatory or customer-mandated security requirements may play a role in the decision.

The key is planning. There is very useful and cost-effective networking gear available today, providing many options for consideration. Plan well and engage the right partners to find the best solution for your needs.

Designing a Solution with One Connection

Should you decide one broadband connection is the best route for your business, there are a few different ways to set it up:

  • Use virtual local area networks (VLANs) to logically separate network traffic and functions, and firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), intrusion prevention systems (IPS) and routers to monitor and filter inbound and outbound traffic.
  • Install multiple routers (or virtual routers) behind the edge broadband device. This allows complete segmentation of routing controls and enhanced security over VLANs. (Note: This configuration is more costly to design and implement.)

To ensure your connection is strong, reliable and configured properly, leave installation and maintenance up to the pros. Plan carefully and work closely with your security vendor and IT team to ensure connections are working properly.