How Internet Brownouts Can Threaten Your Business — and 8 Ways to Minimize Their Impact Let's explore internet brownouts, what causes them and how to stop them from severely impacting your business.

By Greg Davis

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In today's digital age, businesses rely heavily on the internet for various aspects of their operations. A smooth and uninterrupted internet connection is essential for productivity, communication and customer satisfaction. However, internet brownouts — temporary reductions in network quality — pose a significant threat to businesses. It's crucial to explore the causes of internet brownouts, their impact on businesses and strategies to mitigate their effects.

What are internet brownouts?

Internet brownouts are periods of suboptimal network performance, also known as "unusable uptime," that can result in slow browsing, poor video quality and dropped connections. Unlike internet blackouts, where the connection is entirely lost, brownouts are characterized by a temporary decrease in the quality and speed of the internet connection. These disruptions can last for a few seconds to several hours, causing various inconveniences and potential losses for businesses. Without access to strong internet connections, your company might struggle to meet the demands of users and employees alike, leading to lost production and revenue.

Related: How to Bulletproof the Internet Connectivity in Your Office

Why do internet brownouts happen?

It can be frustrating to encounter an internet brownout, and there are a variety of reasons why it might happen. Internet brownouts can occur due to several factors, including:

  1. Network congestion: The internet relies on a vast network of interconnected devices and servers to facilitate data transmission. As more users and devices connect to the internet, bandwidth demand increases, leading to congestion and reduced network performance.

  2. Infrastructure limitations: Aging network infrastructure and outdated equipment can struggle to handle modern internet traffic and demands, leading to bottlenecks and brownouts.

  3. Cyber attacks: Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks aim to overwhelm targeted servers or networks with an influx of traffic, causing performance degradation or complete outages.

  4. Natural disasters and human error: Events such as earthquakes, floods or accidents can damage network infrastructure, causing temporary internet disruptions.

  5. Maintenance and upgrades: Routine maintenance and upgrades to the internet infrastructure can sometimes result in temporary outages or reduced performance.

Regardless of the cause of the internet brownout, it can have a significant impact on your business, so it is crucial to plan accordingly.

How internet brownouts impact your business

Internet brownouts can have severe consequences for businesses. The nature of the consequences will depend on the severity of the internet brownout and the specific demands of your business, but some of the most significant consequences could include:

  1. Lost productivity: Slow internet connections can hinder employees' ability to access cloud-based services, collaborate or perform their tasks efficiently. Lost productivity can result in missed deadlines, frustration and increased costs.

  2. Decreased customer satisfaction: In a world where customers expect instant access to information and services, internet brownouts can lead to slow response times, dropped connections and unsatisfactory experiences, causing customers to lose trust in your business.

  3. Lost revenue: Online sales can be severely impacted by internet brownouts, as customers may abandon their shopping carts or experience transaction failures. Additionally, businesses that rely on real-time data or remote services may face significant operational challenges during brownouts.

  4. Reputation damage: Repeated instances of internet brownouts can damage a company's reputation, as customers and partners may perceive the business as unreliable or unprofessional.

To mitigate the consequences of an internet brownout, it is crucial to develop a comprehensive strategy. By being proactive, it is possible to prepare for such a brownout and keep your business on track.

Related: 4 Tips to Optimize Your Office's Network Infrastructure

How to stop internet brownouts from impacting your business

To minimize the impact of internet brownouts on your business, there are a variety of strategies that could prove helpful. Some of the top examples include:

  1. Invest in robust network infrastructure: Upgrading your network infrastructure, including routers, switches and cabling can improve the stability and performance of your internet connection. Investing in high-quality equipment and working with a reliable internet service provider (ISP) can help prevent brownouts.

  2. Implement network redundancy: Diversify your internet connections by using multiple ISPs or alternate connection types, such as wired and wireless options. This redundancy can ensure that if one connection is affected by a brownout, your business can continue operating with minimal disruption.

  3. Upgrade your hardware: Invest in higher-grade hardware to ensure reliability and avoid costly network failures. In addition, enterprise-grade internet connections have become more affordable with the drop in fiber optic cable prices, making them a viable option for small businesses.

  4. Optimize bandwidth usage: Implement Quality of Service (QService) policies to prioritize critical business applications and limit non-essential traffic. For example, encourage employees to avoid bandwidth-heavy activities, such as video streaming or large file downloads, during peak business hours.

  5. Develop a disaster recovery plan: A comprehensive disaster recovery plan can help your business respond quickly and effectively to internet disruptions. This plan should include guidelines for employees, alternate communication methods and backup systems for critical data and applications.

  6. Consider using a Content Delivery Network (CDN): CDNs distribute your website's content across multiple servers located in different geographic locations. By serving content from a server closest to the user, CDNs can help mitigate the impact of network congestion and improve your website's performance during internet brownouts.

  7. Employ a backup power connection: An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) provides backup battery power to your IT systems, ensuring a seamless transfer to the battery supply in case of a power outage. For longer-lasting power failures, consider investing in backup generators.

  8. Switch to cloud or colocation services: Protect your business from data loss due to natural disasters or power surges by moving essential documents to cloud servers or colocation centers. These facilities offer enhanced security, data backup in diverse geological regions and technical support to manage potential problems.

Internet brownouts are an unfortunate reality of today's digital landscape. While it may be impossible to eliminate them entirely, businesses can take steps to minimize their impact by investing in robust network infrastructure, implementing redundancy and adopting best practices for bandwidth management. By being proactive and prepared, your business can continue to thrive even in the face of temporary internet disruptions.

Related: 12 Surprising Office Wi-Fi Killers

Wavy Line
Greg Davis

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO of Bigleaf Networks

Greg Davis is the CEO of Bigleaf Networks, with a record of scaling businesses through revenue growth, operations, and strategic acquisitions. He has 25+ years of tech leadership, leading start-ups to $100M+ in annual revenue. He has been on the board of directors for Bigleaf Networks since 2020.

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