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How to Measure Network Reliability

Companies took quantum leaps in digital adoption in a matter of months, sometimes weeks, putting pressure on their existing networks.

Network reliability has taken on greater meaning during the COVID-19 pandemic as it has become mission-critical to maintaining connections with employees, customers, prospects, and vendors.

Companies took quantum leaps in digital adoption in a matter of months, sometimes weeks, putting pressure on their existing networks.

A McKinsey Global Survey of Executives found that since the start of the coronavirus crisis, “companies have accelerated the digitalization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and their internal operations by three to four years. And the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by a shocking seven years.”

The digital transformation was combined with a sudden shift to remote work and learning, putting additional pressure on network reliability.

“Before the pandemic, I managed 61 work sites,” CIO of a large financial services company told Network Computing. “Now, I manage 27,000 sites. Most of those have lousy last-mile service, unreliable consumer-grade networking gear, and absolutely zero IT footprint.”

The Importance of Network Reliability

Network reliability, defined as the frequency of network failure and downtime — time it takes to recover from those failures — is incredibly important.

ReRez Research conducted the “Catchpoint 2020 CIO New Normal” survey and found that those companies that were doing well during the pandemic were “1.6 times as likely to report high network reliability” vs. not faring as well.

That network failure and resulting downtime can have grave consequences for businesses, and even life-and-death consequences in the emergency and health fields.

In day-to-day business, network reliability is key to your sales team closing deals and customers being able to achieve satisfaction with your product or service. It is a must then, to accurately measure network reliability.

Methods to Measure Network Reliability

There are a couple of different ways to measure network reliability.

You can calculate MTBF or “mean time between failures” by dividing the total time in service by the number of network failures. The result will provide you with the average time between network failures.

Keep in mind that total time in service does not include downtime. Here is a quick example:

  1. In a 100-hour period of network activity, the network was down three times for a total of four hours.
  2. Service time would then be 96 hours (not 100 because you subtract out the downtime). 
  3. MTBF would then be 32 hours or 96 (service time) divided by 3 (number of failures).

Another method is to calculate the failure rate of your network by dividing the number of failures by the total time in service. In our example above, the failure rate would be:

  • Total failures (3) divided by total time in service (96) for a failure rate of 0.03125.

If you subtract from 100 percent, you can gain a reliability rate percentage for your network. In our example we would say the network is 96.875 percent reliable.

The goal of these measurements is to track how long your network is functional without interruption.

If your network has a low failure rate or a lengthy MTBF then your company is presenting your employees and customers with a reliable and consistent framework to complete transactions and business processes.

Network Reliability vs. Network Availability

Network reliability is a different measurement than network availability. To measure network availability, the uptime of a network is divided total time, which includes uptime and downtime combined.

A network over a 100-hour period that had one hour downtime would have a 99 percent network availability rate or 99 (uptime) divided by total time (100).

Network availability rates can sound better than their reality. A 99 percent rate, for example, spread over a year would mean the network was not functional for more than three complete days. For some businesses, going offline for even several hours, can be devastating.

Measuring the Different Components of Network Reliability

Another way to look at network reliability is to measure the combination of all network components such as servers, switches, routers, ISP, and cables.

If each component had the following reliability:

  • Servers 96 percent
  • Switches 99 percent
  • ISP 96 percent
  • Routers 98 percent
  • Cables 100 percent

Then total network reliability would be 89.414 percent or the sum of 96 percent x 99 percent x 96 percent x 98 percent x 100 percent.

By adding redundant devices for each component, adding a backup server for example to increase server reliability to 99.5 percent, you can increase overall network reliability.

At PS Lightwave we utilize reliability and redundancy to offer businesses and organizations in the greater Houston area network bandwidth ranging from 10 megs to over 40G. Contact us today for more information on how to get connected.

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PS LIGHTWAVE, a leading telecommunications service provider headquartered in Houston, Texas, provides managed Ethernet Data Circuits, Internet, private network solutions and Voice over IP (VoIP) over one of the nation’s largest facilities-based private Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs). The switched Layer 2 network, backed by 24/7/365 Network Operations Center (NOC) support, encompasses approximately 5,500 route miles and 1,400 on-net locations and connects 100+ fault-tolerant multi-gigabit Ethernet rings for built-in redundancy, security, low latency, and high-availability. At PS LIGHTWAVE Great Connections Happen Here™.

For more information, please visit or call 832-615-8000.