Real estate agents depend heavily on telecom networks to communicate with clients and pursue leads. Any disruptions can bring business to a screeching halt.

So it’s important that brokerages safeguard their Internet connectivity — especially in an era when many services rely on cloud-based technology.

"Broadband bonding" is one network technology that may prove particularly useful in helping brokerages hedge against line disruptions.

The technology digitally bonds DSL and cable lines to link together the telecom lines of company branch offices and headquarters.

Branch offices often depend on their headquarters for access to telephone lines and cloud-based services, like customer management systems. So brokerages often pay for connectivity that is more reliable and efficient than consumer-grade Internet connections. 

Broadband bonding does more to safeguard interoffice networks than other services, said Cahit Akin, CEO of broadband bonding provider Mushroom Networks. That’s because it uses multiple Internet connections to sustain a companywide network. Other services typically use just one, Akin said.

"Let’s say a line goes down," Akin said, offering a disaster such as Hurricane Sandy as an example of an event that could cause a line disruption. "As long as we have one still running you have the connectivity to your headquarters office."

One brokerage that’s adopted broadband bonding is Houlihan Lawrence, a New York-based brokerage with 25 offices serving Westchester, Dutchess and Putnam counties.

Houlihan Lawrence says it’s cut its telecom costs in half, and boosted its wide area network (WAN) speeds by about 75 times. 

In addition to the benefits of low cost and speed, the diversified connections to multiple providers mean that branch offices "stay up without any intervention on our end" if one of the connections goes down, said Andrew Lafreniere, Houlihan Lawrence’s director of IT, in a statement.

That’s important because the brokerage depends on its WAN for telephone over IP service, and cloud-based applications such as customer relationship management (CRM).

Houlihan Lawrence had previously used a connection setup common among many companywide networks. Companywide networks typically involve outfitting a T-1 line with a technology called multiprotocol label switching (MPLS). MPLS sends information through a private connection from one office to another, cutting out detours that the same information would take if it made the journey through public networks.

The direct interoffice connection increases speed and reliability. But Akin said MPLS provides less protection than broadband bonding because it still shepherds data along just one connection. Broadband bonding spreads risk among several lines, he said. 

Broadband bonding also purportedly provides a higher-speed connection than a T-1 outfitted with MPLS — although if a connection goes dark, broadband bonding slows down.

The technology can slash telecom costs, because it uses DSL and cable connections, each of which costs somewhere in the range of $50 a month, Akin said.

In contrast, a T-1-MPLS network can cost well over $1,000 a month.

Akin said a Mushroom Networks "Truffle" broadband bonding unit, which is enough to serve one office, costs somewhere in the range of $2,000.

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