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point to point P2P connectivity
Enterprise / Networking

Point-to-Point (P2P) Connectivity: What You Need to Know

Rob Rodier
Reliable, secure network connections have become a business necessity. In many cases, no connection, no productivity – and no revenue. Point-to-point connections services are used by many large corporations to ensure their WAN (wide area network) is up at all times.

What Do We Mean by a Point-to-Point Connection?

Point-to-point connections, sometimes called a point-to-point link, P2P links, private line, or leased line, securely connect two locations using a Layer 2 data connection, building a closed network. Data on these connections doesn’t travel on the public internet, where it could be vulnerable to hackers or cyberattacks. Point-to-point connections are extremely secure, so much so that only limited data encryption may be necessary when using them. However, if an extremely high degree of security is required, think government or finance, some carriers offer encryption with their point-to-point services.

When Is Point-to-Point the Right Choice?

Point-to-point connections are available in a range of service levels, but they’re most commonly used for high-bandwidth (the amount of data that can be transmitted in a specific window of time) and low latency (the delay between the user’s action and the network’s response). Point-to-point connections also have minimal packet loss, which occurs when small units of data or “packets” never reach their destination.

Point-to-point connections can deliver these high service levels because data always travels back and forth in the same way across a dedicated route. When businesses use the public internet, their data may be routed differently at different times or rerouted to reach its destination. With a point-to-point connection, data travels a predictable path, meeting customer expectations (and provider promises) for a high quality of service (QoS).

Point-to-point connections are valuable in a wide range of use cases. They’re most often used when establishing secure cloud or data center connections, facilitating large file transfers, protecting data in transit to a disaster recovery backup solution, providing users with secure WAN access, supporting glitch-free video streaming, or supporting applications where performance is imperative.

What to Consider Before Choosing Point-to-point Service

Although point-to-point connections offer a range of benefits to businesses and organizations, they also require more of a commitment of time and resources than using public internet connectivity.

First, these connections are unmanaged links. The user typically provides all of the hardware necessary for the connection and is responsible for troubleshooting the link unless one end of the connection needs repair from the provider.

Next, even though point-to-point connection services are offered with service level agreements (SLAs), the customer will agree to participate in meeting them. For example, the user also bears the responsibility for managing traffic prioritization and queuing, usually assigning a network administrator with the knowledge and skill to classify network traffic by importance and schedule it. The business’s ability to successfully take on these tasks will contribute to high-priority data getting where it needs to be and, ultimately, meeting levels of speed and reliability.

Finally, potential point-to-point service users need to consider costs. Unlike other services that base their prices on bandwidth, point-to-point pricing is based on the distance the data has to travel. Therefore, the further points on the network are from each other geographically, the higher the cost of this service. P2P WAN connectivity may make financial sense for a college with buildings on one campus or a healthcare provider with multiple buildings on the same city block. However, P2P connectivity may exceed the budget of a chain of professional offices with locations across several states. In those cases, users may consider a private connection via multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) or a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN); however, those options don’t match P2P connectivity in latency and QoS. Wave circuits are another high bandwidth WAN option that are often used in similar situations to P2P lines.

Choosing a Point-to-Point Service Provider

Most major providers, such as Lumen, AT&T, Verizon, Zayo, and Crown Castle, offer dedicated internet access (DIA), waves, and MPLS also offer point-to-point connectivity options. You may also have providers in your region who provide this service, depending on where your facilities are located. SLAs, install intervals, and customer experience will vary by carrier, but the major variable at play will be who is near-net at your A and Z locations when determining which providers to engage for a bid.

If you’re interested in point-to-point connectivity, we can take in your specs and provide apples-to-apples quote options from multiple providers on your behalf for free. Simply fill out our questionnaire if you’d like a quote.

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