Businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on machines to deliver accurate, secure information. No matter your industry, deploying a machine-to-machine (M2M) or Internet of Things (IoT) application is a complex endeavor. So you need an M2M solution that delivers information in a consistent and reliable way.
Here are six questions to ask when vetting an M2M service provider.
1) How reliable is your network? A network built specifically to handle M2M traffic is extremely reliable. Success rates well in excess of 95 percent for delivery of short text messages from device to the carrier network (SMS-MO) are not uncommon. Transport times of less than six seconds for data packets sent and received between devices and host systems are also common.
In fact, some automotive companies have found that a solution designed to operate on an M2M network improved response times of vehicle crash data from 90 seconds to less than 20 seconds.
2) Do you have redundant data centers that are fault-tolerant? A carrier-grade infrastructure that is geographically redundant ensures higher reliability and is designed to survive both manmade and natural disasters. Look for a provider with a fault-tolerant data centers with automatic failover that has “five nines” of reliability, which equates to 99.999 percent uptime, or less than six minutes of downtime annually.
Ideally, the M2M provider’s network should have no single point of failure, meaning that the failure of no one single point will bring down the entire system.
3) Does your network carry both M2M and consumer handset traffic? A network dedicated solely to transporting M2M traffic won’t experience delays because of excess traffic from consumer handsets; cellular providers that make the majority of their revenue off of consumer devices typically give those transmissions priority over M2M traffic.
An M2M-dedicated network should have very low latency; meaning disruptions are so minor that they’re unnoticeable. This means your mission-critical data transmissions have a greater likelihood of success.
4) What are your setup fees? While some companies do not charge fees for setting up any services, others charge for setting up a variety of complementing components including application programming interfaces (APIs), a secured virtual private network (VPN) and short message peer-to-peer bind (SMPP BIND) to use in sending text messages. Some fees, such as static Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, can include both a one-time setup fee and sometimes may have a recurring monthly fee-per-device.
Although one-time setup fees could cost thousands of dollars, some monthly fees that seem relatively small really add up when applied to thousands of devices. To avoid surprises on your bill, examine the fine print of any agreement before signing to determine what services may incur setup charges. What’s most important is that the M2M service provider has transparent billing so there are no hidden costs to cause you “sticker shock” when the bill comes.
5) What kinds of rate plans do you offer? Flexibility is vital with M2M services. Instead of a per-device plan that charges for a set amount of data per month, consider your usage needs. It may be that a pay-per-use plan that charges only for the amount of data used would better serve your business model.
If your organization uses a large quantity of devices, ask about pooling plans, which might allow you to “pool” and share data from low-usage devices to high users in a single month. This helps you to avoid costly overages. Review the provider’s policies on overages (sometimes referred to as breakage). Overage fees are often represented in kilobytes (KB) of usage in order to hide the true per MB, which could be up to $45 or more per megabyte (MB) for overage.
Also ask about the ability to suspend service on a device if your business model only requires sporadic usage. And check into when the device is actually placed in “active, billable” status. Some providers begin billing as soon as a device is activated and passes testing, before it’s even shipped or placed into service.
6) What kind of support services do you offer? A provider with a support team knowledgeable about Internet of Things (IoT) devices and dedicated solely to M2M issues is going to offer better service than a help desk operated by a consumer cellular carrier.
Ideally, the provider should also offer a portal with a dashboard for your organization to use in performing its own troubleshooting. Remote troubleshooting helps to significantly reduce the costs of remotely troubleshooting devices, particularly if a reset is all that’s needed — it could cost hundreds of dollars to deploy a tech to a remote location.
M2M offers a lot of potential to businesses needing efficient methods for communicating with machines. But it’s important to choose the right provider to help your business deliver on its promises.