Data Centers

Gaining infrastructure services in third-world countries

Have you been given the task of building a network in a remote environment? Are you prepared to deal with dirty power, no phone lines, and slow connectivity? Here are a few tips and resources to help you prepare for the challenge.

The company you work for is expanding to a remote country. You’ve just been assigned the task of overseeing the network setup at the new location.

Before you instruct your system administration staff to begin the network’s implementation, here are some issues you should consider to obtain infrastructure services in a third-world country.

Power to the masses
One of the biggest problems associated with third-world countries is finding good, reliable power sources for networks. Often, the electricity provided in such environments isn’t up to code as far as U.S. standards, which can mean dirty power (or brownouts) for your machines. Dirty power is a distinct problem, as it can cause systems to crash frequently. It can also burn out boards and processors in the network machines.

So what’s the best solution to the problem? Instruct your system administrators to use high-end uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) to help regulate power delivery to your machines. A UPS keeps the power flow consistent, preventing uneven power from interrupting your network.

Another good idea is to keep a backup generator handy for use in emergencies. This way if (or when) power fails, a UPS will kick in to keep the system going while the generator is started. Once running, the generator can power your network until electrical service has been restored.

No phones lines, no problem…sort of
With the way technology has advanced in just the past few years, it’s now possible to gain telephony and Internet access in even the most remote areas. All your company really needs is a cell phone, a satellite dish, or both.

The cell phone is a great way to access the Internet from a laptop or desktop if no other means of communication is available. In a pinch, cell phones or satellite connections can be used for Internet connectivity. The only downside is that there generally must be local access numbers available in order to make a connection, or else you’ll find yourself paying not only by the minute for access time, but for long distance as well.

Currently, two TechRepublic editors are climbing 20,285-foot Imja Tse in the Himalayas. How are they providing their daily reports? They’re using MVS satellite telephones. Charges are roughly six dollars per minute. However, after securing a few permits and the appropriate zone usage, the data packets that form their Microsoft Word bulletins are coming by way of a Russian satellite.
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Faster is better
Another big problem when setting up systems in third-world countries or foreign environments is the speed at which the network communicates. But what's the best way to make your network fast? There are several connection options to choose from, but I suggest using fiber optics if possible. Why? Simply put, using fiber optics provides the fastest connectivity within a network possible, thereby allowing work within the network to be completed faster and more efficiently. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find good twisted pair in many regions, much less fiber.

Getting the local scoop
You can obtain more information on the current state of a region’s infrastructure and business environment by contacting the U.S. State Department. Check out its Country Reports on Economic Policy and Trade Practices . According to the Web site, these reports offer a single, comparative analysis of the economic policies and trade practices of countries with which the U.S. has significant economic or trade relationships.

Also on the site, you’ll find current Country Commercial Guides, which are prepared annually by U.S. embassies. They present details on various countries' commercial environments based on economic, political, and market analysis. You'll often find infrastructure information in such reports. You should also contact the country’s local technology and business ministries, if they exist, for more information on the infrastructure and economic climate.

Money is a key element
Perhaps your company needs some monetary assistance developing the network infrastructure, as it doesn't have the financial means to complete the task you have at hand. NATO may have a solution to your problem.

The company can apply for an NIG (Networking Infrastructure Grant) to help meet the financial goals for establishing the networking infrastructure.

According to NATO’s Web site , the purpose of an NIG is to promote local and international collaboration by setting up links and networking capabilities. NATO says the grant provides assistance to partner country institutions for purchasing equipment that will improve the level and the quality of telecommunication facilities.

The lesson
As if you didn’t already know, setting up shop in foreign countries is one thing. Setting up IT services is another. Be prepared for many hidden costs, too. Take our Trekking editors, for example. They budgeted funds for satellite phones and access time, then discovered that a $2,000 permit is required just to operate the phones in Nepal. You can avoid such surprises by carefully studying the regions you’ll be entering, and government institutions will probably be your best bet.
Have you managed a network in a third-world country? How did you go about getting infrastructure resources? Post a message below, or send us a note.

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