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Vintage and retro clothing lovers have found an engaging shopping experience at through the help of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, product reviews and the “ModCloth Blog” — all applications that require network reliability.

Intensifying the stress on its network even further, the pure-play e-tailer is in growth mode, adding three additional offices in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh to its existing San Francisco headquarters.

“We use DSL lines in our offices but also have multiple voice and data carriers due to the various regions we operate our offices in,” says Mike Walther, ModCloth’s senior network engineer. “Typically we have six DSL lines per office, but sometimes we need help to sustain high-speed Internet access.”

Connecting these locations is just as important as a multi-channel retailer linking its many locations and business channels. Users in the Los Angeles office must access the company’s Pittsburgh data center, which houses mission-critical applications like shipping, ordering, distribution, support for Google apps — even Internet and e-mail services.

Networking these locations together can become a costly endeavor, however, as most carriers require a proprietary device to be housed at the retailer’s central office to bond multiple DSL or cable lines and create a larger pipeline. Without a way to connect these lines, retailers are in jeopardy of losing transaction speed and reliability. ModCloth refused to be one of these companies.

Eager to get its new offices and supporting networks functional as quickly as possible, ModCloth needed a cost-effective, non-proprietary carrier solution that could effortlessly bond up to 10 DSL lines, regardless of provider or format (wired or wireless). It also had to be easily scalable, user-friendly and able to deliver maximum speed. The ideal solution was a broadband bonding appliance called TRUFFLE, by San Diego-based Mushroom Networks.

One single connection

ModCloth began using the appliance in August to bond six DSL lines in its Los Angeles office. The appliance sits between the retailer’s broadband modems and LAN; there is no network modification or ISP coordination required to use the plug-and-play appliance.

The lines are connected to routers, which are connected to the appliance via the Ethernet. “The unit bonds the lines and creates one single connection to our internal network, allowing office users to access all of the bandwidth available across all six lines vs. the speed of a single DSL line for each individual user,” Walther says.

Currently, 14 employees in the Los Angeles office are using the connection strictly for web-based access. The retailer is also testing file-sharing software on the new network.

Besides delivering more bandwidth, ModCloth is improving network reliability. Both benefits help the company reduce operating costs.

“We are definitely seeing areas where we are getting a return on our investment, and the device is contributing to these returns,” Walther says.

While ModCloth is considering the appliance for future office locations, more pressing is the opportunity to use the device as a backup solution. It acts as a business continuity measure “to ensure that if one DSL line fails, the company will not lose network connectivity,” Walther says.