When seconds on a clock represent millions of dollars, Garda USA, a cash logistics company, takes extraordinary measures to ensure its communications network and systems perform at their peak so money gets to the right places at the right time.

Garda’s U.S.-based armored transport subsidiary, formerly known as AT Systems Inc., migrated to a private wide area network supported by Multi-protocol Label Switching, or MPLS, and powered by New Edge Networks, the business communications unit of EarthLink, (NASDAQ: ELNK). The network is valued at more than $6 million.

The new MPLS network links about 150 branches and money rooms with redundant communications access to data centers in Dallas and Denver so that no data traffic traverses the public Internet. The data centers, in turn, have redundant access to different regional aggregation points on New Edge’s private national backbone network. The company also maintains a DSL-based private backup network with automatic failover and return to the primary network, in the event of network issues.

“Our customers are extremely concerned about the security and resiliency of our private network,” said Wes Colvin, chief information officer for Garda USA, based in Pasadena, California. “Our business is all about accountability and accurate accounting. If those elements – accountability and accuracy–are not there you don’t have anything.

“If you want to get someone’s attention, mess with their money,” says Colvin, noting that a fully meshed, highly secure MPLS network helps Garda deliver mission-critical applications to its clients, add value and differentiate itself among rivals.

“To distinguish ourselves in the market and to find ways to add value to the customer–that give us a competitive advantage–we have to use technology,” Colvin says. “The only way we can grow our business and successfully compete and be pre-eminent in the field is through technology.”

A number of large banks outsource their money rooms to Garda for processing deposits and handling cash transfers and change orders.

“We have to convince them that we can handle this (responsibility) for them as well or better than they can do themselves,” Colvin says. “The network and proprietary systems we use enable us to operate as an extension of their business and in compliance with their legal obligations.”

Garda migrated from a legacy frame relay network to an MPLS network. The primary network automatically switches to a DSL-based backup network and back to the primary network in the event of network failures anywhere.

New Edge built and maintains Garda’s backup network using alternate network facilities.

“The savings in costs for the primary network more than paid or covered the cost of the backup network so it was as if (Garda USA) got two networks for the price of one,” says Joe Gomez, chief information officer for W Lange and Co., a California-based telecommunications consultancy that advised Garda USA.

“We were able to triple Garda’s bandwidth and dramatically increase the network survivability while still achieving a $400,000 savings over the life of the three-year service agreement,” Gomez says.

Garda uses its MPLS network to power proprietary cash management and tracking systems as well as collaborative tools for improving communications, video surveillance, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), and email.

“MPLS technology is ideally suited to enable various types of traffic with differentiated levels of performance requirements to move across the network without affecting other traffic,” says Greg Griffiths, vice president of marketing for New Edge Networks.

A T1-based MPLS network delivers performance levels and service guarantees that one cannot get with a DSL-based network. It also provides a scalable approach to deploying network access to new branch locations as businesses grow in size and market share.