All businesses that use outsourcing, or intend to, should consider the vital importance of the network to their cloud service. In our experience, many have not done this. They may then have to pay over the odds for unsuitable networking technology and the consequent poor application performance.
Incumbent carriers are no longer the only providers of quality connectivity. Thanks to the rise of new network providers, the market is more competitive than ever. In addition, a new breed of IT outsourcers has arisen: managed service providers that can take advantage of the array of networks available and combine them with other technologies in one complementary, individual customer-specific service. This has benefited prices and service.
Instead of having to use fibre-based networking technologies, carriers can combine multiple legacy copper lines to create a lower-cost, copper-based Ethernet connection with data transfer speeds, both up and downstream, of up to 20 Mbit/s. That is not as fast as fibre, but should suffice for small businesses wanting to access some cloud services.
Lower connectivity costs and increased choice, reliability and sophistication in networking technologies mean reliable, high-performance cloud services are potentially available to all companies of all sizes.
Businesses should assess their network provision as part of a move to the cloud if they are going to ensure the move is as cost effective and seamless as possible. In some cases it may be worthwhile to break a contract with a carrier, for example, in order to get a new service that is faster, cheaper and more reliable.
If you are going to outsource business-critical IT functions to the cloud, you need a connection with strict performance and availability guarantees.
Business customers must consider who is accountable for the performance and availability of their network. If multiple cloud providers are involved, such as a carrier, a hosting company and an application provider, it can be hard to troubleshoot and fix service disruptions.
A number of businesses say they have come to us for combined cloud hosting, application management and networking services because they were frustrated with the finger-pointing among providers of different elements of their outsourced service. Sourcing the network from the cloud service provider also provides greater agility to counter a range of issues.
When using one service provider for cloud hosting, application management and network services, it is possible to react more quickly to any problems. This means the overall impact on business functions is minimised.
However, it raises the question of addressing how best to implement a complete service, and at the same time protect the customer’s business to ensure they receive the expected level of service.
A service level agreement (SLA) should be for the overall service, not individual elements.
This is only possible, however, if the service provider controls both the cloud hosting and the network services. With multiple providers, you must ensure the SLA with the network provider covers the cloud application.
Multiple service provider offerings help resellers provide more services. The end user customer benefits from increased choice as well as the expertise of the reseller.
It is easy to get wrapped up in the wonders of the cloud and only consider the means of accessing and retrieving customer data as an afterthought. Due diligence is needed.
Michel Robert is UK managing director at Claranet
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