Not sure how the arrival of the NBN will impact on operations at your small or medium sized business? Or perhaps you’ve already taken a leap into the cloud and encountered some unexpected network dramas as a result?
Confusion and uncertainty around how best to achieve reliable connectivity and optimal bandwidth management are not in short supply in the Australian SME community.
Managing fluctuating internet speeds, minimising latency issues and lowering infrastructure costs are common objectives but achieving them is not always as simple as it may sound.
Migrating key applications from a server-on-premises model to the cloud, following connection to the NBN, can create significant, and often unanticipated network traffic challenges.
Cloudy with a chance of network congestion
If you’re an SME in this boat you can be rest assured of one thing: you’re far from alone.
Spending on public cloud services in Australia was expected to hit $4.6 billion in 2018; up 18.5 per cent on the previous year’s spend, according to IT research house Gartner, thanks to mass adoption of the subscription-based model by businesses of all sizes and stripes.
Software-as-a-service accounted for the biggest piece of the pie, with Australian organisations predicted to spend $2.6 billion on remotely hosted applications.
Platform-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service, business process-as-a-service and cloud management and security services were expected to enjoy investment levels of $253 million, $536 million, $920 million and $281 million respectively.
The stampede to the cloud necessitates two things on the networking front: reliable connections and a suite of tools to manage the increased flow of network traffic, inside and outside organisations.
The highly distributed architecture characteristic of the cloud can equal more connections, greater complexity and, more often than not, more connectivity problems, particularly if users are geographically dispersed or working from remote sites.
Voice is a particular bugbear. SMEs migrating their phone systems to the cloud can find they’ve swapped connectivity made highly reliable by local cabling for internet connections and bandwidth which are required to support multiple other users and applications.
Issues with latency and jitter are not uncommon – and neither goes down well with users, if they’ve not been a problem in the past.
What was supposed to be a great leap forward – the adoption of the cloud computing model on the back of the new, super-fast NBN platform – can feel more like the reverse if heavy use applications, such as voice systems, decline in quality or become less dependable.
Finding ICT staff or resources to manage the increased demands on the network can also be a challenge, particularly for SMBs which don’t have the budget to pay premium prices for up-to-the-minute skills.
The SD WAN advantage
SD WAN software that maximises the utility and minimises the cost of networking infrastructure can help SMEs manage these challenges efficiently and cost effectively.
It can enable the construction of hybrid WAN architecture which allows enterprises to route network traffic across multiple pathways.
Being able to choose high performance options for in-demand applications, such as email, and networking ‘back roads’ for systems which are less mission critical means enterprises can spend as much as they need to, but not more than they have to, on their networking requirements.
It’s a cost control measure which has little impact on the user experience and one which can be deployed and managed remotely.
Smart and secure
While paying less for more makes for a compelling use case, SD WAN solutions can’t trade on their economic credentials alone. Overcoming internal resistance to the cloud model, motivated by concerns about security, has been a feature of the migration journey for many enterprises. Ensuring the pathways connecting users to the cloud are as well protected as the applications they’re accessing is a high priority for most.
There are several means by which SD WAN software can be secured. Network security can be embedded in the appliances themselves, or delivered via the cloud or firewall appliances.
The latter is considered the most secure. It’s the solution of choice for a growing number of Australian enterprises that don’t want sub-par or over-priced networking technology to prevent their reaping the considerable benefits the cloud model can deliver.
About the author
Mark Sinclair, ANZ Country Manager, WatchGuard Technologies