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One of the main drivers of cloud adoption is the multitude of business benefits offered by cloud services such as Microsoft’s Office 365. Organisations are attracted to the accessibility, flexibility, and ‘pay-per-user’ license offerings of cloud packages, as well as myriad of business boosting applications which traditional platforms are unable to provide. At least, not without significant capital investment.

However, some businesses find themselves struggling to use or access the full scope of benefits from cloud services without running into slow response times, resulting in many of the truly revolutionary applications and services going unused. What these organisations are failing to realise in these instances, is that typically the fault lies not with the cloud service package, but with the connectivity and infrastructure that supports it.

Check your Infrastructure

Louis Kirstein, DSM Expert: Connectivity Services, at T-Systems South Africa, says that many organisations are buying into cloud offerings without first checking that their WAN and LAN infrastructure is firstly, capable of handling the increased Internet traffic to and from the cloud, and secondly able to support the highly beneficial internal collaboration tools that cloud services like Microsoft Office 365 (O365) offer.

“Infrastructure is an increasing concern for companies seeking to benefit from cloud services. Many businesses simply don’t have the Internet capacity to cater to a cloud migration, where every user who stands to benefit from cloud services needs to be online all the time, and able to access data in the cloud quickly,” says Kirstein.

“Bigger corporates that have large ERP systems in place usually already have a mature LAN and WAN, yet they still need to evaluate their network to ensure performance won’t be impacted by use of all the cloud services they have or wish to subscribe to.”

What to look for

Craig Mitchelmore, Head of Intervate North at Intervate, a T-Systems South Africa company, says that the main reason organisations seek to migrate to a cloud services suite, such as O365, is to boost productivity and step up their operational pace. However, he says that the bottleneck on accessing the cloud isn’t limited to the network.

“Often, we have found businesses with otherwise fast, high-capacity networks buy licenses for their users which render well on their devices, until they connect to the cloud and encounter slow speeds. Typically, the users blame the software, until an assessment shows that their device is not compatible with their network speeds or technology. A business’s entire infrastructure needs to undergo a full cloud readiness assessment before considering migrating to any cloud service, or they may well encounter problems which will negate their investment,” says Mitchelmore.

Kirstein agrees, adding, “A cloud readiness assessment needs to start from the affected user devices and work back towards their Internet connection at their chosen service provider. This needs to include ensuring that configurations, speeds and capacities all support the services required for the number of users that require them.”

Cloud ready

“For a cloud environment, traditional hub and spoke topology where expensive, dedicated MPLS networks are used to connect remote sites, is no longer sufficient,” says Kirstein. “This topology creates bottlenecks as traffic travels up and down the MPLS between the remote sites and centralised customer data centres. It’s also costly and doesn’t support the efficiency that can be realised by adapting to the changing landscape.”

According to Kirstein, the increased demand for connectivity, driven by cloud uptake, actively creates a business case for a hybrid WAN, where a dedicated MPLS service is supplemented by an internet breakout. He says that this will eventually evolve into an SD WAN, where services are delivered across a number of broadband Internet technologies such as MPLS, LTE, or broadband, using innovative routing policies.

“Where ‘break out’ at remote sites can be supported, the Internet becomes an integral part of the corporate WAN backbone, benefitting the business through the higher link speeds required to support cloud applications and services,” explains Kirstein. “The result is a cloud-ready network at a much lower cost and without any compromise to security.