Cloud adoption risks

Network Connectivity: Considerations on Moving into the Cloud

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 | Staff Writer

Network connectivity, although not widely perceived to be a major obstacle to the adoption of Cloud services, continues to rear its head during discussions of Cloud adoption risks. These concerns are not without cause: many Cloud services are wholly dependent on stable network connectivity for functionality, availability, responsiveness and overall performance. Poor or no network connectivity could result in potentially serious disruptions to Cloud services. But does network connectivity continue to pose a major challenge for Cloud adoption, or is that mostly myth?

Optimism and Cloud Connectivity
A recent study by research firm Freeform Dynamics shows broad optimism for the existing communications infrastructure and its ability to support Cloud services. However, the research indicates that this optimism is based more on intuition than real experience. One area that can be helpful when considering Cloud-related communications requirements is remote working. The study shows that remote working is widely supported by network connectivity. The emergence of highly mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and notebook PCs has driven the support for enabling application access from remote places. However, even though mobile access is well supported across many applications, the research indicates that Cloud adoption is nowhere near as advanced. Generally speaking though, it appears that the more support there is for remote working, the more likely that the more likely that Cloud services are being supported. 
Ready for Remote Working vs. Ready for Cloud
One of the more significant findings of this report is the distinction between ready for remote working and ready for Cloud. Remote working is relatively straightforward in that it enables users to connect to internals systems from the outside in, and overall service performance and availability usually requires little incremental investment. Cloud is a different matter in that it places new demands on the underlying connectivity infrastructure, with services often aimed at workers who expect and need continuous access. Many Cloud services may also need to be embedded synchronously with internal applications to function effectively. It’s clear that moving to Cloud often requires higher levels of reliability and support that require complete planning and investment.
WAN Reliability and Other Performance Considerations
WAN reliability was not a major issue with respondents, although it remains a serious point of discussion. The more that is asked of WAN with increasing Cloud use, the more likely that its shortcomings will be exposed. Site-to-site WAN connections (MPLS) and Fibre based broadband appear to be more reliable than copper based broadband. Although a copper broadband connection may be useful for syncing files and email to branch offices, they may not hold up to line-of-business sales, CRM or ERP cloud applications. However, increased reliability may cost more to implement and run. Another factor to consider is the culture of the service provider, with special attention to its customer support. As applications become more dependent on the service provider, customer service becomes an increasingly important element to a successful Cloud implementation. However, it’s important to remember that connectivity should be as reliable as in-house services, but it’s important to recall the law of diminishing returns when it comes to reliability.
Due Diligence of Service Providers
One aspect of network connectivity emerges clearly: service provider selection will require special due diligence. Cloud adoption elevates the role of the service provider to critical IT partner, requiring due diligence on advertised capabilities and ability to provide long-term sustainability and commitment. Service level agreements, penalties, and sanctions may all be used to monitor and enforce agreements.
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