By TerryAnn Fitzgerald, SMB Solutions Marketing Manager, HP Networking
As I’ve mentioned in some of my SMB blogs, I work from my home. My husband and I also have our fair share of gadgets including smartphones and tablets. Combine both those factors with a family that is spread across the country and it quickly becomes clear that cloud computing is a big part of my life – from sharing photos to backing up my personal desktop. It’s easy, it’s convenient and I’ve come to depend on cloud computing to keep me connected and my world in sync.
Today SMBs are beginning to discover the advantages of cloud computing.
According to AMI Partners, there has been a shift in the use of cloud computing by SMBs. The global strategy firm that focuses on SMBs, notes that a significant segment of U.S. SMBs now prefer to deploy multiple cloud computing services in order to achieve flexibility, ease of IT management and lower capital expenditures. Additionally, SMBs are accessing these multiple cloud services and applications from multiple cloud computing service providers.
While SMBs can benefit greatly from cloud computing, accessing multiple cloud computing services from multiple providers without proper planning could become a headache. Is your network architecture optimized for cloud computing? How can you ensure the network connection to your most important apps don’t slow down? Let’s take a look at what to consider before diving in with more than one cloud vendor.
I had a conversation with my colleague Joe Vukson, HP networking solutions marketing manager, who offered the following three network sticking points that SMBs shouldn’t overlook when using multiple cloud service providers: prioritization, bandwidth and service-level agreements and specialization.
1. Prioritization: According to Vukson, prioritization is the most important network consideration. Proper prioritization begins by understanding that applications are business-critical and which are more operational. Knowing that helps SMBs source the best applications from the most appropriate cloud service providers, allowing them to right-size the services for particular needs as well as plan for spikes in usage.
Also, he notes that if you can get a service that’s cost-effective or even free, why not take advantage of the savings? It’s wise to use a hosted service, like email, for non-business-critical applications. Focus your budget on dedicated applications that will require more robust cloud services. This includes applications that are proprietary, sensitive or in-line with core business operations. Consider hosting for more operational applications that are not business-critical—this will save you money in the long run.
2. Bandwidth and Service-Level Agreements (SLAs): Bandwidth and service-level agreements go hand-in-hand. It’s all too common for network performance to deteriorate when more users are accessing the network. Make sure there’s a service-level agreement (SLA) between your business and the service provider that ensures a minimum bandwidth guarantee.
When you’re using an application that’s core to your business, you must be able to allocate bandwidth or manage your network so it has priority. For example, many businesses rate VoIP traffic as top priority so users can communicate, make phone calls and attend meetings without impact.
According to Vukson, the choke point is where the external service provider network comes into the point of presence in the internal network. This means it’s important to make sure that you’ve got the right equipment to meet the bandwidth requirements and you’ve got the right service plan to meet those requirements.
It is easier to plan for connectivity support when it’s on your internal network. But once you leave the internal wall of your network, it is less under your control, which is why equipment and SLAs are important.
(3) Specialization: You can optimize business needs and costs when you choose vendors that specialize. For example, Salesforce.com offers a very specific service that it knows how to optimize, likely much better than a business with a different focus or service offering. In this case, the application provider could also be the service provider. Such packaged deals require less of an investment because you don’t have the capital outlay of developing the app yourself or buying the hardware on which to host it. And you’re able to rely on an expert to develop and maintain the application.
On the other hand, for critical apps that you may have developed in-house, you could rent space with a public cloud infrastructure provider, such as Amazon EC3, and host the app on its servers. That way, you’d still gain the benefits of cloud as a way to lower capital expenditure but you’d be able to continue to have control over the application that you’ve developed.
Cloud computing is a great way for SMBs to lower the cost of IT.
HP Networking provides easy-to-use networking solutions for SMBs that can help optimize your use of cloud computing services. Learn more about the solutions, which include unified communications, network management and security platforms.