When it comes to finances, businesses large and small, private, public or non-profit often face similar pressures. They want to improve productivity while reducing expenses as much as possible. And this is why we’ve seen IT proliferate in nearly every organisation you can think of. IT, which has become ever more affordable for even small businesses, allows you to lower expenses in many areas while enhancing efficiency – provided it is being properly used and maintained of course.
This is why recent years have seen cloud technology become so widespread. You can enjoy greater computing power without having to make a lot of investments in hardware and software.
Now another application that is promising to make businesses more efficient for less financial outlay is cloud networking. This allows you to deliver enterprise class network capabilities through the infrastructure of the cloud.
Before we look at Cloud Networking, it’s worth giving a little reminder of what Cloud Computing itself actually involves. Basically it refers to the delivery of software and infrastructure and storage over the net and in real time. This means people can access their work anywhere they can access the internet and there’s no need for expensive in house resources and hardware to run business applications. Cloud computing means you no longer have to waste precious hours configuring, maintaining and updating your hardware and it’s possible to save a great deal of money.
So how does Cloud Networking differ you might ask. Well traditionally a business’s networking applications and network management software would have all been bought and maintained in-house along with all the costs this entailed, such as buying new servers and hardware – and then paying staff to look after it all. This can be expensive enough when you have only one location but when you have several branches or offices and need to deploy and maintain your networking equipment there too, it really stretches your resources. This is where cloud networking comes in.
Cloud networking is a way of building and managing secure private business networks online using the cloud infrastructure. This means all your traditional network functions and services such as connectivity, security, management and control, are sent into the cloud and delivered as a service. You can deploy and manage these networks without having to splash out more money on additional hardware and staff to take care of it. Cloud networking is efficient too, and can automate complex tasks, and allow centralised control and full network visibility at all times.
Cloud Enabled Networking (CEN) v Cloud Based Networking (CBN)
Within cloud networking there is the option of CEN or CBN cloud services. CBN is when you are taking all your networking applications from the internet and not deploying them at all in your company’s in house infrastructure. This is often offered as a pay-usage model and all you need to get going is a reliable internet connection.
CEN private cloud networking on the other hand means that your networking architecture provides hosted services behind a firewall and to a limited number of users. The core networking infrastructure, routing and other networking services including data will stay on your own physical network. You are hosting your own applications and providing them to your own IT users when required.
So what are the benefits of cloud networking?
As more people learn about cloud networking, its benefits are becoming clear. So let’s take a look at how switching to a cloud network will boost your business.
- Lower costs: As you’re not spending so much money on hardware and infrastructure for one or several locations, you automatically save a lot of money up-front. What’s more, as with cloud computing, upgrades, updates and patches are automatically being taken care of within your monthly or yearly payments to the networking provider. You’ll also have lower energy costs and less office space taken up.
- Speed: Cloud networking can be switched on when needed and there’s no waiting for the installation of servers and other equipment. New applications can be used without having to configure and install equipment.
- Higher productivity: cloud networking certainly gives your IT team a lot more time to deal with other areas of your business. All the configuration, updates and management is taken care of by the provider. And an efficient network that can be centrally overseen will speed up processes generally.
- Security: This is always a big worry for any business using cloud technology. But in cloud networking, there are stringent security policies in place including encryption and authentication, data loss firewalls and malware protection as well as a range of other security features. We will look at this in more depth later.
- Be more mobile: Web based networks are online so you can access them on any mobile device wherever you might be. This means it’s useful for workers, at home on the road or staff who bring their own devices to work.
- Scalability: With cloud networking you can add (and of course remove) capacity as and when it’s needed as the company grows or when you have big projects scheduled. What’s more, you can do this within minutes.
- Less downtime: The cloud provider handles any updates regarding cloud network applications so internal networks can stay up and running when updates are needed.
Cloud Networking is clearly going to be a direction that many businesses will take rather than keep investing in expensive infrastructure. This can be seen by the huge success of the US company Arista Networks which has seen its shares soar recently. Arista specialises in network switches and has become a huge player in the cloud networking industry. The company provides software-driven multi-layer network switches for huge data centres, cloud computing solutions, high-performance computing and high-frequency trading environments and has long been in competition with a company called Cisco, which was has for many years been the market leader in networking systems.
But Cisco specialises in producing hardware that requires lots of custom set-up and programming. This can take hours in large data centres and mean organisations are running at half capacity until everything is configured. Arista on the other hand uses equipment that plugs into the network and is instantly provisioned through software. And when you need to add more capacity, it is available virtually and instantly. There is no waiting for equipment or waiting for it to be installed. Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft are big users of Arista’s services and this shows which way the wind is blowing – customers are now transitioning away from proprietary networking solutions to cloud networking architecture
So if you’re looking to save some money and think that cloud networking could be a way to do this while boosting productivity, it’s well worth exploring some of the options out there.