I have read a number of local articles in the past few weeks talking about the benefits of moving applications such as PBX, Business Applications and Storage to the Cloud.
I’m not going to debate the benefits of moving certain applications and functions into the Cloud; it’s the way the world is moving. I do however have an issue with the way in many cases the network implications of doing this are glossed over.
Many of the articles that crossed my desk this week seem to infer that as long as you have a decent broadband connection then you are good-to-go. This is where the alarm bells started to go off for me.
Take SIP and Cloud based PBX for example. A continued frustration of mine is how many people interchange the terms: SIP, VoIP and Voice over the Internet. VOIP is not always voice over the internet, and in my opinion never for business voice. SIP has in the past had a bad rap as people have confused voice delivered over the internet with SIP provided over private networks (not the internet) and supported by Quality of Service (QoS) end to end. As most international carriers now interconnect using SIP the issues of the past are long behind us. The market trend towards the adoption of Cloud based PBX has reinvigorated the discussion around VOIP. Yes you can use a UFB access to deliver voice, but I am frustrated when I hear that the number of voice lines you can carry will depend on what other applications are being used at the same time. All UFB services come with a High Priority or CIR component built-in, specifically for applications like voice. If your service provider puts the voice into this queue then it doesn’t matter what the other applications are doing or how much capacity they consume – your voice should never be impacted. If it is, blame your service provider not the fact you are using VOIP.
Another issue to consider in the move to the cloud is that if all your applications are offsite, then you are more reliant on the quality of your network connection. In addition if you are on the end of a single internet connection what impact does a slow connection, or worse, a fault have on your business? A great end user experience is the result of fast and consistent network performance. That’s why accessing cloud based business services over a ‘vanilla’ internet connection isn’t good enough as it leaves you at the mercy of the ‘best effort’ design of the internet. You need to make sure your network connection does not slow down as the kids get home from school or you share network capacity with other users. Even more critically, now that all your business applications are offsite what impact will an outage have on your business? Three nines availability for an internet connection was fine for most businesses, but if that same connection is now carrying all your business applications what impact will a four hour (or longer) outage have on your business? All of a sudden that internet connection is now business critical and you should be thinking of how you can improve the SLA (Service Level Agreement), perhaps with diverse network connections (yes even for internet in some cases). This was brought home recently for a software development company when they had to send their entire staff home – all due to an internet outage that was fixed well within the network SLA. The business impact of this outage made the cost of improving their network resilience and improving their SLA pale by comparison. Remember the network SLA is often a function of the access technology used and an improvement may require a diverse access and not just demanding another nine on the availability SLA.
By all means move to the cloud; but please think about the implications of being even more reliant on your network connection. Think about the performance of your network and your SLA in light of the value of business lost in the event of a fault and talk to your service provider to make sure your network is optimised for the Cloud.