A shift to cloud computing may appear to offer great relief but it also delivers a host of new network challenges.

Through cloud computing, organizations perform tasks or use applications that harness massive third-party computing and processing power via the internet cloud. This allows enterprises to quickly scale services and avoid purchasing network assets for infrequent, intensive computing tasks.

While providing increased IT flexibility and potentially lowering costs, cloud computing shifts IT management priorities from the network core to the WAN/internet connection. Cloud computing extends the organization’s network via the internet, tying into other networks to access services, applications, and data. Understanding this shift, IT teams must adequately prepare the network, and adjust management styles to realize the promise of the cloud.

Here are 5 key considerations organizations should make when planning, employing, and managing cloud computing applications and services:

1. Conduct Pre-Deployment and Readiness Assessments
Determine existing bandwidth demands per user, per department, and for the organization as a whole. With the service provider’s help, calculate the average bandwidth demand per user for each new service you plan to deploy. This allows the IT staff to appropriately scale the internet connection and prioritize and shape traffic to meet the bandwidth demands of cloud applications.

2. Shift the Network Management Focus
Cloud computing’s advantage lies in placing the burden of applications, data storage, and processing on another network. This shifts management priorities from internal data concerns to external ones. Currently, organizations have larger network pipes and infrastructure at the network core, where the computer processing power is located. With cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) applications, the importance of large bandwidth capacities shifts away from the core to the internet connection. The shift in focus will significantly impact the decisions you make from whether your monitoring tools adequately track WAN performance to the personnel and resources you devote to managing WAN-related issues.

3. Determine Priorities
With a massive pipeline to the internet handling online applications and processing, data prioritization becomes critical. Having an individual IP consuming 30 percent of the organization’s bandwidth becomes unworkable. Prioritize cloud and SaaS applications and throttle traffic to make sure bandwidth is appropriately allocated.

4. Consider ISP Redundancy
Thoroughly assess the reliability of your existing internet service provider (ISP). When the internet connection is down or degraded, business productivity will also be impacted. Consider having multiple providers should one have a performance issue.

5. Hold Service Providers Accountable
Today, if a problem occurs within the network core, the network engineer can monitor the entire path of network traffic from the client to the server in order to locate the problem source. With service providers controlling the majority of information in cloud computing, it becomes more difficult to monitor, optimize, and troubleshoot connections. As a result, service level agreements (SLAs), take on greater importance in ensuring expected network and internet performance levels.

SLAs should outline the delivery of expected internet service levels and performance obligations service providers must meet and define unacceptable levels of dropped frames and other performance metrics. An SLA by itself is not enough to guarantee that your organization receives the level of service promised. Since it is not in the provider’s interest to inform a client when its quality of service fails, we must rely on an independent view of WAN link connections. Use a network analyzer with a WAN probe to verify quality of service and assess whether the provider is meeting SLA obligations.

Cloud computing is more than the latest IT buzzword; it’s a real way for companies to quickly obtain greater network flexibility, scalability, and computing power for less money. But like most technologies, these services are not without risk and require proper preparation and refocused management efforts to succeed.

Additionally, with strict SLAs in place, cloud providers have a limited time to resolve performance problems, otherwise they risk paying enterprise clients money for downtime and outages. Could your provider owe you money? The same tools that providers use to verify SLAs are available to you, and might already be employed on your network.

Learn more about how network monitoring tools can be used by cloud providers as well as enterprise clients to assess and verify SLAs, reduce troubleshooting, and ensure uptime.

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