Tell a business owner that connectivity is central to business success, and she will tell you that you are stating the obvious. Tell her that the choice of network could be the difference between success and failure, and she is bound to raise an eyebrow.
The choice of network determines the effectiveness of vital business functions such as security, customer service, and even employee productivity. Research has shown that network choice within a business has a massive influence on how effectively these functions can be performed. It also has a marked effect on customer satisfaction and the speed with which products can be brought to market.
Businesses are starting to accept that networks that were adequate in the past can no longer deliver on all business requirements, owing to the digital transformation and the rapidly evolving business landscape. Hybrid networks have emerged as the frontrunner in raising business performance into the coming years, with 75% of organisations indicating that they plan to use hybrid cloud as part of their business transformation strategy.
We have found that the need to access public cloud applications and to make more bandwidth available at a lower cost are usually the first factors businesses consider when they consider implementing a hybrid network. However, massive changes in network technology are afoot and a hybrid network ensures that a business is optimally positioned to take advantage of the benefits of software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualisation (NFV).
While it has already started to take hold, quick and reliable access to cloud applications and company data, both from physical and virtual offices, will only become more critical to business success in the future. The fastest route to cloud applications and data is through a hybrid approach that combines different networks (MPLS and Internet), and access methods (Ethernet, leased lines, DSL, satellite and 3/4G mobile). Real-time voice and video is best transported on a private network to ensure the quality of the calls. Private connections give employees the end-to-end performance guarantees they need when working on business-critical tasks. With the help of the right consultant, it can be determined which types of traffic should go on which network to achieve business goals.
Hybrid networks provide what is known as enhanced Internet. They facilitates for the avoidance of service degradations by allowing the business to route important traffic via a public Interlay, a faster and more direct path from the office to public cloud applications. SD-WAN offers another approach. Traffic is automatically routed over a choice of two or more Internet links (or a private link and Internet connection), depending on real-time network congestion and health levels.
Hybrid networks also add an additional level of security by allowing general browsing by staff members on public Internet links, which are secured so they cannot be used for malicious hacking, data theft, blackmail, fraud, or espionage.
While hybrid networks will take some time and effort to set up initially, the advantages are apparent. The solution allows enterprises to dynamically segment application traffic onto different network links, depending on latency, bandwidth, geographic reach, security, and per-bit cost, leading to overall improvements in business performance.
By Mark McCallum, CTO, Director & Head of global Services Africa