Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has opened up a world of opportunity. Gone are the days of clunky hardware updates and giant, on-premise server rooms. They have been replaced by cloud-based applications, where user experience and functionality are promised and being delivered by a broad range of vendors. From payroll to marketing, every department is seeing the benefits that this technology brings. Employees can collaborate more effectively in the likes of Office 365 and Salesforce — meanwhile, the finance department can securely house a huge amount of data on cloud-based systems and pull in-depth analysis in an instant.
It is no doubt that the human experience has benefited from the age of SaaS. However, for the IT department, the shift hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
Distributed enterprise architectures used to be all about centralised data centres and the applications they housed, as well as deploying the right networks that enable employees in branch offices to access business critical applications. But the enterprise world has evolved. Today, IT teams must manage an altogether different challenge; a multi-cloud environment.
Managing the multi-cloud
This new type of infrastructure is deployed to address different workloads and has to deal with an increase of SaaS applications that drive the same business functions previously served by traditional on-premises apps. In addition to this, IT departments must ensure their system has evolved with the new way the workforce operates.
Workforces today are dynamic. Employees expect on-demand access to cloud-based applications, whenever, and wherever they are. Instead of harbouring the burden of owning and maintaining the hosting infrastructure of these applications, IT teams must now take on very different challenges around application performance.
A recent ESG Enterprise SaaS Survey found 42 per cent of enterprises reported that at least half of distributed or international workers suffer consistently poor experience with critical SaaS applications. When application performance suffers, the ability for an enterprise to be competitive suffers too. With more than two-fifths of enterprise employees reporting consistently poor experience, it is clear that organisations still have a way to go on their journey to achieving all the benefits that SaaS can bring.
There are four key areas where SaaS often hits a roadblock for enterprises. The good news is that they are all eminently solvable. However, this requires teams to rethink their approach to how their infrastructure is managed. Here are some of the big issues for enterprise IT managers today.
It is simple enough for SaaS applications to operate effectively within an office, which will be located close to a cloud point of presence (PoP). However, often users are working from multiple remote locations as they work flexibly, or travel for business. As employees work away from offices, they often experience performance slow-downs and a less productive user experience.
In the city centres, we are usually blessed with affordable access to high bandwidth for our office locations. However, global enterprises operating all over the world know that in some places bandwidth isn’t always so cheap. In these cases, cloud traffic going through the available pipes can slow down massively. A network that already had issues with standard internet usage now has to handle applications such as Office 365, in constant use on a day-to-day basis. Even in areas where bandwidth is relatively inexpensive, a shift to SaaS can send alarm bells ringing. This is largely due to new pipes needing to be significantly bolstered to avoid a drop off in application performance.
Security and compliance
SaaS works best when it is embraced by every area of the business. However, compliance teams often require enterprises to backhaul SaaS traffic through a data centre due to their firm security posture. This adds an extra layer of infrastructure that will only increase latency. Of course, the same enterprises will have a plan to evolve and move past this particular hurdle, but it won’t happen quickly. In the meantime, backhauling creates more distance and causes longer delays, which can greatly hinder performance.
Roaming and remote workforces
As suggested earlier, we now have a dynamic and highly mobile workforce who are logging in from their homes, airports and coffee shops alike. In many cases, these are places out of IT’s control. This makes predicting performance much more challenging. This will only become more problematic as we move forward. Businesses can’t afford to have dark spots in this day and age, and as workforces become more mobile, businesses need to adapt their infrastructure to maintain visibility.
The visibility solution
This may seem like a significant amount of problems for businesses to solve at once. However, there is a single thread that runs through all of these issues that can be solved by a single solution: visibility. Armed with visibility on a global scale, IT teams are able to understand a user’s experience anywhere they might be. If implemented effectively, a visibility solution will provide an easy way to proactively accelerate the performance of the SaaS applications they’re using, so that they can stay productive.
IT leaders want to maintain the ease and scale they get from SaaS applications. However, they will also want to make sure they are in the driver's seat to control how users are experiencing the apps that are taking such a significant role in digital business. In today’s fast-paced and competitive world seconds and minutes can make the difference between success and failure. Cloud based applications have the potential to set you apart from the competition. Don’t let them hold you back.
Joe Bombagi, Director Solutions Engineering, UK&I, Riverbed Technology