The world we live in is becoming increasingly reliant on technology and bandwidth. This has resulted in growing challenges that trouble network managers, resellers and end users. As cutting-edge hardware is now more readily available than ever, it no longer provides the competitive edge. The opportunity to get ahead of the competition now lies in the ability to provide added value and enable users to work efficiently and achieve better results, with a network that is not only agile, flexible, and responsive, but most importantly robust. Ideally, this network is more reliable than those used by others in the sector.
Businesses must be confident in their network’s ability to deal with everyday tasks as well as the demands of customers, but they also need a network that is be able to keep up in a constantly evolving landscape. Companies of all sizes are starting to pay more attention to big data and are becoming increasingly aware of their need for progressively sophisticated analytics to create thoroughly personalised journeys and interactions that customers demand.
Another widespread example of innovation putting greater strain on business networks is the Internet of Things (IoT). The results of a recent survey of 700 executives showed that 60 per cent of businesses are now looking to make use of the IoT to drive new initiatives. Of course, initiatives will differ by company and sector, but it is clear that they will inevitably involve the development, reconfiguration and scaling of business networks.
The power of the cloud for businesses
Even in the era of cloud, that sounds like a huge potential headache for network managers and resellers. Moving an SMB with a traditional locally deployed network into the era of advanced analytics and the IoT will be quite a challenge. Whenever any meaningful scaling-up or innovation is carried out conventionally, managers have to install and maintain generic software and spend time doing this (generally forcing the business to cease, or at least disrupt, productivity). They also have to be on-site to install hardware and/or trouble-shoot the inevitable teething troubles that accompany change. But that is just the way of things — isn’t it?
Fortunately, no. With thought and care, it is now possible to deploy a networking solution that is not just cloud-based, but proactively uses the power of cloud to the greatest advantage of network managers and end users. It’s an approach that paves the way for ongoing benefit, innovation and expansion as technology develops.
Where networks meet the cloud
Business applications hosted in the cloud are now well established, and show tangible benefits for companies that use them. It is straightforward for resellers and outsourced network managers to make a business case for cloud, even where clients are uncertain. Indeed, the areas of greatest client concern and uncertainty (which include security, showing ROI, monitoring network performance, compliance and governance, analytics and creating cloud-based IP) are highly amenable to the use of third-party experts. Thus, cloud network management generates opportunity for partners but, as we have seen, it can also generate headaches and inconvenience.
Because for network managers and end users alike, merely being cloud-based is no longer enough. To convey real benefits, the network must be intentionally and intelligently optimised to leverage cloud’s universality and 24/7 accessibility from any location. That means using a cloud-based network management that gives administrators flexibility, scalability and all with hands-off control (ideally, even new hardware will be pre-programmed before despatch and link to the network and update as soon as it is plugged in).
When such a network configuration is achieved, it provides clear benefits to end users and resellers/external network managers alike.
For the end user, remote management and hardware pre-configuration can help to reduce network-related downtime and even the downtime that is required (for example, to install hardware) may be scheduled to suit the business. Remote management also removes the element of intrusion and need to adhere to rigid timetables. The cloud network that is designed for simplicity of installation and ease of use is likely to give end users greater confidence, including the confidence to add further capability to their network and thus use data, IoT and other innovative approaches, potentially driving up revenue and generating a commercial advantage.
For network managers, be they in-house or external, centralised management simplifies the IT workload and gives easy access to reporting and monitoring wherever and whenever it is needed. The comprehensive overview of the network that comes with centralised cloud-based management can also help resellers to suggest beneficial scaling and expansion/innovation opportunities to their clients. There is no need for the supplier, or even the network manager, to visit the site for most mundane matters, which allows flexible timing and greater convenience all round.
Overall, if the network management function is not merely cloud-based, but instead intentionally designed to harness cloud capabilities to ensure the network is improved, then network managers and resellers can avoid the problems that they are often faced with. Such an approach enables the introduction of simple and effective processes that are easy to deploy. Straightforward and centrally-managed networking empowers managers to gain visibility and maintain control of their network whenever it is needed. This consequently creates the opportunity for the business to take full advantage of its own data. In the era of ‘big data’ and evolving technology landscape, could anything else be better than that?
Kevin Drinkall, EMEA Wireless and Cloud Market Development Manager, Zyxel