One of the industry's worst kept secrets around cloud based applications is the struggle with performance issues that is becoming a (very frustrating) daily routine. As enterprises look to improve their operational agility and optimize costs, cloud applications have emerged front and center, particularly Office 365 (O365) now used by over 180 million monthly active users. O365 lays the foundation for easy collaboration, providing anywhere-access, simple backup and restoration for reliability and smooth upgrade capabilities. That being said, evidence conveys that the migration and continued operation of O365 is NOT at all seamless. In a Gartner survey of O365 users, 20% reported networking problems, while a further 22% reported performance problems.
It is inevitable that employee productivity and the quality of customer experiences suffer as a consequence of the poor performance of O365. The quick detection and rapid resolution of problems associated with O365 are top of mind for any organization to keep its business humming. That being said, IT teams struggle with the promise of delivering operational agility and improved costs with O365 without sacrificing employee productivity and customer experience. The IT team at a major healthcare enterprise successfully overcame this challenge with a 4-point plan.
A healthcare enterprise consisting of over 100 locations uses Microsoft Office applications hosted on-Premise. As part of their migration to O365, Microsoft recommended that they enable direct internet access as opposed to backhauling traffic (central proxy) from the sites to the HQ or data center (DC) to avoid backhaul latency. Adopting a phased roll-out plan, users in 0365 migrated sites started complaining about network performance impacting their ability to complete their daily tasks. For example, some employees experienced delays of over 20 seconds when opening a standard Office PowerPoint presentation.
Further investigation revealed four areas of concern with the O365 migration:
■ Loss of visibility at the HQ/DC as remote users now accessed O365 directly through their internet link.
■ O365 was not under the purview of the IT team and difficult to determine if issues were network or O365 related.
■ Inability to control bandwidth intensive applications (upload and download) pervasively and cost effectively.
1. Locations were using different network types with different providers
2. Control at the application level was difficult. Legacy network level control was not working.
3. Couldn't apply the same approach across on-Premise, cloud and hybrid deployments for all applications
■ Future readiness in case users are allowed to access applications outside the office locations.
The healthcare enterprise invested in a performance visibility and application control solution with the following 4-Point plan.
1. Get pervasive visibility
Traditional visibility solutions are costly to deploy in terms of both finance and time. An agentless and SaaS (Software-As-A-Service) based visibility solution can be deployed quickly and cost-effectively. Support for all 0365 deployment models is a must –
■ Direct Internet Connectivity
■ Proxy (Backhaul)
■ Direct Internet Connectivity/Backhaul with Microsoft Express breakout scenarios at Microsoft MeetMe locations.
Another important consideration (that often goes unnoticed) is the complexity of a cloud migration when there are application dependencies between on-Premise and cloud components. Without a pervasive solution supporting both environments, organizations leave blind spots and make themselves again vulnerable to poor performance. Pervasive performance baselines is a necessity for a successful migration.
2. Build global network agnostic live views
It is common for enterprises to operate a variety of different networks, such as MPLS, IPSec and/or SD-WAN, simultaneously making it all the more challenging to build a consistent and live performance view. Rather than relying on limited visibility provided by network equipment vendors, a third-party over the top (OTT) solution that is network and vendor agnostic with second-by-second live updates delivers unobstructed visibility for quick problem detection. This also eliminates network equipment vendor and network operator lock-in.
3. Operate with integrated zoom in/out network and application performance
With O365 hosted in the cloud and out of their control, the IT team could not identify when issues were related to the network or O365. Their existing tools were siloed and painted a
"Everything is Green" picture. The team deployed a solution which could quickly zoom in/out from an integrated enterprise-wide application and network view to a specific location, application, user and/or device view to isolate issues fast.
4. Manage with global overlay application control
Traditional infrastructure devices can control network traffic but are not able to control applications effectively. Moreover, these devices have several policies defined that could bring the entire infrastructure down with any misconfiguration. A global overlay application control solution can easily define a signature at the application level to identify critical and non-critical applications.
With the signature defined, globally guarantee O365 performance by first minimizing congestion by ensuring that O365 is allocated at least 25% of the available capacity.
Secondly, globally limit recreational bandwidth intensive applications such as Netflix, Hulu or Facebook. By implementing global policies, IT teams quickly improved employee productivity at all locations. They were able to delay additional bandwidth expenditure by optimizing existing investments, saving the enterprise unnecessary operational costs.
In summary, the 4-point plan implemented by the healthcare enterprise are now the basic prerequisites for any successful Office 365 migration and ongoing operations.
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