Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, hybrid and remote work has never been easier or more accessible. With this shift to accessing systems remotely, came a spike in cloud services. Cloud computing and cloud networking are often used interchangeably, and while they are similar, the two service types support different aspects of your IT environment.
Cloud Computing is a delivery model for services via the internet or cloud. It offers resources such as servers, storage, databases, software, analytics, and intelligence as services over the internet.
Cloud Networking is a mode for managing and connecting network resources via the cloud. It includes resources such as VPNs, firewalls, and load balancers.
Cloud networking encompasses a number of resources that includes routers, servers, hardware, and more. Like cloud computing, cloud networking can cut costs, boost productivity, and scale easily to provide benefit to your business. Cloud networking services often fall under three common categories: connectivity services, application delivery services, and application protection services. Let’s take a closer look at each of these categories.
In the modern business landscape, your business may operate from many physical locations or with a widely dispersed workforce. Your network helps keep your employees connected to the data and applications they need to perform their job duties—like your CRM.
Cloud networking services can increase the ease and security of access that your users have to resources on your corporate network—even when they’re not close enough to connect directly—by providing your business the ability to connect your network resources in different ways and support your users.
One cloud networking service that can solve connectivity hurdles for businesses is an Azure VPN Gateway, which can be used to provide connectivity between Azure resources, connectivity from an on-premises network to Azure resources, and the branch-to-branch connectivity in Azure.
Since the pandemic, many business users quickly got familiar with accessing corporate resources via the internet when available, but you may have run into these common problems:
- If your business was relying on-premises resources, you likely found out quickly the difficulty of making these resources accessible to users while off site.
- Along with this, making your sensitive data available to just any users or devices outside your network leaves your business vulnerable to breaches and hackers.
There are different connectivity configurations available using cloud networking, such as,
- Site-to-Site: creates a secure connection between two or more networks. This can be used to connect geographically separated offices to the corporate network to share resources as a single network. When you throw the cloud into the mix, you can use a site-to-site VPN to connect your on-premises network to your cloud environment to access services and resources hosted there.
- Point-to-Site: creates a secure connection to your virtual network from a single, authorized computer. This is a great option for allowing remote workers to access resources and services on your corporate network.
- VNet-to-VNet: securely connects two or more virtual networks.
Different CSPs offer different connectivity services to ensure your cloud network connectivity does not fail. A VPN Gateway is a key component in PEI’s Azure Always-On VPN service offering, which provides a seamless, always-on VPN connection for remote workers, granting them secure access to all Azure and on-premises resources.
There are plenty of cloud connectivity services your business can use to ensure your cloud network connectivity is secure and make users more efficient. Cloud networking connectivity offerings include VPNs (virtual private network), VPC (virtual private cloud) networks, Virtual WAN (wide area networking) services, and Cloud DNS (domain naming system) services. Microsoft offers additional connectivity services such as ExpressRoute, Azure Bastion, and Azure Peering Service.
Application Delivery Services
Application Delivery Networking is heavily reliant on load balancing, which is a software-based service that distributes internal and external web traffic between multiple cloud servers to ensure one does not become overwhelmed. When one server is managing too many requests, businesses face the threat of latency and downtime.
Application Delivery ensures that the cloud-based applications you need are efficiently delivered through cloud-based networks with little to no latency. Application Delivery Networking includes content delivery networks, application delivery controllers, WAN optimization controllers (WOC), firewalls for cloud-based applications, and secure gateways to access all necessary resources.
For example, Azure Application Gateway is a web traffic load balancer that enables businesses to manage traffic to their web applications and ensure a good experience for employees and customers. In One use case for Azure Application Gateway is that you can make your business applications securely accessible to users without needing to go through a VPN.
It is an Application Delivery Controller (ADC) as a service, offering various layer 7 load-balancing capabilities for Microsoft applications. PEI highly recommends offloading all public inbound web traffic to a Microsoft ADC as opposed to exposing your web applications directly to the internet.
Application Protection Services
Application Protection Services come as various cloud-based offerings that you can mix and match to ensure your network is secure.
DDoS Protection: Cloud Providers should offer some form of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection service to ensure applications running on your cloud environment are safe from DDoS threats.
Web Application Firewall: A Web Application Firewall (WAF) protects your web applications from common web exploits such as SQL injections and cross-site scripting, which can threaten your cloud environment’s security, consume excess resources, or cause downtime for your business. WAFs have predefined rules, but also allow you—or your Cloud Services Provider—to create custom security rules for additional protection against security threats.
Network Firewall: Network Firewalls are deployed via the cloud and protect your network resources from potential threats. With a cloud-based network firewall, you can create, enforce, and log application and network connectivity policies. You can set rules that require VPCs to use approved protocols to access specific domains, and you can establish web filtering rules that prevent access to known bad URLs. By monitoring traffic flows with your firewall, you can identify and block potential threats to your network.
Getting Started with Cloud Networking
PEI offers cloud networking services to support each of these categories, and we will help you mix and match solutions, so you are confident in your cloud environment. We specialize in Microsoft Azure solutions for small and mid-sized businesses. PEI is committed to helping you every step of the way as you transition to the cloud, and even offers Azure Consulting Services to optimize your Azure platform.
Common Microsoft solutions PEI deploys are the Azure VPN Gateway, Azure Application Gateway, and the Web Application Firewall. In the connectivity category, the Azure VPN Gateway—Azure Always On—maintains a steady VPN connection, so your users never have to struggle with reconnecting or taking multiple login steps. PEI can help create network infrastructure to provide stable VPN connections and configure Azure Always On VPN components so your remote workers always have a secure and fast connection to essential network resources.
Azure Application Gateway is a broader solution that can be paired with other Azure offerings to ensure your network connection never fails and your systems are secure. This is a load balancing system to route traffic to different servers. Application Gateway has URL-based routing capabilities and more, so you can increase speed by automatically routing web traffic to the server pools optimized for the specific type of content being accessed. This means faster, more responsive access to applications for your employees and customers.
PEI also offers security solutions such as the Azure Web Application Firewall. The Web Application Gateway pairs well with Azure Application Gateway to provide centralized protection for web apps. PEI can also create a custom Network Security Groups for your business to provide firewall access from the internet to servers.
Finally, for any solution implemented, PEI provides training and documentation. This includes administrative training for all services, and documentation for any architecture implemented, and services performed.
If you still have questions about Cloud Networking, or if you are ready to get started, contact PEI today!
Anna Ross, PEI