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Why Choose Cloud Networking?
In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world, businesses of all sizes are recognizing the immense benefits of cloud networking services. Cloud computing has revolutionized the way companies manage their data, applications, and infrastructure by providing unprecedented flexibility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness, and it wouldn’t be possible without cloud networking.
If you own a small to mid-sized business and need reliable and efficient IT solutions, it’s essential to understand what cloud networking is and how it can transform your operations. In this guide, we’ll explore the fundamentals of cloud networking and how it can empower your business to thrive in the digital age.
Table of Contents
- Why Choose Cloud Networking?
- What is Cloud Networking?
- What Do Cloud Networking Services Typically Include?
- Cloud Networking v. Cloud Computing
- What are the Types of Cloud Networking Services?
- Inefficient Cloud Networking: Causes
- Inefficient Cloud Networking: Effects on Businesses
- Cloud Networking Solutions and Services
- Cloud Consulting: Architecting Your Cloud Networks
- Cloud Consulting: Optimizing Cloud Networking Performance
- Cloud Networking Tools
- Cloud Networking: Benefits
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Cloud Networking? Connecting the Digital Dots
At its core, cloud networking is a paradigm that leverages the power of the cloud to enhance the management, delivery, and security of network resources. Unlike traditional on-premises networks, where hardware and software are locally hosted, cloud networking solutions operate through off-site data centers.
One of the most popular public cloud platforms is Microsoft Azure, which has a number of networking capabilities that can be used together or separately. Examples include connectivity services, application protection services, application delivery services, and network monitoring.
What Do Cloud Networking Services Typically Include?
Cloud networking services encompass a wide array of offerings designed to meet the diverse needs of businesses seeking to migrate their network infrastructure to the cloud. When you partner with a reputable managed IT or cloud services provider (CSP), you can expect a comprehensive suite of services tailored to optimize your network’s performance, security, and accessibility.
Let’s delve into the key components that cloud networking services typically include:
Network Architecture Design and Deployment
A fundamental aspect of cloud networking services involves designing and deploying a robust and scalable network architecture tailored to your business requirements. A cloud service provider will work closely with your team to understand your existing infrastructure and future growth plans, ensuring that the cloud network is optimized for efficiency and reliability.
Cloud-Based Data Storage and Management
Cloud networking services offer the advantage of cloud-based data storage, eliminating the need for physical on-premises servers. Your data will be securely stored in off-site data centers, accessible from anywhere at any time. CSPs implement data management strategies, including automated backups and disaster recovery plans, to safeguard your critical information.
Cloud Security Solutions
Security is a top priority in cloud networking services. A cloud partner can implement robust security measures to keep your data and network safe from cyber threats. Such measures might include data encryption, firewalls, periodic security audits, intrusion detection systems, and multi-factor authentication.
Network Monitoring and Performance Optimization
To maintain a high-performing cloud network, continuous monitoring is essential. Cloud networking services include real-time monitoring and proactive management to identify and address any performance issues promptly. Regular performance optimization ensures that your network operates at peak efficiency.
Scalability and Elasticity
One of the most significant advantages of cloud networking is its scalability and elasticity. CSPs enable you to scale your network resources up or down based on your changing business needs. This flexibility allows you to accommodate seasonal fluctuations, sudden growth, or unforeseen circumstances without disruption.
Cloud-Based Applications and Software
Cloud networking solutions often include access to a wide range of cloud-based applications and software, reducing the need for individual installations on local devices. These applications can include productivity tools, collaboration platforms, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, and more.
Network Connectivity and VPN Services
A cloud partner can facilitate secure network connectivity by offering Virtual Private Network (VPN) services. VPNs enable remote and mobile employees to access the cloud network securely, enhancing collaboration and productivity.
Compliance and Regulatory Support
For businesses operating in regulated industries, cloud networking solutions can assist with compliance and regulatory requirements. For example, if your company needs to be HIPAA or FERPA compliant, your cloud infrastructure along with data migration and storage procedures must align with compliance regulations. CSPs ensure that their infrastructure meets industry-specific standards and assists you in fulfilling your compliance obligations.
Customer Support and Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
Reputable cloud partners offer 24/7 customer support to address any issues or concerns promptly. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) define the performance metrics and response times the CSP commits to, ensuring accountability and service reliability. If you find that you’ve experienced a data breach, or if you’re unable to access cloud resources while working remotely, you know how long you can expect to wait for support.
Cloud networking services provide an all-encompassing solution for businesses seeking a seamless migration to the cloud. From network architecture design and deployment to robust security measures, scalability, and ongoing support, the offerings of Cloud Service Providers or Managed Services Providers with cloud expertise empower businesses of all sizes to harness the full potential of cloud networking. By leveraging these services, you can optimize your network’s performance, streamline operations, and stay ahead in today’s competitive business landscape.
Cloud Networking v. Cloud Computing
The modern business looks a bit different than it did just three years ago in 2020, and the value of cloud platforms has greatly increased. That’s not to say the cloud is new—it’s believed to have been around since the 1960s—but rather businesses realized the value as they suddenly needed to shift their workforces online. Now, with hybrid and remote work as common modalities, supporting a remote work environment has never been easier. Cloud providers are consistently releasing new cloud computing and networking solutions to give businesses the resources they need to create an optimal cloud network.
Cloud computing and cloud networking are often used interchangeably, and while they are similar, the two services support different aspects of your cloud 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 the mode of connecting and managing resources spread across clouds—public or private—and on-premises data centers. This ensures a well-connected and efficient cloud environment.
Cloud networking encompasses several resources including routers, servers, hardware, VPNs, firewalls, and more. Like cloud computing, cloud networking can cut costs, boost productivity, and scale easily to provide benefit to your business.
What are the Types of Cloud Networking Services?
There are many different paths you might take when optimizing your cloud environment. As your strategy develops over time, you may find that a mix of solutions provides the most effective strategy for reducing cloud costs, saving time internally, and gaining access to specialized knowledge and insights.
Connectivity services, like the name suggests, allow users to connect to network resources securely and easily from anywhere. These services support a variety of network connection configurations such as site-to-site, point-to-site, and VNet-toVNet to ensure a cohesive cloud network. There are plenty of connectivity offerings that support unique cloud configurations such as VPNs, VPCs networks, Virtual WANs, and Cloud DNS services. Connectivity services help you create a reliable and efficient cloud network for your business.
Application Delivery Services
Application Delivery Networking uses load balancing to distribute internal and external web traffic between servers in your cloud network to ensure no single server becomes overwhelmed. Application delivery services include content delivery networks, application delivery controllers, WAN optimization controllers (WOC), firewalls, and more. Application delivery makes it possible to efficiently deliver the cloud-based applications you need through your cloud network with little to no latency or downtime.
Application Protection Services
Application protection services protect your cloud network against threats. These services include DDoS protection services, web application firewalls, and network firewalls. If you need to protect against common web exploits such as SQL injections, a web application firewall is probably for you. Meanwhile, if you need to set and enforce specific connectivity policies and monitor network traffic, a cloud-based network firewall is probably the right fit. You can mix and match application protection services to ensure your entire cloud network is secure.
Getting Started with Cloud Networking
Cloud Networking services is a broad category, and it can be difficult to know where to get started. We recommend starting with an assessment of your existing cloud network to identify pain points. A clear picture of your cloud network will help you decide what needs to be done to reach your cloud performance goals.
What we don’t recommend doing is purchasing and deploying solutions without having a clear plan for how they will benefit your cloud performance, and without the expertise to manage the solutions. To implement an efficient cloud networking strategy, your business needs a strong understanding of its cloud environment, a clear plan for how cloud networking solutions will be used, and access to advanced cloud knowledge. Otherwise, you might be creating more problems for yourself.
If you don’t know where to get started with cloud networking, a cloud services provider (CSP) or managed services provider (MSP), might be the right choice for you! Trusted professionals will help you ensure your cloud environment has the right tools and is working in the ways you need it.
Inefficient Cloud Networking: Causes
Cloud Networking is not an easy concept to grasp. But it’s important to understand what can lead to doing it wrong, and what problems can arise from inefficient cloud networking. Let’s first take a look at what causes inefficiencies in cloud networking:
Lack of Advanced Cloud Knowledge
- A lack of cloud knowledge can create inefficient cloud networking in two different stages of the cloud. If a developer initially architects a cloud environment, as opposed to a cloud architect, businesses will likely find their environment doesn’t align with industry best practices, and it may be vulnerable to common security pitfalls. Moving past implementation and into the management stage of the cloud, if a business doesn’t have access to advanced cloud knowledge, it is a difficult platform to manage. If the person in charge of your cloud environment doesn’t know how to alleviate an overwhelmed cloud network by automating or shutting off workflows, or if they don’t understand how to scale services as cloud usage changes, your cloud environment will not be running optimally. Luckily, working with a Managed Services Provider (with advanced cloud knowledge) or a Cloud Service Provider can provide businesses with the necessary expertise to properly deploy and manage an optimized cloud network.
Lack of Cloud Governance
- One of the most common causes of inefficient cloud networking is a lack of governance. Governance should be established during the planning stages for the cloud, and then expanded and changed as the platform is adopted. Cloud networking connects different aspects of the cloud, whether it’s across a singular or multi-cloud environment. This also includes connecting the cloud to any on-prem systems. If there is not a clear plan and policy for how various aspects of a cloud network will be connected, where workloads will be hosted, or where certain data is supposed to be stored, the cloud will be an inefficient mess. Additionally, if users don’t know how to use the cloud once it’s in place, they likely won’t use the platform as intended. Data will be stored across the cloud and on-premises, and they will likely become frustrated with the platform all together.
- The cloud is a web-based platform. It requires internet connection to carry out various workloads. Cloud networking is dependent on the quality and availability of internet access, and unfortunately strong internet connection isn’t always a guarantee. It’s dependent on location, time, and traffic. Bandwidth limitations can cause delays, slowdowns, and even downtime. All of this impacts how users engage with the cloud, and weak internet connectivity will slow their productivity. These limitations will also slow the productivity of cloud applications. So, when a business’s network is not prepared to support a cloud environment, it will create many cloud networking inefficiencies.
Inefficient Cloud Networking: Effects on Businesses
There are plenty of causes for inefficient cloud networking, but many of them can boil down to a lack of advanced cloud knowledge and a lack of governance when it comes to configuring and managing the cloud. Now we know what can cause inefficiencies in cloud networking, but what does this mean for a business?
- One complaint we commonly hear from cloud users is that they don’t see the cost savings that are promised with the cloud. When a cloud environment is set up and not configured to a business’s specific needs, it can lead to quite a high monthly bill. However, this is an easy fix. With a Cloud Cost Management strategy in place, businesses can see what cloud networking tools they pay for in comparison to what they actually use. With CCM, unused workloads can be turned off or automated to only run when needed. This leads to an optimized cloud environment and cost savings in the cloud.
- The cloud can be an extremely secure platform, but it can also be an easy target for attacks. According to a study by Palo Alto Networks, 5% of security rules trigger 80% of alerts in most organizations’ cloud environments. Certain behaviors such as unenforced MFA, exposed databases, or unrestricted firewalls in cloud workloads cause the majority of vulnerabilities in a cloud environment. So, when businesses experience large amounts of security alerts, it may be their own fault. When this happens, it may be time for your cloud architects to revisit security solutions and policies to protect their environment against common vulnerabilities.
Lack of User Adoption
- Why would you invest so much in the cloud for users to continue to use on-prem resources? If your cloud network is configured in a way that is confusing to users; if there is not plan in place to teach users how to use the cloud, or to share other key cloud use policies; if the cloud network is consistently slow or you experience consistent outages, how can you expect users to jump into this new platform? Even if users do try to adopt the cloud, if they don’t know how they should be using it, they are likely going to cause more problems and make a mess of the environment.
Optimizing your cloud networking performance is key to saving costs, improving security, and making the cloud a platform your users will want to use. The first steps are ensuring you have access to advanced cloud networking knowledge, whether it’s internally or through an MSP, and making sure you have a plan for governance, so your business knows what cloud networking use policies are in place. In the physical sense, ensure your business has the network capabilities to seamlessly deploy cloud networking solutions. These are just starting points for cloud networking, but they are important considerations as you think about architecting your cloud network and choosing your tools.
Cloud Networking Solutions and Services
There are nearly limitless ways cloud networking technology can be applied to achieve enhanced agility, scalability, and innovation within your IT landscape and the specific projects you engage in will depend on your business’ individual needs. You can work with a Cloud Service Provider to architect and deploy new networking workloads in Azure or to optimize existing cloud networks and increase performance, reduce inefficiencies, or control costs.
Cloud Consulting: Architecting Your Cloud Networks
If you’re new (or newer) to the cloud, it’s important to get your cloud foundation set up correctly, and networking will be a key part of that environment running smoothly and being able to support further cloud workloads.
By working with an experienced cloud consultant, you can avoid falling victim to many of the common inefficiencies mentioned above. Experienced cloud service providers can streamline your networking efforts by providing an architectural framework and using their experience to plan a network architecture that delivers on performance and security. PEI works with the Well-Architected and Cloud Adoption Frameworks to ensure the best performance and security for our clients.
A great starting workload for the cloud is implementing an Azure-based Domain Controller and Active Directory Site, which will rely on a site-to-site VPN connection between your on-premises data center and your Azure tenant.
Azure Cloud Foundation
Our Azure Cloud Foundation Service is for customers who are new to cloud infrastructure but want to start taking advantage of powerful cloud computing capabilities. This service includes the architectural planning, configuration, and deployment of a new Azure Tenant, Azure Networking site-to-site VPN, Azure-Based Domain Controller, and Active Directory Site. The Doman Controller and Active Directory site will allow you to use the cloud for authentication across services like Office 365.
This service will provide a foundation for your infrastructure and networking architecture in Azure that you can use as a foundation to migrate additional workloads to Azure in the future.
If you’re already hosting some or all of your infrastructure in the cloud, you can expand your networking workloads to help you tackle new capabilities in the cloud. The Cloud Service Provider you’re working with should be able to assess your existing network topology to determine how new workloads can fit into your existing environment to best support these new capabilities.
If you’re looking for increased connectivity services, you might work with a cloud provider to evaluate your use case and environment for compatibility with Azure Virtual Desktop or Azure Always-On VPN. If you’re looking to provide additional security for cloud applications, a cloud consultant can help you configure and install a workload like Azure Web Application Firewall or Azure Application Gateway.
Cloud Networking Tools
If you’d prefer to work on your own to optimize your networking resources in Azure, you can make use of cloud optimization tools to monitor your environment and identify specific opportunities to increase performance and security and reduce unnecessary costs.
PEI’s Azure Optimization Dashboard scans your Azure environment to provide actionable and specific insights for reliability, security, performance and cost optimizations. These recommendations are configured to follow industry best practices and align with PEI’s chosen architectural frameworks.
For example, after scanning your environment, our dashboard might offer you the following recommendations in the reliability category. These recommendations will be tied to specific resources in Azure, so you know exactly where to go to perform remediation actions.
- Move to production gateway SKUs from Basic gateways.
- Add at least one more endpoint to the profile, preferably in another Azure region.
- Use NAT gateway for outbound connectivity.
Whether you’re working with a Cloud Service Provider or your own internal IT personnel to develop a new cloud network architecture or optimize an existing networking practice, make sure you or your chosen cloud partner have a plan for avoiding some of the common inefficiencies we mentioned above.
We also recommend configuring Azure Policy to enforce specific networking guidelines, such as limiting the creation of unnecessary resources or mandating best practices to act as a safeguard against networks being inadvertently misconfigured, which can lead to out-of-control costs and poor performance. These steps, coupled with meticulous planning and ongoing monitoring, provide a solid foundation for ensuring a robust and secure cloud networking environment.
Cloud Consulting: Optimizing Cloud Networking Performance
Cloud Service Providers and Cloud Consultants can also be an invaluable resource for helping get an out-of-control could environment back on track. One thing to keep in mind with Azure is, “just because something works, doesn’t mean it’s been done correctly.” There are, unfortunately, nearly unlimited ways for cloud resources to be misconfigured in ways that might seem “good enough” but are decreasing your networking performance.
An experienced Cloud Service Provider can use their advanced knowledge of best practices for network architecture to more quickly identify problem areas and architect new workload configurations that ensure any changes to your environment follow industry best practices and won’t contribute to any additional performance problems down the line.
Cloud Networking: Benefits
Seamless connection between and efficient allocation of resources in a cloud environment provides a great deal of benefits to businesses. With cloud networking services, businesses find themselves with better performance across their cloud environment, flexibility of resources, and improved security! Let’s take a closer look at these three key benefits:
Cloud networking services improve organizational performance by providing stronger connectivity between resources, especially when it comes to collaboration and communication. Performance and productivity are both higher when there is seamless integration and connection between various cloud-based platforms and applications, as well as different devices. For example, if you and a co-worker are working on the same document in a cloud-based platform—such as SharePoint—the cloud networking tools are what makes this online collaboration possible. Enhanced performance extends beyond just collaboration on shared documents. Cloud networking is used to increase the speed and efficiency of cloud-based tools and services like video conferencing, data storage, and more. With cloud networking services, businesses can work from anywhere with connection to the systems they need. Additionally, cloud networking services minimize downtime by relying on off-site data centers—typically in various locations—to ensure your resources are always available to you.
With cloud networking services, your business has the flexibility to scale your cloud resources as needed. This means you only pay for what you need. As your business needs to adjust its usage, whether demand fluctuates seasonally or your business is growing, you have the ability to scale your cloud services. Before the cloud, businesses would need to purchase and maintain physical hardware when demand increased, but if demand decreased or the business downsized, it was stuck with the unused physical hardware. Relying on cloud networking to deliver and run systems and resources saves businesses from getting stuck with underused hardware they likely only need for a few months out of the year.
H&R Block is a great example of relying on the scalable services of the cloud. The business conducts about a quarter of their annual business in the weeks leading up to Tax Day, and in this time, the company’s resource consumption skyrockets. Using Azure, H&R Block is able to scale their resources during their busy season and decrease when their consumption is lower. As your business grows or downsizes, or as demand changes, so should your resources. Cloud networking services allow you to scale your resources to match your consumption when you need it, without the hassle of any hardware.
Cloud networking comes with some security challenges—data privacy, compliance regulations, and vendor lock-ins—but it provides businesses with even more resources to improve cybersecurity. A business’s whole cloud environment can be monitored with the security management tools available with cloud networking services. Cloud networking services have also allowed for more advanced security solutions such as EDR or SIEM. Since various elements of a cloud environment are interconnected, these solutions can track and alert for unusual behavior and patterns across all systems. Cloud networking services can also offer encryption and authentication features to keep data and communication safe from unauthorized access.
In the event of a breach or disaster, cloud networking services have you covered. With your data (and backups) stored in the same off-site data centers that prevent pesky downtime, your cloud partner can retrieve and restore your data to get your business back up and running. With cloud networking tools in place for security, you can rest easy knowing your business is under a watchful eye.
Frequently asked questions
Many modern businesses rely on a patchwork system composed of on-premises hardware, dated software, and a host of cloud applications. This complex—and often conflicting—scaffolding tends to yield poor governance, limited visibility, and inadequate control across the network.
With cloud networking services, you can integrate and manage the critical resources that your organization demands including VPNs, firewalls, load balancers, routers, and servers. This all-encompassing method is deployed from edge to edge and guarantees reliable connections with seamless operations and maximum security, regardless of the size or scope of the underlying infrastructure.
Exactly what is cloud networking? Well, it’s the process of creating, configuring, and managing network resources and connections in the cloud. The main categories include connectivity services, application delivery services, and application protection services, all of which have their place in the fast-paced digital environment where most business is conducted. With these services, you can ensure all networking capabilities are both secure and readily available on demand from anywhere with an internet connection.
If you want to streamline and secure your operations with cloud networking solutions, getting started is easy. You can reach out to PEI to discuss your needs, and we’ll guide you through the rest of the setup process. Here are the basic steps we’ll take together:
- Discuss your specific requirements, business objectives, and current cloud infrastructure.
- Assess your cloud environment, analyzing usage patterns and key resources.
- Determine how to optimize your cloud infrastructure with networking architecture that aligns with your unique requirements.
- Deploy and configure the proposed cloud networking solutions.
- Test and validate the new system.
- Migrate old programs and transfer essential data to the new network.
- Train your team on using the new cloud infrastructure.
Our experts will be by your side every step of the way, providing ongoing support and addressing any issues as soon as they arise.
The cost of cloud networking services can vary. Influencing factors include the specific features your company requires and the size and complexity of the network’s infrastructure.
At PEI, we provide customized pricing based on each client’s unique needs. Before giving a detailed and accurate quote, we will assess your networking requirements, infrastructure, and goals. This ensures you receive a pricing model that aligns with your needs and helps you optimize costs while meeting your networking objectives. It also prevents surprises once we’re underway.
To obtain pricing information for PEI’s cloud networking solutions, contact our sales team directly. They will be able to provide you with the most up-to-date costs after discussing your unique needs. They can also discuss cloud cost management, which ensures you never spend more than you have to.
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A Cloud Networking Partner You Can Trust
There are many different paths you might take when optimizing your cloud environment. As your strategy develops over time, you may find that a mix of solutions provides the most effective strategy for reducing cloud costs, saving time internally, and gaining access to specialized knowledge and insights.
Cloud Networking encompasses a number of services, and it can be difficult to find the resources that work for you. You can mix and match connectivity, application delivery, and application protection services to create the most efficient cloud networking strategy for your business. But this can be an expensive and time-consuming process.
PEI has a long history of top-level certifications and recognition as a Microsoft Partner. We held the Microsoft Gold Certifications for Azure Datacenter and Azure Cloud Platform until Microsoft retired the Gold Partner program in 2022. In Microsoft’s new Cloud Partner Program, we’ve earned the Azure Infrastructure designation and the Networking Services in Azure specialization which require extensive knowledge and skill with Azure networking solutions.
PEI was also ranked a Top 50 Azure Partner in the United States by Cloudtango for two years in a row and has certified Azure Solutions Architect Experts on staff.