With Office 365, Microsoft converted the world’s most popular business software suite into a cloud-delivered service with powerful new capabilities. Companies have been eager to take advantage of them. It is the world’s most widely used Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business platform with about 170 million monthly active users, and it is gaining about 3 million new users each month.
It’s easy to understand the attraction. Organizations get anytime-anywhere access to the latest versions of Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Excel and more while eliminating the need to support onsite IT infrastructure. It also provides a path to improved productivity and collaboration through hosted versions of Exchange Server, Skype for Business Server, SharePoint and Office Online, and integration with Yammer.
While the business benefits are clear, many organizations have been surprised by the network impact Office 365 creates. According to one recent study by Zscaler, roughly two-thirds of organizations using Office 365 experience network latency and congestion issues on a weekly basis, and nearly one-third have daily issues.
Simply put, Office 365 is bigger and more complex than many other SaaS applications, and organizations underestimate the amount of network traffic it creates. It requires increased bandwidth for synchronization with Outlook, software updates, template downloads and more. Additionally, standard firewalls often become chokepoints because so much traffic is constantly going back and forth.
Truth be told, SaaS vendors have always tended to downplay potential network issues, touting the ease of cloud migrations. But whenever you’re accessing cloud-based apps across distance, you are always going to run the risk of bandwidth contention with other Internet traffic.
To reap the full benefits of Office 365 and other SaaS applications, organizations must do their homework and understand the potential pitfalls. An excellent starting point is with a cloud readiness assessment. By evaluating your network infrastructure and existing Internet connectivity, the assessment can provide possible solutions to networking design challenges along with implementation details.
For example, the Zscaler survey found that Office 365 latency issues are often the byproduct of accessing a cloud application suite through traditional hub-and-spoke networks. Such networks backhaul Internet-bound traffic over a wide area network (WAN) through a centralized security gateway before allowing the traffic to go to the open Internet. The shortcomings of this configuration are compounded by Office 365, which typically opens between 12 and 20 long-lasting Internet connections for each user, creating latency and a poor user experience.
Microsoft acknowledges this problem in its deployment recommendations. The firm notes that accessing applications in the cloud rather than from an on-premises data center creates differences in traffic patterns, performance requirements and endpoint security needs. Organizations that are accustomed to using the Internet for simple communications, web browsing and research must identify and accommodate those differences when migrating to Office 365.
A readiness assessment will help you understand workload demands and potential bottlenecks. Often, an assessment will indicate that Office 365 workloads can be accommodated with minor configuration or design changes. However, it could also point to a need for more substantial modifications involving Internet connectivity infrastructure, routing optimization or specialized direct connectivity.
If a shift to Office 365 is in your plans for 2019, give Verteks Consulting a call. We can assess your network and connectivity to ensure a smooth transition. Our engineers have specific expertise in Microsoft technologies and a clear understanding of potential implementation challenges. We can help ensure that Office 365 delivers on its promise so you can achieve the desired benefits.