Commercial software-as-a-service (SaaS) application suites like Office 365 are already some of the most widely deployed SaaS applications, and adoption by enterprises of all sizes continues to grow around the world. In a cloud-first enterprise, end users frequently need to access Office 365 from any location. Regardless of when and where users access cloud applications, they expect a consistent, high-quality experience.

Relying solely on the Internet for cloud-driven tasks proves to be unpredictable, especially since security and downtime are two significant concerns. Similarly, most legacy network infrastructure is not cloud-ready, which is why enterprises struggle to provide the required level of service to meet customer demands.

Challenges in deploying Microsoft 365

Performance challenges

Routing Office 365 applications via a private Wide Area Network adds latency as opposed to direct Internet. Efficient routing management is crucial for user experience.

Cost Challenges

Office 365 requires as much as four times more bandwidth compared to its on-premise version. Upgrading existing MPLS infrastructures or adding more appliances to the private connection might rack up more costs that prove to be impractical and overbudget.

Visibility losses

If Office 365 traffic bypasses the data center by going direct to the Internet, I/T is rendered blind on performance. Diagnosis and resolution of performance issues can prove to be challenging.

Rich Media Challenges

Office 365 is a suite including transaction apps (Outlook), bulk apps (OneDrive), and rich media apps (like Lync); each application requires specific performance and availability controls for optimal performance.

Security challenges

Office 365, being a SaaS deployment, requires security, network, and compliance policies at the app and sub-app level. Implementing these typically requires additional costly hardware.

What is network optimization?

Before delving deep into Microsoft 365 adoption, it’s important to understand general network connectivity principles that maximize the performance of applications.

  • Dynamic routing – Application-level routing is key to improving user experience. Critical traffic like business calls can be routed over expensive private infrastructure, while less critical application traffic can sent over the Internet.

Dynamic routing

  • Dynamic security policies – Having layers of network security for every type of traffic can increase latency. Trusted application traffic can be allowed to bypass specific security measures for better network performance.
  • Dynamic bandwidth management – Cost savings are possible only if network solutions provide pay-as-you-go plans. Using more bandwidth from cheaper networks and automatic cost reduction for slow days can optimize performance without maximizing budget.

Traditional network infrastructures are designed to be static and cannot provide dynamic optimization for efficient cloud integration. Software-Defined WAN or SD-WAN is an advanced network technology solution that can meet the dynamic networking needs of the modern enterprise.

How can SD-WAN optimize your Office 365 deployment?

Savvy network operations teams are turning to software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) to support their Office 365 deployments. SD-WAN solutions reduce overhead costs and increase network performance. They cut out expensive routing and hardware costs while offering the flexibility needed for multi-cloud services. Four ways in which SD-WAN can optimize Office 365 include:

Intelligent routing to Office 365 endpoints

With Office 365, traffic patterns must change to ensure that all users connect to the services through the shortest possible path for low latency and the best user experience. SD-WAN accomplishes this by establishing a direct connection to the nearest entry point of the Microsoft Global Network without backhauling traffic over private WAN to the data center.

Simplify Capacity Planning for Office 365

Capacity for each WAN link can be examined, and utilization can be broken down by application and endpoints involved. By examining each link, network admins can quickly see if more capacity is needed for productivity and collaboration suites like Office 365. With Microsoft I/T stating that each user “is now estimated to use about 400Kbps of bandwidth during normal activity”, businesses can add capacity as needed to lower-cost commodity Internet links rather than adding expensive capacity on the private WAN. In many cases, private WAN capacity can be reduced, thereby providing tangible cost savings.

Performance management for Office 365

Performance management for Office 365

SD-WAN has intelligent traffic identification and triaging, which enables customers to assign the most appropriate circuit that satisfies the network needs of each application. Business-critical transactions and data can be assigned to high-performance circuits. At the same time, low-priority apps can be sent to cheaper Internet connectivity tunnels to save up on costs and bandwidth.

When application performance problems arise, SD-WAN can pinpoint the exact cause of the performance problem, whether it’s a server taking a long time to respond, insufficient WAN capacity (congestion caused by limited bandwidth or incorrect QoS capacity), or other problems.

Preserve Remote Office Security Perimeter

In an SD-WAN architecture, security can be controlled and modified depending on the ever-changing requirements of the network. Policies can be set on the application and sub-application level with ease, and no hardware is required to reinforce the security of the network. Additionally, third-party security service providers can be enlisted to build an add-on layer of protection for the entire infrastructure.

Key considerations for SD-WAN enabled Office 365

Cloud-compatible solution

When choosing the right SD-WAN vendor, the customer must ensure that the solution is modernized for the cloud. Some vendors promise high availability SD-WAN yet still use the public Internet exclusively to deliver their services, which can result in network congestion, high latency, packet loss, and a host of other issues that will affect Office 365 performance.

Holistic approach

A company will likely be using more SaaS services outside of Office 365, which will require a more robust SD-WAN architecture to meet network demands. To ensure that every SaaS requirement is met, the network design must be optimized not only for Office 365 but for other apps as well.

Network options for Microsoft.

While the brand encourages using its co-location cloud exchange, some companies might find this policy time-consuming and counterproductive to implement. Reviewing the most viable network option is a must for companies before saying yes to what the vendor offers.

Built-in WAN optimization

WAN traffic is greater on Office 365 versus on-premise Office deployment. Therefore, it is imperative to optimize WAN minus the headache of having to add a virtual appliance or hardware for data transmission. The SD-WAN solution should have built-in WAN optimization to satisfy network requirements.

Bring in expert support

With the increased use of cloud-based applications, overall demands for more bandwidth, and the requirement for branch WAN simplification, many organizations are now deploying SD-WAN technology – and replacing traditional router-centric WAN architectures – to more intelligently prioritize and manage application traffic while tapping into the benefits of fast and inexpensive broadband internet connectivity

For enterprises planning to deploy Office 365, having a dependable SD-WAN solution can drastically improve the end-user experience. Having an SD-WAN specialist onboard can accelerate network optimization for Office 365, giving companies the versatility and reliability for true digital transformation. Don’t hesitate to contact us to see how we can help you with your Office 365 requirements.

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