Network neglect is complicating agencies' cloud ambitions

Modernizing and moving to the cloud only works if agencies have the connectivity to take full advantage.

connected clouds (Shai_Halud/

How many times have you heard that "agencies must modernize IT and move to the cloud."? While it is a perfectly sound notion, the critical step that is often skipped is to first modernize legacy networks to be cloud-ready.

There is a substantial need for more bandwidth to maintain performance of cloud-based applications, and a growing need for greater network resiliency and tighter security. The challenges in upgrading network technology are even more acute for federal and state agencies that have distributed offices, all with varying levels of connectivity.

While cloud apps have tremendous potential, they are causing a host of new network complications that distributed agencies are struggling to resolve. While cloud infrastructure allows distributed organizations to manage large amounts of data, there are significant challenges -- starting with insufficient bandwidth for the apps to perform and function properly across all of those far-flung offices.

Overcoming the budget challenge: managed SD-WAN

Budget constraints often force agencies to make difficult spending decisions; but there's now a way for agencies to have their cloud apps and the network to support them. The two-part strategy consists of upgrading legacy networks with a Software-Defined Wide Area Network, and implementing that SD-WAN by engaging a trusted managed service provider (MSP). Managed SD-WAN vastly improves network performance by offloading Internet traffic closer to the edge of the network, and it simplifies complex network management through zero-touch configuration and intelligent automation tools. It should be no surprise that this approach is experiencing explosive adoption rates by commercial organizations.

SD-WAN, at its core, is intelligent multi-path networking at distributed offices. It utilizes multiple network connection paths throughout the architecture to improve resiliency and overall application performance, enabling user traffic (data packets) to constantly take the most effective path available. When SD-WAN is deployed using available broadband transport technologies, agencies can slash their service costs substantially while providing field offices the additional bandwidth they need.

A bonus to this solution is the rapid realization of cost savings by leveraging whichever transports make most sense -- the options include DSL, cable, fiber, 4G and high-throughput satellite. And as part of a managed service, the overall network is optimized to ensure end-to-end quality of service across all sites. It gives the agency options at every site to deliver the best available connections with fast speeds and low costs, regardless if they are in urban or rural environments. The net result is substantial savings and a more robust network.

Case in point

For example, a 1,600-branch financial services institution recently deployed a managed SD-WAN, leveraging multiple broadband connections to maximize resiliency and availability of applications like VoIP and Office365. This meant deploying dual broadband connections from different internet service providers at every location, resulting in 98 different ISPs across 44 states. The managed services implementation meant the organization also received provisioning, installation, program management, security monitoring, maintenance and helpdesk support. The network now supports an average of 2.4 million VoIP calls per week with an average call-quality score of 4.35 out of 5.

A Hughes analysis over a recent three-year period showed an average 150 percent increase in bandwidth demand per site in multi-location enterprise organizations. Yet rising bandwidth demand without affordable supply ultimately translates into a deficit in overall network performance. SD-WAN was shown to be the most cost-effective answer for these distributed businesses, and the same would apply to multi-site agencies. The mission-critical work of government agencies requires "always-on" network availability, which means interruptions or 'brownouts' caused by outdated infrastructure are no longer acceptable.

The managed solution

Federal agencies planning their transition from Networx to EIS should consider the opportunity at hand in adopting a managed network approach to meet their telecommunications needs. It saves tax dollars, provides higher performance and better customer service than current models, particularly for widely distributed agencies with many locations. By engaging a single trusted MSP, agencies eliminate the need to juggle multiple regional or local service contracts and can realize uniformly high quality network performance across all locations.

Additionally, managed services can include important applications, such as Wi-Fi and security monitoring with around-the-clock response and mitigation of threats in real time. Ultimately, agencies can rely on the responsiveness and expertise of a proven MSP to maintain their networks while they remain focused on their missions.

While there is much to consider when thinking about high-performance networks, the managed SD-WAN is the ideal option for agencies looking to stay ahead of their network technology requirements.