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How to Prepare Your Enterprise Network for Office 365

Moving away from a centralized network to a cloud-based system is the key to successfully adopting Office 365 for your enterprise.

office 365, network

Many enterprise-level businesses are moving towards Office 365 in record numbers (there will be an estimated 100 million users by the end of 2017) for the features it offers, but some are facing challenges when converting over. Many of these businesses either have or are trying to implement changes to their existing centralized networks to prepare for the power necessary to convert to Office 365, but have been met with problems regarding bandwidth, firewall security, and more. The true issue is not Office 365 itself, but rather the fact that many of these businesses are deploying the software suite using old conventions instead of new direct-to-Internet solutions.

Office 365 Deployment: Challenges and Opportunities

Zscaler, a prominent cloud security firm, conducted an Office 365 deployment survey of over 200 enterprise-class Office 365 accounts in partnership with TechValidate. Together, the two companies sought to find out what is happening when these businesses bring Office 365 into play. Zscaler recently published this report, polling senior IT managers, directors, and C-level executives from medium to large enterprises in North America. The purpose of this survey was to see how these various companies prepared their own corporate networks for the switch to Office 365 and what came of their deployment journeys.

Before Office 365 was deployed for these 206 accounts, 64 percent of participants in the survey expressed concerns that their current systems would have substantial bandwidth and latency issues. Additionally, 69 percent of participants were expecting to see their bandwidth increase by 50 percent while 48 percent of participants were expecting an increase of 75 percent or more.

Overall, more than half of mid-level and C-level participants listed the cost of deploying Office 365 on their current systems as a primary concern; latency was also considered a top concern for almost three-quarters of C-level executives. While the estimated cost of upgrading IT, security, and network infrastructure were initially high, about half of the participants reported even higher costs incurred than original estimates.

Most of the participants admitted to only trying to upgrade their existing networks over utilizing cloud capabilities, possibly as an attempt to keep all operations centralized within each company’s network. 58 percent increased their bandwidth while 65 percent upgraded their firewalls, which accounts for many of the high costs mentioned above.

Unfortunately, only upgrading firewalls or bandwidth proved to be an ineffective method for adopting Office 365. Despite upgrades, 69 percent of participants experienced firewall latency issues and weekly bandwidth issues while 30 percent had daily bandwidth issues.  

A key difference between using centralized networks and cloud-based direct Internet access is the connection time. Since Office 365 keeps files up-to-date and current across many devices and users all the time, it can keep anywhere from 12 to 20 times more connections open, it’s understandable that companies would want to increase both bandwidth and security. However, most centralized networks simply are not built to withstand such a load of constant information exchange, thereby causing 33 percent of participants to experience daily latency issues and 70 percent to have weekly latency issues.

A Cloud-Based Solution

However, only 33 percent of the 206 decided to take a step away from centralized networks and enabled direct Internet access from branch offices. A cloud-based solution seems to be the most viable as 70 percent of participants decided to go for direct-to-Internet connections from branch offices to combat the traffic and latency issues of using a traditional hub-and-spoke network system.

Try using these cloud-based solutions to properly scale your network to smoothly accept the increased Office 365 traffic:

  • Deploy local breakout to ensure fast pathways (*Be aware that this method can be costly in admin overhead and needs additional appliances at all branch offices)
  • Use a cloud-based firewall that is scalable to your needs
  • Utilize advanced bandwidth management controls for prioritizing Office 365 traffic
  • Maintain full security controls to protect your system and your branches in addition to staying on top of frequent security updates

Office 365 was designed to exist and work in the cloud, so be sure you modernize your own network to take full advantage of what the productivity suite has to offer; a cloud-based network will ensure you do not get bogged down with bandwidth issues or compromise your firewall for Office 365 adoption.

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