The careful balance: performance versus cost

The careful balance: performance versus cost

October 8, 2020

Technology choices matter. But cost choices matter too.

Ask the C-Suite what quality of connectivity they want, and it’ll answer “100%”. Always-up, always-on, for everyone, everywhere. They’re not concerned with fibre, copper, routing tables, or geographical differences. They just want the best.

But “best” is relative. It needs contrasting with other factors. Business goals. Departmental needs. And most of all, cost.

“Everything, everywhere” may be doable—but into-orbit expensive. Five-nines may be viable, and with less sticker shock. On-net connections to the big clouds may work for all-SaaS departments—but inhouse apps still need their SD-WAN.

So here’s the key takeout: when you balance your needs with your budget, you may not need any of these … or you may need all of them.

What works for one organization won’t work for all. Some large MNCs work on 98% uptime and never even notice outages. While for others—typically, healthcare and banking—a single minute of downtime in a month is the source of sackings.

It’s all a question of balance. Knowing your differences … and how a tailored solution can answer them.

Now, cost/benefit analysis may not sound glamorous to a digital hero—until you recognise costs have always driven technological innovation.

When a plough-plus-a-cow let one man do the work of twenty, that was a cost advantage. When the steam engine let a team of three transport tons—cost advantage. When undersea cables let countries communicate in seconds not weeks? Cost advantage.

That’s the subject of this article: understanding the cost/benefit balance in your organisation.

So let’s look at those choices now. It’s in three parts: business requirements, cost model, and provider landscape.

Part 1: Start simple, with your business requirements

A great starting point to consider is your basic requirements: the apps and data your people depend on. This is harder than it looks.

Are you principally SD-WAN, hosting applications on your own servers? Have you joined the Cloud crowd, with thousands of people on GSuite or your backend on AWS? Or do you need quality across multiple sites, perhaps with a DIA pipe via a Tier-1 ISP?

In reality, you’re probably a mix. So make sure you know  what proportions of each exist in your organisation. It’ll have an impact on your decisions later. And, of course, on your costs.

 

Your connectivity reqs are defined by where your apps live: inhouse and SD-WAN, or cloud-based and SaaS?


Not all clouds look the same…

Example: If your apps are in the cloud, it’s not as simple as “broadband for everyone”. Cloud computing at enterprise scale—thousands of users—needs a critical eye on the paths data takes once it’s on the internet: your upstream routes.

The most seamless VPN or SD-WAN cannot compensate for an internet underlay with more holes than Swiss cheese.

For people in this position, DIA is an option. But so is Cloud Acceleration: broadband internet for business, with technology that looks at routings to solve bloackages and go-slows on the fly. The result can be effective performance that rivals DIA, with scant seconds of downtime a year. Which may be a better match for your budget.

… while Shadow IT creates unseen problems

A flexible policy on software creates its own problems. 10,000 users running whatever apps they want means a lot of unplanned packets on your pipes—and if those apps aren’t cloud-based, that’s a load on your SD-WAN.

(In some MNCs, shadow apps—IT in use outside the “approved list”—are the bulk of bandwidth. Do some CIOs think they’re running datacenters, when all the action’s actually in the cloud?)
 

And of course requirements don’t stay the same

Many organizations don’t know much about how their data travels between sites. But if you make monitoring and analysis part of your network strategy, it pays dividends. Because when you can see all the congestions and traffic jams on a single screen (like Expereo’s digital platform expereo.one) you’ve got the information needed to improve matters—and optimize your costs as a result.

So first ascertain where your apps live and what routes connect them. Not the ideal case from your departmental strategy—but what people actually use. Because that’ll answer the basic question of how you connect.
 

Part 2: Take it up a level, with the cost model for each

If it’s 3AM and you know where your apps are, the second Big Question is to find whether the costs really justify the financial outlay. In a surprising number of MNCs, they don’t.

Over-specifying is a bigger issue than many in the C-Suite realise.

The CEO may want six-nines uptime. But what if that seconds-a-day outage for backups could be minimized by Cloud Acceleration, reducing latency? 99.99 or 99.9% may provide a far friendlier cost case.


What matters to users, matters to you

Also look at what kind of cloud backs your business. If you’re Azure-everywhere, you need to confirm your provider has a on-net connection to it, with the availability your 10,000 users need to connect with confidence. Same goes for AWS, Google Cloud, or any other cloud merchant.

One leading automotive group stands to lose millions if there’s just an hour or two of outage. Yet another company with a similar architecture may suffer no continuity snags at all, simply because the issue doesn’t affect their daily productivity. People have different satisfaction criteria. Always ask yours what they think is important.
 
What are the consequential losses to your business of an hour’s downtime in a vital location? Make sure these estimates go into your model, too.

Beware the single-site cost spike

A good MSP solution can make everyday business broadband feel like high-end SLA-backed services, providing a customer experience as good as you’d get from the big carriers—at a fraction of the cost. Conversely, if your SD-WAN links datacenters in many far-flung sites, a single lease in the Middle East (where DIA connections are pricey) might upset your entire cost structure worldwide.

So your cost model is about more than bandwidth or PoPs. Fortunately, there are answers. The lesson here: look critically at where it takes big resources to meet small goals. That’s where high costs hide.

Part 3: Get the big picture, by looking at the landscape

The third factor involves the global connectivity landscape. With all its twists and turns at the local level. It comes down to access type availability.

 
Cost/benefit analysis is all in the details.

Here, there, not everywhere

Business broadband can be cheap. But it rides on the back of consumer networks designed to serve households. Which means the fat pipe that gives jitter-free Netflix to a suburb may not reach your rural office park. And even when you’ve factored in differences between countries, there’s still variance within countries. Kenya and Vietnam have brilliant 4G … but good luck getting a fiber spur to your industrial site.

Beware! Resource hogs ahead

Also look at utilization and optimization. Because without predictable routing, packet loss and latency may be eating both your bandwidth and your people’s productivity. Again, your upstream routing matters here. Cloud Acceleration can help.

The box the service comes in

Last but never least is the Managed Service Provider delivering your services for you. Riffing on Part 2, providing that five-nines 1Gbit service level across all your sites may be very cheap in some locations … and very pricey in others. (Hi, Mongolia!) And this is where your value equation really starts to shine.

Because an expert MSP can mix and match services based on your complex needs. What if your business requirement is a 30min response time, but providing that human voice in central Africa adds €100,000 to the SLA? They can customize their solution to your costs.

So there’s our answer: when balancing performance with cost, an MSP is your best friend—because they can provide the monitoring and analysis for continuous improvement. Whether it’s business requirements, cost model, or the connectivity landscape, a partner like Expereo will consider your environment as a whole, and suggest solutions that work in each area. Ask them to consider the Big Picture, and you’re well on your way to achieving the optimal balance between cost and return .

Conclusion: keep the questions coming


Optimising SD-WAN. Business Broadband with Cloud Acceleration. Tier-1 DIA from an MSP. The mix is up to you. But it’s not an all-or-nothing choice.

An MSP partner can fill in gaps in your service map, flatten those cost spikes, and smooth out local conditions based on continual optimization—without having to rip-and-replace existing infrastructure.

The customized answers Expereo provides are proving the right balance for over 2,400 customers. Maybe it’s the right balance for you, too. If so, let’s talk.

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