Why Network Visibility is Key to Supporting Business-Critical Apps

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Enterprise business today is far more distributed than it has been in the past–in the location of offices, employees, and the underlying infrastructure of the applications used to do business.

While companies benefit from having an array of remote offices and users, keeping them connected today requires constant vigilance from IT to support SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions and cloud vendors where visibility into performance can be limited.

Whether it’s a move from physical to virtual environments or adoption of a growing number of SaaS applications, control is no longer in IT’s hands.

With a comprehensive network performance monitoring solution, teams can regain a lot of the visibility that they lose when offloading parts of their network or application infrastructure to the cloud.

Getting a full view of all apps using the network

A logical starting place for IT when bringing in a network monitoring solution would be to rank which apps they should prioritize in performance monitoring. By reviewing support tickets and asking employees, IT can start to identify “business-critical” apps. The trouble starts when the business-critical label starts getting thrown around, as different departments likely have very different ideas of what applications are critical to their success.

Sales teams, for instance, have different priorities than those in marketing or customer care, and the tools they use to get the job done are just as diverse. Salesforce or VoIP tools need to be regularly available for the sales team to close deals. Workday might be vital for human resources. NetSuite might be essential for finance. With monitoring, it’s often important to begin with the applications that impact every employee. Email, messaging, conferencing, and payroll are all critical apps to have happy and productive employees.

In truth, IT needs to have a complete picture of every application using the enterprise network. Employees use business-critical tools as well as personal applications — whether to tweet or to stream a work playlist — that all demand a portion of network capacity. As a result, non-essential traffic could be slowing down the network at the expense of high-priority tools and solutions. Or worse, IT could be in the dark when it comes to new apps that a department deems critical but wasn’t required to parlay through IT to being using.

To that end, having a complete picture of who’s using what apps is also key. Without insight into all of the apps on the network and the employees using them, IT can’t “crack the whip” on limiting activity that could be hindering performance network-wide. With continuous monitoring, IT also won’t be caught off guard when someone complains about the performance of an app they’ve never heard of.

Seeing “beyond the network”

Another major roadblock in assuring SaaS performance involves giving IT a complete look at the end-to-end delivery path of the apps in use. When IT retires bulky network architectures — think data centers and a web of MPLS connections — in favor of the cloud or “Direct Internet Access” (DIA) via SD-WAN, the benefits are many. Teams no longer have to focus on maintaining a bunch of hardware, and when things run smoothly, end users usually enjoy faster connectivity.

It’s when things aren’t running smoothly that IT might get nostalgic for the “old way” of networking. That’s because when IT was structured around on-premises deployments or a private data center, they owned all of the network connections and only had to deal with a relatively small number of vendors to deliver applications. Going the DIA route outsources a lot of the control and end-to-end visibility into the paths traffic takes.

A network monitoring solution should be able to track delivery pathways “hop-by-hop” to get greater context into the true performance of their ISPs and cloud vendors, end-to-end. If an app is lagging, for instance, IT can identify where along the way there might have been a mistake — i.e. if there’s a latency spike or outage at a local DNS server. With active monitoring, teams can also judge whether or not they’re getting the network capacity they’re paying for by measuring actual performance metrics against what’s advertised by their ISP.

Holding teams together

At the end of the day, making sure networks are performing and that apps are actually delivered helps ensure that the distributed network model is succeeding. If teams aren’t able to get real-time responses via their messaging apps or other business-critical tools, they glean no benefit from being remote.

With comprehensive performance monitoring, teams can retain all the visibility they need to get to the root cause of issues as they arise and even get ahead of performance problems before they impact the end user. It all comes down to having a complete picture to help IT be accountable for any hiccups, even into environments they no longer manage outright.

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