Our 5-minute guide to cloud-managed networking

Learn why cloud-managed networking is growing in popularity with businesses

More than 60% of enterprises expect that at least half their infrastructure will be cloud-based by the end of this year, according to research from IDC.

So it's no surprise that cloud-managed networking, often provided as-a-service', is rapidly growing in popularity with businesses.

But what is cloud-managed networking, and why should businesses be considering it as a way to manage their networking infrastructure? Here, we run through what it is as well as the pros and cons of the technology.

What is cloud-managed networking?

Cloud-managed networking is a way of managing and controlling a business network remotely through resources in the cloud, rather than from onsite network controllers or management software. It uses a SaaS model to make it easy to control and analyse on-premise network devices, such as wireless access points and switches.

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This method allows you to manage all network users and devices in a single place, meaning that employees can work flexibly without geographical concerns, making cloud-managed networking especially valuable for businesses where employees connect from multiple locations.

Cloud networking-as-a-service' includes switches, wireless access points and security gateways accompanied by a hardware license, as opposed to other cloud services that a business usually licences. The technology gives you total visibility over deployment, management, monitoring and diagnosis of issues on a network.

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Once a device is connected to the network, it can easily load the running configuration from the cloud. This also means that businesses can scale up, from a few key devices to a large deployment under a single platform.

Pros and cons of cloud-managed networks

Deployment is just one of the challenges resellers and customers face when implementing both wired and wireless networking equipment. Some form of set-up and configuration is normally required, and this takes time and adds to the cost every time a new device is needed.

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Cloud networking makes deployments easier, with devices being provisioned with settings by the cloud provider prior to installation, making it quicker to install and set up. When the device is connected to a network, it securely connects back to a control centre and the configuration is downloaded and initiated automatically, making the device ready to use almost straight away.

It also removes the need for trained IT staff at remote locations, as deployments can be managed from one central location.

As well as this, it's also usually much easier and quicker to identify issues on a cloud-managed network. Unplanned downtime, limited resources and network performance issues can be a significant problem in day-to-day business operations, so being able to deal with disruptions efficiently from a centralised management platform is increasingly important.

As most cloud managed networking solutions are offered on an as-a-service' basis, with regular, predictable payments spread out over time rather than businesses paying a large upfront cost, maintenance and support is usually included as part of those payments and can offer long-term savings when compared to traditional networking deployments.

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Security and access is a concern with any cloud tool, as a key benefit is that users can log in from anywhere. Any business looking to use a cloud-managed network provider must ensure that the service supports different levels of IT admin privileges and multi-factor authentication to ensure that only authorised users are able to log in.

There are also potential connectivity issues that can occur with having a system managed by an external provider. If this provider has an outage that affects your business, it can be much more difficult to resolve it swiftly and without disruption to core day-to-day business operations.

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