Office 365 Fastlane - Business Broadband in NZ

I’m sitting in my home office, listening to Spotify, working on my MacBook, with a cup of green tea and the bulldog (Penny Lane) sitting in the doorway. I’m busy collaborating with the team Instillery on a rather large cloud migration proposal. While I’m currently missing out on the water cooler chats, the working experience is great and massively productive.

I’ve been fortunate for the last six years to work in organisations that run exclusively off cloud-based SaaS services for email, office productivity and team comms. It is something now I don’t believe I could do without.

While the path to SaaS setup like this, has been relatively painless and quick for smaller startups and is now becoming the gold standard for larger organisations who recognise there is a need to adopt a modern workplace. For the larger businesses we work with, this is typically a combo of Office 365, a Surface pro, a customer management system plus some public cloud IaaS.

Moving to a cloud-based setup like this is now a pretty standard fare what we often find is that two factors are unfortunately often overlooked which mean the all the flexibility, collaboration and ease of use just don’t come together the way you envisaged. 

The culprits? Connectivity and security.

Traditionally, large organisations have deployed a wide-area-network to connect offices. And let’s also not forget the ‘children of the 80s’ routers that are a ‘must-have’ but we’re told perform black magic amongst the ton of once molten metal and silicon.

This is an approach that made sense for a long time - you had a data centre or head office where you stuck all your apps, security appliances and plumbed in internet bandwidth. However this is now about the least efficient and economic way to connect to apps that are on the internet. It’s not only entirely unnecessary to haul traffic back to a central location, but it also creates a single point of failure and can destroy the user experience accessing cloud apps. Similarly firewalls and proxy appliances are unable to keep up with all the chatty traffic going to the cloud. 

Want some stats? Here’s what Gartner says about Office 365 and network performance, as well as figures from Zscaler on the rise of Internet threats.

This is why cloud readiness matters, and why two booming technologies that are being deployed at a crazy rate globally, must be considered when deploying cloud apps. 

These technologies are:

  • SD-WAN - now think of this as a fast lane from each office location to the Internet and therefore cloud apps.  Key features include zero touch provisioning for plug-in-and-play site deployment, granular prioritisation of web apps like Office 365 and Youtube, and of course that direct path to the Internet for the best user experience available. Now two key points, SD-WAN does also integrate with a traditional WAN service so you can keep that in place and just add internet and SD-WAN at each site. The other thing is that this is the best approach for Office 365 traffic. Microsoft actually doesn’t recommend using private connections such as ExpressRoute for Office 365.
  • Cloud Web Security - more and more network born threats are being pushed through the internet and embedded in seemingly harmless websites. The ability to filter at a deep level and inspect the traffic inside these connections is becoming a must. This stops hidden viruses coming down the pipe, prevents malware from sneaking your data offsite and blocks ransomware. Now here’s the gotcha, this level of security can actually break complex cloud apps like Office 365. What therefore becomes critical is to select a service that is built specifically to work with Office 365, and even better optimise it.

To fast track successful cloud rollouts, we’ve partnered with Riverbed and Zscaler, leaders in SD-WAN and Cloud Web Security. Why these two? Not only do they have great tech at a great price point, but they have also done the hard yards with the most seamless integration we have seen in this area. 

Better still, both Zscaler and Riverbed have partnered up with Microsoft to enhance their services for Office 365. With Zscaler for example, due to some complex engineering on their part, this actually makes Office 365 network traffic faster than going direct.

I’ll make one last point - these solutions work anywhere, so I get the same security and experience at home, on the road, wherever.