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Is flexibility the new measure of effective network design?

In today's fast-paced technology landscape, staying competitive demands adaptable network solutions. Justin Day explores this topic, discussing how the rise of public cloud services has reshaped IT expectations, leading to a shift in commercial risk tolerance.

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There’s no underestimating how important it is for businesses to stay competitive and the need to adapt as technology evolves. The advent of the public cloud changed expectations around the consumption of IT services, and in turn this has shifted commercial risk appetite. Today, more businesses are happy to put information on public networks. Where IT professionals were once concerned with their networks going down, the new challenge lies in the network and their connectivity provider’s ability to keep pace.

Simply put, inflexibility just won’t cut it anymore and IT teams don’t want to be bound to specific technology and circuitry. This type of commercial inflexibility involves more than proprietary technology, it also covers fixed costs, contract lengths and everything in between.

Setting out requirements

If your business has ever faced network interruptions, inconsistent bandwidth or even complete outages – you’ll know there is a lot at stake. While financial loss is the most severe, businesses can also face reputational damage, data loss, reduced productivity and a negative impact on their customer satisfaction. Looking towards more advanced networking concepts, such as Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), is a good way to streamline operations and boost the resilience of networks. But it’s also important to look at the levels of flexibility offered by your connectivity provider.

Firstly, steer clear of biting off more than you can chew when it comes to bandwidth. What I mean by this is start with a volume that is appropriate to what you need right now. If a provider looks to over provision, encouraging you to take on bigger volumes and more connections up front, ask yourself: is this in the businesses best interest? Usually, it comes with the justification that it’s more expensive to change or scale later, convincing businesses to opt for more megabytes now.

The ideal approach is to scale up with your needs and when the time is right. Instead of investing a substantial amount of budget into a contingency, one that might make the network more susceptible to vulnerabilities – as its attack surface is greater than it needs to be. Look to providers who can be nimbler, working with you to provide the best network strategy for your business and allowing you to pay as you grow.

Meeting expectations now and in the future

Not all networks are created equally. While you’ll want to select a provider with proven experience, be wary of long contracts and legacy technology. A downside of going with a larger, more established provider is that they might still have legacy infrastructure which they haven’t managed to move away from. While a particular technology may work for your current network needs, think about the longer term – will it keep up with increasing network complexity and a growing infrastructure?

Lastly, be cautious of service credits. While they seem logical and fair, they are often poorly negotiated and in practice, can be difficult to manage. Previously, I highlighted the reputational, financial and negative impact network outages can have on businesses. Before signing on the dotted line, consider whether the service credits on offer are proportionate to the loss of value to your business if things do go down. Ask yourself, is the service being offered focused on fixing something when it goes wrong, or making sure it doesn’t go wrong in the first place? Look to outline the metrics that will be used to measure performance and cost, service level agreements and management responsibilities.

Don't look at price, look at value

There's no denying that cost is a huge consideration when selecting the right connectivity provider and network technology. Pricing can widely vary depending on factors such as speed, capacity, and the type of connection. Think about what value means to you. Is it about being able to take a cloud-like approach? Can you scale with requirements? Does the contract offer flexible terms and co-terming, so you can combine existing and new services with the dates of the original contract?

No two businesses are alike and there’s no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ connectivity solution. For this reason, it’s a good idea to look for a provider who can deliver a variety of technologies and services. The right provider will look at your IT, financial and operational requirements and suggest the right technology to meet your specific needs, rather than your perceived need. Having flexibility in your network infrastructure is more than just the ability to keep pace with change, it’s also about having the commercial agility required to adapt to new opportunities and meet expectations.

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