January 5, 2017

3 Reasons to Pass on Public Internet for Your Cloud Connections

As everyone in IT knows, accessing the cloud requires little more than an Internet connection and a credit card. A more involved consideration for enterprise networks is whether to access the cloud via the public Internet, or through a dedicated Internet connection. I recently fielded questions on this topic in a well-attended webinar titled "Are You Ready for a Direct Connection between Your Network and the Cloud?" In response to several attendee requests, I've laid out primary decision-affecting challenges here, and offer some observations on how to improve customer experience.

When three primary factors -- performance, cost and network security -- are high priorities, my customers have consistently opted for high-speed direct business internet connections. They've escaped buyer's remorse when decisions centered on a few basics of efficient networking services. They're summarized here.   

Performance: Do public Internet connections get the job done?

Almost universally, performance is measured by highest speed and lowest latency. Very few factors matter as much for businesses that depend on cloud computing for their daily operations.

Regarding speed, Equinix tests show that file transfers on average are more than two times faster using a direct connection versus the Internet.[1] Speaking for my company, we typically see business internet connection speeds that reach 10 Gbps when using XO's Direct Internet Access for direct connectivity.

Latency that slows network response times can be a show-stopper for many enterprises, particularly those that depend on precision in their cloud operations. In one recent instance, a New York-based customer accessing Amazon Web Services (AWS) via the Internet observed variable round-trip latencies ranging up to 1.2 seconds. Had the customer been using AWS Direct Connect, that latency would have been consistent and < 20 msec. Customers using either Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute or IBM SoftLayer Direct Link would see similar improved customer experience.

Moreover, direct internet business connections come with service level agreements (SLAs). SLAs guarantee performance relative to service availability, latency and other parameters. With public Internet, no such assurances apply. In addition, public Internet connections are susceptible to unexpected traffic bottlenecks and other factors that further exacerbate latency.

Cost: Am I getting the best value for my cloud investment?

At XO, we often come across organizations struggling with disparate cloud accounts due to "shadow IT." Also referred to as "stealth IT," it occurs when tech solutions are implemented and operated outside of official, organization-wide IT policy. We’ve seen these departmental cloud accounts number into the hundreds.

While the shadow IT model works fine for some businesses, it can result in significant financial cost through missed economies of scale. As observed by RightScale in the 2016 report, State of the Cloud:

"As adoption grows, cloud bills and cost concerns are also growing, but most organizations are doing little to implement cost management and optimization strategies. This represents an opportunity to reduce costs and further improve cloud ROI.”[2]

RightScale also states in the report that the #1 cloud initiative for 2016 has been optimizing existing cloud use to gain cost savings.Direct Connections & Volume Discounts

Direct internet connections to the cloud almost always cost less to businesses than shadow IT that uses the public Internet. As shown here, direct connections can yield huge savings in volume discounts.

As can be seen in AWS’s Data Transfer OUT table to the right, Direct Connect is priced at a steady $0.02 per GB while Internet Connect pricing can be as high as $0.09 per GB. The savings mount up quickly with Direct Connect. On a 1 Gbps connection with about 60-percent utilization, customers can expect to save more than $7,000 per month with Direct Connect. Everyone wins with the direct-connection model. Customers save money and get better performance. At the same time, AWS and Microsoft see fewer complaints about performance from their customers.

Security: Are my connections safe?

Direct connections are inherently secure because they don't traverse the Internet. They also can be combined with compatible and complementary security and firewall services. For XO customers, these include DDoS Mitigation, Site Security and Hosted Security.

Enterprises undervalue cloud network security at their peril. As stated in a recent security report by Verizon:

"Small, medium and large companies, for which data is one of the most important assets (information on customers, their market strategy or industrial information) are constantly targeted through sophisticated technical attacks or basic social engineering techniques.”[3]

Businesses operating in the cloud cannot be too careful, as October's massive DDoS attack made abundantly clear. According to the Verizon report, 89 percent of breach perpetrators are organized crime syndicates motivated by financial objectives.

Putting It All Together

When considered side-by-side, direct business internet connections to the cloud out-perform the public Internet on virtually every front. Direct connections afford businesses network control by eliminating performance variables that are typical with public Internet connections. They offer predictable performance and considerable cost savings compared to the public Internet, and are backed by SLAs for service assurance with predictable latency.

If our webinar audience is an indicator of business users in general, these factors are critical when computing in the cloud. Asked during the webinar to specify their greatest challenges with their current method of connecting to the cloud, the audience cited network security concerns (25.4%), unpredictable performance (14.9%), Internet data transfer costs (11.9%), and all of these combined (47.8%).

If you'd like to check out the webinar replay, click here. If you'd like more information about XO's cloud-connections products, please visit us online or call 800.421.3887.

John Hanton is XO's product manager for WAN services and cloud connections.

[1] Blog, Equinix, Why a Direct Connection to the Cloud Is Essential to the Enterprise, December 3, 2015.

[2] Report, RightScale, State of the Cloud, 2016.

[3] Report, Verizon Enterprise Solutions, 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report.

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