Two Heads May Be Better than One, but One Service Provider Beats Two

Sunday, January 24, 2016/Categories: Business Cloud Services

As you are considering cloud services — cloud computing, hosted voice over IP (VoIP), backup and disaster recovery, or wireless LAN —you will find plenty of vendors with a variety of features and benefits to compare against each other. How much weight each factor carries will vary from client to client, but one of the biggest differences among providers (and one with a simple yes-no answer) is whether the cloud service provider offers their own network access to their cloud services. 

Why does having one vendor for both cloud services and networking matter? Frankly, to the general user it may not, at least not until problems arise. But to the CIO, to members of the IT department, and to accounting, it should. For employees working in those departments, having multiple vendors instead of one can create all sorts of challenges. Obviously, cloud services take place outside your facility; we’re talking about the network you access at your headquarters or satellite sites. It’s the one used to reach your cloud-based applications and data, and the one your data uses for off-site backup and to update your disaster recovery site. And if you use cloud-based VoIP and Wi-Fi, it will determine the quality and availability of those critical services. 

One of the main reasons for moving to the cloud is to free IT staff from labor-intensive, daily management of computing services, and instead make them available for more strategic activities such as planning and oversight. Simplifying network management by using one vendor for both networking and cloud services is one more way to free resources for those profit-enhancing initiatives. Setting up services becomes simpler when the vendor recommending your network configuration knows what cloud services you’ll be using. Compatibility issues are eliminated before they occur. And IT staff doesn’t have to play middleman and be responsible for conveying information between cloud and network vendors.

In-house staff can continue to maintain oversight by using dashboards to oversee critical functions. If a “high-level” view shows traffic and operations running smoothly, no further action is necessary; otherwise, operational staff can drill-down to more detail when anything out of the ordinary is spotted or when staffers need information for planning. Dashboards from a single vendor simplify the entire oversight process and let system managers know where to go for resolution, so if problems do occur they can be addressed faster and in most cases prior to impacting any users.

Another big advantage of using a single vendor is the elimination of finger-pointing by service providers. We’ve all been there. Too often in multi-vendor situations, one vendor blames another for operational issues, leaving the customer to sort out the problem. When that happens, problems take longer to solve and users have to deal with slowdowns.  With a single vendor there is no “other party” to blame, so you can move right to the next step, which is fixing the problem. Divided responsibility for network and cloud services can also be a nuisance when it impacts voice quality on VoIP phone calls or slows down access to applications or data. In a multi-vendor environment, problems can go on for weeks or months and be, at minimum, inconvenient. However, when problems affect transfer of data for cloud backup or disaster recovery the result can be catastrophic. Damage may not be apparent until the data is needed and simply isn’t there, resulting in serious, business-impacting consequences. 

With a single vendor, you only have to make one call when something doesn’t look right. Day-to-day management becomes easier, allowing your IT staff to focus on their primary duties. And ideally, your single cloud/network provider should be able to spot emerging problems and address them even before you notice. Juggling multiple vendors, on the other hand, can actually add to the IT department’s burden when there are problems, pulling staff back into the reactive mode that cloud services theoretically eliminate. Additionally, using a single vendor for cloud and network services can simplify purchase and acquisition of services and simplify payables for accounting. 

Of course you still have to ensure that the cloud services and network services deliver the capabilities you need. In the cloud, you’ll have to make choices regarding public, private, or hybrid implementation, which can be configured to fit the unique needs of your business. You’ll want to make sure that necessary data security is in place. On the network side you’ll want to check service levels, speeds, and reliability. You’ll want to see whether, in addition to cloud access, the network can handle VoIP if you plan to use that service. You’ll want to see how it can handle backup and disaster recovery. In other words, your vendor should be able to meet both your current and future needs. After all, considering the benefits of a cloud-network implementation and the hassles of changing providers, it’s worth doing right the first time.


Authored by Greg Kagan, Technology Writer and Craig Pabich, Product Manager at Consolidated Communications.

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