Network-as-a-Service or NaaS is a software-based subscription model that allows customers to rent networking services from cloud providers. Customers can then operate their own networks as a service, free of the burden of network hardware and management.
NaaS’s increasing popularity coincides with evolutions in cloud computing, which has fueled business digital transformation. In 2020, NaaS had an estimated global market value of US$4.2 billion. That figure is set to explode by 43% to $50.7 billion by 2027 thanks in part to business changes brought on by the pandemic.
For small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) that have transitioned to cloud-based services to enhance productivity, workflow efficiency, and growth in uncertain times, NaaS has proven to be an attractive value proposition. In addition to helping reduce networking overhead (hardware and infrastructure) costs, NaaS enables organizations to also save money by eliminating the need to train and retain on-staff network experts. Users just plug into their software-defined network and it works.
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Benefits of the Network-as-a-Service Model
The inherent flexibility of “as-a-service” models has proven to be a big part of their appeal to SMBs looking to scale their business while getting the most out of the services that they choose to implement. Managing networks and building network infrastructures are complex jobs that even in-house IT professionals struggle with.
For SMBs unable to afford the upfront hardware costs and experts that can configure, operate, and maintain network devices such as routers, switches, and firewalls, NaaS becomes a powerful and cost-effective solution. Here are several ways that NaaS can help your business establish and maintain a robust network and improve your bottom line.
24/7 Access to Network Experts
A subscription to a NaaS provider, such as Amazon Web Services or Cisco, gives you access to network experts that can guide you through planning and building a network that is suitable for your operation’s needs. Such services can include ensuring the security of your data and your network as well as mapping your network infrastructure to identify areas where issues are likely to arise. Once your NaaS provider hands your network over to you, on-demand and ongoing support are provided along with training on how to manage and maintain your network infrastructure where necessary.
It is also important to find a NaaS partner that provides you with a service level agreement (SLA) or contract that guarantees they will address your networking concerns — including uptime, availability, response, and issue resolutions — within a determined time. Such contracts should also allow for flexibility should your networking needs change over the course of your subscription.
Choosing the right NaaS partner for your business can help reduce the costs associated with running and maintaining network infrastructures. In addition to 24/7 on-demand expertise, your NaaS provider can help effectively implement an IT infrastructure and process — including hardware and software integrations — without the painful and expensive trial-and-error consequences of going at it alone.
NaaS’s subscription model is especially beneficial, too, for establishing predictable, recurring costs that help you come up with workable IT and overall business budgets.
Making sure your network is capable of handling your business’s web traffic should be a top priority. Your NaaS provider can ensure that your IT infrastructure is efficiently handling traffic and make adjustments when necessary. This ongoing monitoring is a collaborative effort between you and your NaaS partner and requires you to keep track and report areas where your network might be failing your business. Using software tools and alerts, your NasS provider can often swiftly address and resolve such problems before they begin to affect you or your customers.
Cyberattacks and security breaches should be in the lexicon of every business with a digital presence. With cybersecurity at the forefront of ongoing digital transformation, NaaS providers can offer bespoke IT security solutions for your business that include best practices for safeguarding your network internally and externally as well customized hardware and software platforms best suited to your needs.
With a humming, healthy, maintained network in place, you and your employees, including those working in IT, can turn your attention to other tasks that can increase efficiency and productivity. The right NaaS partner takes network troubleshooting off the table by providing monitoring and maintenance reports; and, will actively detect issues and patterns in your network that can help you get ahead of problems as well as create plans to tackle scheduled changes to your network.
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Challenges of NaaS Platforms
Depending on your business, buying into a NaaS subscription might not be the right choice right now. Issues that arise for some SMBs, include:
Older networking systems and devices that might be incompatible with NaaS vendors’ infrastructures. This can include old hardware and outdated applications.
Tie-ins to data centers that still house your data and run applications outside of the cloud. The migration to a NaaS model can be more difficult, though not impossible.
Getting locked into a NaaS subscription that might not be right for your business over time, or equally as damaging, one that fails to provide a high level of service.
Continuing to Invest in the Cloud
As business processes continue to converge to ease business operations, NaaS is a logical progression of that holistic approach. Combining network infrastructure, software, and hardware into a single platform makes sense for any business that is already heavily invested in cloud-based services. The improvements to productivity and workflow efficiency are easy to identify, as is the long-term return on investment when assessing IT department overhead costs.
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