5 Considerations When Choosing Content Distribution Software
By Doug Kennedy, Chief Growth Officer, Adaptiva
This is an interesting time for enterprise IT. Many organizations are caught between infrastructure environments. Some have been clinging to tried and true legacy, on-premises systems. Others have dipped their toes into digital transformation with a hybrid solution that will let them realize some of the cost and flexibility benefits of moving to the cloud without letting go of what simply works, and a few have even gone all-in on the cloud.
Regardless of where businesses are today, it is clear that the pace of digital transformation has picked up considerably. Workforces are more distributed than ever before, and now with the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of employees are working remotely. This puts a tremendous strain on corporate networks and presents new challenges for IT departments as they roll out and configure new content and software packages and deploy security updates to potentially tens of thousands of endpoints — all without impacting critical business traffic or employee productivity.
To accomplish the task at hand, it is imperative that IT administrators adopt solutions that are fast, agile, reliable and resource efficient. At the same time, COVID-19 has added even more pressure to IT teams who must manage systems in addition to enabling work from home and supporting employees with troubleshooting. In lieu of hiring more able bodies to handle increased demands, organizations are considering adoption of automated solutions that free IT team members to focus on higher priority issues instead of spending all of their time in “react” mode.
Organizations require content delivery solutions that address all of these needs and then some, and not all offerings are created equal.
Here are five factors they should consider when evaluating content distribution software.
One of the biggest reasons for accelerating the move to modern device management (MDM) in the COVID-19 environment is to take the strain off of corporate VPNs. Enterprises need content delivery engines with proactive bandwidth management that can utilize 100% of available bandwidth to deliver essential content at scale while maintaining network performance.
Most solutions look at network latency over time, which is a reactive approach that generates data that is necessarily already out of date. When you see that latency is increasing, that is because congestion is already occurring; there is too much data being sent at once. Without a proactive approach, bandwidth congestion will occur, and content delivery to the endpoints as well as business traffic can be impacted.
By contrast, one of the most exciting approaches to bandwidth management is predictive bandwidth harvesting combined with internet peer-to-peer capabilities. This allows enterprises to leverage massive amounts of bandwidth from employees’ consumer home internet connections and aggregate them together. Bandwidth then can be used to move the vast majority of network traffic — essentially all of software and patching traffic — completely out of the corporate network, offloading the WAN and VPN, making the corporate network highly available for mission-critical applications. Solutions offering bandwidth harvesting can also predict network congestion down to the millisecond and automatically adjust content delivery speed, effectively eliminating the need for bandwidth throttling. As a result, content is delivered at scale in record time with minimal impact to network performance.
Many enterprises have postponed their move to the cloud because of questions about reliability. In the present environment, content delivery is not always certain — and it needs to be. If a machine fails to get an important patch or update, it can impact employee productivity and may even expose the network to risk of an attack, and businesses have enough problems to worry about right now without dealing with malware or ransomware creeping in. Presently, if a connection drops in the middle of distribution or distribution stalls over the VPN, delivery of vital content is not ensured. Or what if a user powers down his or her machine without realizing a critical update was being installed?
Modern content distribution architecture can now account for these issues. The best solutions provide quick, fault-tolerant, reliable content delivery that is resilient to clients going offline, maximizing software delivery success rates. With innovative peer-to-peer technology for example, it is possible to move data between peers in RAM very, very quickly and to scale to thousands of endpoints or more without dropping a byte if a peer goes offline.
Support for Any Environment
With enterprises in various stages of their cloud journey, they need content distribution networks that work in any setting or location. Flexibility has never been more important as employees distributed around the world are connecting from new places and with new configurations. As such, having the flexibility to adapt content distribution according to today and tomorrow’s IT decisions and evolving circumstances is a key driver for change.
The latest content distribution solutions help IT administrators guarantee their approved content gets delivered to endpoints regardless of where they are (on-premise, connected remotely over VPN, or on the internet without a VPN connection), keeping endpoints updated and secure at all times.
At the same time, these solutions can assist enterprises in the transition from traditional on-premise infrastructure to the cloud and MDM at their own speed. Breakthrough technologies support multiple system management platforms and help guarantee endpoints stay secure and updated — even if the corporate network goes down.
High Level of Automation
As IT administrators contend with more and more tasks from both a volume and a complexity standpoint, something has to give. The content delivery solutions that can remove some of the burden from IT teams — such as running special processing on a client after installing an app, setting up a standard series of endpoint health checks, offloading repetitive tasks, integrating with other systems, and automating almost any routine activity — will be the big winners.
Self-forming and self-managing offerings now fit the bill. Some peer-to-peer solutions worth a look also eliminate manual specification of target machines by self-selecting the most highly available machines for delivery, optionally creating and maintaining multiple copies of content for business continuity. While bandwidth management, reliability and flexibility may be essential to content delivery, quality automation can make operations significantly easier and more efficient.
One final aspect that should carry some weight in decision-making is a potential content distribution engine’s maturity. Which solutions have been around and battle-tested? Who has continued to innovate, particularly to meet the unique needs of today? What solutions are other large enterprises adopting? Who is known for reliability but also offers flexibility?
By doing a little homework and considering the factors above, an enterprise can save some big headaches, as well as conserve resources, while increasing content delivery efficiency and reliability. Good luck!
As first published in Toolbox Tech.