15 May 2017

The new user experience in a cloud-connected world

Using corporate applications used to involve a frustrating amount of waiting and lag. The app was usually delivered by a thick client or remote desktop, and the time lag between the user’s keystrokes and the application’s responses was noticeably slow. If that application was hosted a long way away from the user, the delays became even more pronounced.

To combat that and deliver a user experience that was minimally frustrating (if not perfect), IT managers ensured that;

  1. Local users were on the same local area network (LAN), in the same office as the server that hosted the application
  2. Remote users were on a private wide area network (WAN), to get a useable experience, and there needed to be decent bandwidth at every site, with class of service to ensure quality.

These requirements limited the applications that businesses could effectively use, and created additional costs for businesses with more than one or two geographical locations. It’s one of the reasons enterprise software was out of reach of smaller and mid-sized business; the additional network costs made it impractical for organisations with smaller budgets.

Now, in a cloud-connected world, the user experience has improved to a point where businesses can use most Software-as-a-Service apps without any noticeable lag, even if they’re hosted in other countries.

This is because these apps no longer need a thick client interface. Instead, the interface has either been built from scratch to run as a website, or has had an HTML front-end built so that users can browse it natively.

This means that, in terms of the user experience, it’s no longer important that the application or server be physically close to the end user to provide a good experience. In the legacy, thick client model, the latency was noticeable and frustrating. In today’s cloud-connected environment, simple mouse-clicks navigate users through the app and there is nowhere near the latency issues.

This has opened up opportunities for businesses to use a far wider variety of apps hosted in overseas locations from further afield. Australian mid-sized organisations can not only access the enterprise-level apps that had been out of reach in the past, but they can genuinely access it from anywhere in the world with a user experience that doesn’t cause frustration.

The best web user experience comes when the user is 30 milliseconds or less away from the application, however Australia’s remoteness from the rest of the world means there are still some areas currently that deliver some lag. For example, it takes 180 milliseconds for a message to get from Australia to the USA, then another 180 milliseconds for the return message. That means an application hosted in the US won’t deliver quite the same user experience as one hosted in Japan or Hong Kong, for example.

This vastly-improved user experience means businesses can replace their old, clunky, legacy systems for a faster, modern, SaaS-based application that can help the business be more efficient and reduce costs.

Importantly, once businesses move to the cloud for one application, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, they can begin to access an entire ecosystem of providers that augment and enhance the original application. Conceivably, a business could run its entire operations hanging off that stack of applications in the cloud.

For example, Microsoft Office 365 puts email hosting in the cloud, removing much of the expense and complexity of managing email. Servers, security, updates, maintenance, and more are all handled by Microsoft directly, eliminating that burden from IT teams.

While there is still some latency for Australian organisations using apps hosted in places like London, performance is improving rapidly as cloud providers like Microsoft Azure offer globally replicated solutions at multiple locations around the world for a very reasonable price. Within the next couple of years, businesses will be able to use cloud apps regardless of their location.

There will always be a need for certain apps to live on-premises, necessitating a hybrid approach. But the ratio of on-premise to cloud is tipping in favour of cloud apps, delivering better performance and a more enjoyable, seamless user experience.

Talk to Brennan IT today about how we can help you avoid the risk of moving to cloud. We can help you move your workloads to the cloud safely and securely, at a reasonable price, so you can take advantage of robust, fast application performance and gain access to an ecosystem of complimentary services that plug into your core applications.

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