Top SAAS app by far is office 365 for enterprises. Microsoft reported that more than 50% of its commercial Office customers are now in the cloud, and the company expects that number to jump to two-thirds this year.

But the migration journey is not easy. There are few hurdles along the way, especially if you run a global company.

SD-WAN technology can help ensure adoption of Office 365 goes off without a hitch, if you take into account these four key considerations:

1. Office 365 is not really global

Although Microsoft has data centers around the world, customers are only allowed one active instance of Office 365, so they tend to home their service near the largest base of users.  Those users access the cloud-based applications using the public Internet.

That works fine if the Microsoft data center in question is relatively close to the entire user base, but it becomes problematic for global enterprises like (manufacturing companies, semiconductors, shipping and logistics companies, etc…).  The more remote the users, the more network hops are involved and the more handoffs between service providers, some of which are markedly behind the curve when it comes to infrastructure modernization.  That increases the chances of encountering network congestion and results in unreliability, high latency, packet loss, and jitter.

Most vendors hawking Internet-based SD-WAN appliances as the answer are just putting lipstick on the pig because that approach still uses the public Internet for transport and cannot adequately address Office 365 performance issues.

2. Review the Microsoft options:

Microsoft wants Office 365 to succeed for all customers, even those with geographically dispersed users, so it offers lots of advice on how to assess and address the problem.   Microsoft makes it possible, for example, to tie into its global network through a co-location cloud exchange, but the onus is on you to figure out where and how to do that and establish relationship with a provider in that exchange. This also makes the implementation extremely time-consuming (on the order of months).  If the goal of moving to the cloud is to simplify your environment and increase agility, this option is a step backwards.

3. Take a holistic approach:

As popular as Office 365 is, it’s unlikely it will be the only SaaS service you need, so it doesn’t make sense to highly customize your network using various connectivity options to meet the performance requirements for each SaaS supplier. Most connectivity options don’t address application performance needs for the vast majority of SaaS applications. Instead, find a SD-WAN as-a-Service solution that can address the requirements for all of your SaaS resources.

4. Insist on built-in WAN optimization:

While bandwidth requirements for Office 365 will vary greatly depending on the services used, the number of clients supported, etc., WAN traffic will be higher (in some cases, orders of magnitudes higher) than on-premises Office deployments because the server side of the equation is now hosted in the cloud.  That makes it imperative for organizations with global locations to use WAN optimization. Legacy WAN optimization technologies won’t work because they require a hardware or virtual appliance at either end of the WAN link to achieve the desired reduction in data to be transmitted.  Look for a SD-WAN service solution that has optimization built in.

Pick the right technology partner based on your business needs:

If you’re a global enterprise looking to move to Office 365, take a long hard look at the network requirements and options because that’s what will ultimately determine the success of the roll out.

I would recommend Aryaka Networks, because of the way they built their WAN optimization in the cloud with a global POP coverage that covers global enterprises. Another SDWAN company to consider is VeloCloud because of their gateway cloud deployment.