Can Microsoft’s Delivery Optimization and Configuration Manager help solve enterprise network efficiency problems supercharged by the coronavirus pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced numerous companies to adopt hybrid working models. This has seen demand for bandwidth capacity increase considerably.
Couple bandwidth-busting traffic connecting from all over with spiraling data costs and network administrators have something to worry about. With no end in sight of this global pandemic, enterprises are now looking for solutions to counter these issues.
As a result, the question that’s now at the fore for many network administrators is how to improve network efficiency as cost-effectively as possible in the New Year.
COVID-19 and Network Efficiency
Pre-COVID, 17% of the American workforce worked remotely at least 5 days per week. Since the onset of the pandemic, this number has increased to 44%.
With nearly 6% of the population (i.e. 21 million people) having no high-speed connection, enterprises have begun to ask questions such as how best can they keep all their employees connected to their networks?
A range of solutions has been proposed in order to modernize the existing mainframes including the adoption of key technologies such as Microsoft’s Delivery Optimization, Connected Cache, and Configuration Manager.
Let’s examine each of these in greater detail.
What is Delivery Optimization
Delivery Optimization is an inbuilt Windows component. It’s distributed cache technology which means that it is software designed to act as an intermediary between an enterprise’s primary storage solutions and remote employees’ computer.
The benefits that Delivery Optimization provides include optimizing cloud download efficiency, minimizing internet bandwidth, and lowering the latency in data access.
This is excellent because you want to keep your internet bandwidth high. It translates to a faster and better experience for employees, particularly those working remotely.
What is Microsoft Connected Cache?
Microsoft Connected Cache is an application installed on a Windows Server 2012 or later. It is also a high-speed data storage function that works hand-in-hand with Delivery Optimization to reduce latency and improve efficiency.
Connected Cache acts as a dedicated cache on your enterprise network. This server-based solution caches the managed downloads that Delivery Optimization extracts from the Cloud.
It’s ideal for companies because it serves as a local cache on your on-premise network.
What is Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager
Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager, formerly known as System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) or Systems Management Server (SMS) is a full-feature systems management software. It sets out to manage computers on a larger and streamlined scale.
Configuration Manager works by providing patch management, remote control, operating system deployment, software inventory, software distribution, and network access protection capabilities.
Now that we’re up to speed about what each of these features are and what they do, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of Delivery Optimization.
Delivery Optimization Pros
No Upfront Costs
For enterprises already encumbered by high remote operating costs, this is a welcome reprieve. There are no upfront costs because Delivery Optimization exists as part of Windows 10. Therefore, it’s a feature that’s paid for through your regular Windows 10 license.
Leverages Peer-to-Peer Efficiency
Delivery Optimization enables PCs connected to your network and to download updates in a more streamlined manner from other peers within the network that have already downloaded the content. In this way, there’s an overall reduction in bandwidth. This also mitigates update-related traffic.
Same Time Send/Reception of Update Files
Gone are the old days of having to wait long periods of time while update files sent and received in succession. Today, Delivery Optimization facilitates simultaneous sending and receiving of update files. This allows updates to easily and seamlessly take place.
Can Resume Interrupted Downloads
Do you remember the times when downloads would interrupt because of a network glitch and had to restart? This meant updating PCs across company networks took longer and sometimes pushed up data costs for enterprises. Thankfully, one of the perks of Delivery Optimization is the ability to resume downloads should they experience an interruption.
Load Balancing Capabilities
Network administrators can use all the help they can get to distribute workloads in a uniform manner across enterprise servers and employee PCs.
Load balancing is an incredibly important process as it promotes more efficient processing. It provides balance, so there are no uneven overloads on individual computer nodes. Delivery Optimization presents itself as a tool that expedites this distribution of network traffic.
Windows Native and Cumulative Updates Enabled
As a Windows 10 native feature, Delivery Optimization is Cumulative Updates enabled. This means that on all the PCs equipped with the DO feature, updates – both old and new – these can be bundled together into a single update package.
But it’s not all fun and games with Delivery Optimization. Here are a couple of disadvantages network administrators have to also contend with.
Delivery Optimization Cons
No Analytics and or Reporting
In Deloitte’s The Analytics Advantage report, analytics are highlighted as important as they enable companies to drive business strategy and facilitate data-driven decisions. Thus, it comes as a big disappointment that Delivery Optimization provides no such insights neither in the form of analytics nor reports.
No Content Control
Being able to control both the content that’s being downloaded and transmitted across networks is imperative for network safety. The fact that Delivery Optimization doesn’t give network administrators such control is frustrating.
No Support for Windows 7/10 Migration
Are you thinking of migrating from Windows 7 to Windows 10? Well, unfortunately, you’ll have no help from Delivery Optimization. It’s not clear as to why the developers over at Microsoft thought it was a good idea to complicate migration in this way.
No Support Packages and App Deployment
That’s not all, but Delivery Optimization also offers no support for Packages and Application with Configuration Manager stand-alone deployments. This greatly hampers the standardization and streamlining process of installing software on employees’ work devices.
No Smart Agent
Delivery Optimization is a tool full of potential. However, it is baffling trying to understand why this supposed network optimizing resource has no smart agent to facilitate Optimal Source Selection.
No SCCM Support
Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) is integral in the management, deployment, and security of connected enterprise devices as well as apps within the network. However, this Windows product doesn’t receive any support which is a major disadvantage.
Needs Manual Boundary Definition
Boundaries, according to Microsoft, are network-specific locations on enterprise intranets that can contain your PCs or other devices making them easier to manage. When using Delivery Optimization, boundaries aren’t automatic, you have to take time to manually define each boundary you want to be created.
Needs Substantial Boundary Configuration
It’s not enough to manually define the boundaries required either, you also need to make sure that each boundary is properly configured. This additional work can be automated so it’s a wonder why Delivery Optimization doesn’t come with boundary configuration pre-set.
5 Steps to Improving Network Efficiency with Delivery Optimization
Faced with hybrid work models and more employees working remotely, enterprises must be smart about network management. Here are the top 5 ways to improve network efficiency using Delivery Optimization, Configuration Manager, and Microsoft Connected Cache in 2022.
Improve Network Efficiency Step# 1. Remove Performance Bottlenecks
When it comes to network efficiency, congestion in the network is one of the major network problems that most enterprises face. There are many causes of bottlenecks in your network which you will need to remove in order to improve network efficiency. These range from:
a) Network Overload
Network overload happens when you have numerous hosts within your broadcast domain. Delivery Optimization can aid in this particular case by allowing optimized cloud-managed downloads which reduce network pressure.
b) Broadcast Storms
Broadcast storms occur when you receive more requests on the network than it can handle.
c) Low Bandwidth
This occurs when there are too many people connected to the network at once. Delivery Optimization and Connected Cache are peer-to-peer cache technology and significantly help to lower the latency and minimize internet bandwidth.
d) Not Enough Retransmitting Hubs
Failure to have sufficient retransmitting hubs slows down your network. Retransmitting hubs are necessary in order to make data transmission across the network easier.
While created to help ease congestion, multicasting can in fact cause bottlenecks when two packets transferred simultaneously collide leading to congestion
f) Old Hardware
Technology is changing so fast and hardware components need to be routinely upgraded otherwise servers, routers, and switches can inadvertently lead to network congestion
g) Poor Configuration Management
When scripts are one-off or repetitive, they can introduce bugs that cause congestion. Thankfully Delivery Optimization and Configuration Manager can help to get rid of this issue.
h) Foreign Adapter Broadcasts
When rogue adapters connect to your network, this can increase the network load leading to bottlenecks. A rogue adapter is any device that connects oftentimes illegally onto your network and exists like a parasite until it’s removed. These foreign devices also pose a security threat.
Fortunately, network monitoring tools like Configuration Manager make it possible to handle the life cycle of all the devices and configurations within your network. Such visibility can assist in identifying slow traffic and congestion so you can eliminate it.
And speaking of configurations…
Improve Network Efficiency Step# 2. Reconfigure Network Hardware
It doesn’t matter if it’s an installation of cumulative updates or new hardware, every element joining the company network must be properly configured. Failure to do so can lead to poor network efficiency.
When devices are incorrectly configured, they can’t communicate with their peers effectively. This will lead to routing problems and or increase latency.
Network administrators must ensure that each time a device is configured or reconfigured the network is tested to check network performance. Configuration Manager can be used to see whether the new configuration/reconfiguration is affecting the network negatively.
Improve Network Efficiency Step# 3. Educate Employees on Correct Network Usage
Now with more employees working remotely, it can be difficult to control what people do on the company network. However, it is pivotal to educate them on avoiding applications that are bandwidth-heavy and engaging in activities that consume a lot of data such as downloading movies, music videos, and other large files.
The more bandwidth employees are using in non-work-related activities, the less will be available for work slowing down the entire network. Configuration Manager can be used to curb non-work-related activities if necessary by blocking certain devices.
Improve Network Efficiency Step# 4. Consider Creating a Guest Network
Have you ever thought of creating a separate guest network for people visiting your company?
You don’t want strangers and outsiders to be able to connect to your enterprise network. This is a major security threat. By creating a disparate guest network they will have their own distinct network to connect to.
In this way, guests’ activities don’t interfere with enterprise bandwidth and security threats are reduced.
Improve Network Efficiency Step# 5. Compress Network Traffic and Data
Every day, colossal amounts of data are transmitted across enterprise networks. More so now, in a world where virtual meetings are the order of the day. These data-heavy online activities necessitate data compression and compression of network traffic.
By compressing enterprise data, companies get more out of their internet packages. And with Windows components like Delivery Optimization, you get to stretch your data out more.
You see, Delivery Optimization extracts content from the cloud, stores it in a temporary cache, where peer PCs/devices can easily access said files in smaller, minute data-friendly sizes without having to download all the large files for each connected device.
2020 and 2021 have disrupted the way business is done. With more companies eager to try out hybrid work models that allow employees to work remotely with some days in the office, network administrators have their work cut out for them in terms of making sure networks are efficient and running at optimal round the clock.
And with so much uncertainty about when things will return to normal, enterprises need to get comfortable with the idea of remote work. Resources such as Delivery Optimization and Configuration Manager will prove to be more and more important in 2022 and beyond.
Relying on such Windows features, organizations can rest easy knowing that there are tools to help with improving network efficiency in a cost-effective manner.
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