Cloud computing has taken over many areas of the data center, from servers, to applications and storage, to backup. But one data center technology that has, so far, resisted the appeal of the cloud is the network: It doesn’t typically lend itself to the portability and management capabilities of virtualization and the cloud.

However, there is one area where cloud computing is making an immediate impact on the network — namely in network management and administration.

Historical SaaS-based network management

In its basic form, cloud-based network management is simple: It allows a company to centralize management of all networks across locations and offices through a management interface running in a third-party hosted environment, or as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application.

Cloud-based network management isn’t totally new, but for the most part, it has been targeted by organizations with many small locations or offices that need wireless network capabilities, but don’t have on-site IT staff capable of managing the network itself.

Good examples of the types of businesses that have traditionally embraced cloud or SaaS-based network management include fast food, coffeehouses, and hotel chains. In these businesses, central IT can mail out a wireless network device, have the on-site manager plug it in, and then, IT can administer and control the network centrally using the cloud-based management interface. This approach offers lots of efficiencies and benefits, but was traditionally avoided by enterprises, who considered it to be lacking in high-end management options and possibly a security risk.

Increasing use cases, increasing network performance

However, recent trends show that cloud-based network management is moving beyond these use cases and defeating these preconceptions. More wireless and traditional networking vendors are adding cloud-based management capabilities for all of their networking equipment. And many large organizations look to cloud-based network management to help reduce administrative headaches and increase network performance and reliability.

Aberdeen Group research has consistently shown that companies with a deep understanding of their network performance are leaders in having networks and applications that perform well and are reliable. Conversely, organizations that are laggards in network and application performance lack this kind of insight and knowledge into how their networks actually perform.

In our research into businesses that are leaders in network technology, we found that these leaders were more likely to use cloud-based network management and gain big advantages. When we compared the performance of organizations using cloud-based network management versus those not doing so, we saw that those utilizing the cloud have an obvious benefit when it comes to network performance.

In fact, fifty percent (50%) of cloud-based management businesses listed their network performance as optimal. Conversely, only 6% of cloud-based management companies considered their network performance to be inadequate, 57% fewer than other organizations.

Network admins: Have your head in the cloud

Cloud computing has transformed many areas of business technology. Now it’s the network’s turn. By taking advantage of cloud-based management systems for their wired and wireless networks, organizations can easily centralize administration and reduce workloads for remote staff, without sacrificing capability or network security.

And, by combining cloud-based management with leading capabilities in network security, BYOD device management, and network performance monitoring, these businesses can reap the benefits through improved network performance, reliability, and security.

For network administrators, having their heads in the cloud is actually a very good thing.