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Quality of Experience vs Quality of Service: Which are You Getting?

May 02 2023

Quality of Service (QoS) is a standard metric for any infrastructure, networking, or operations team contracting with a tech vendor The average network SLA, for example, is crawling with QoS metrics covering a range of things, including packet loss, jitter, latency, bandwidth allocation, response time, and uptime. However it’s well known that the interdependence of technologies upon one another within the stack can make these QoS numbers completely unrelated to the actual experience among employees in consuming cloud applications. To use modern parlance, if we allow our users to “speak their truth” they will often tell of poor experiences despite all the evidence in our QoS metrics to the contrary. This is where Quality of Experience (QoE) comes into its own. 

QoE refers to the overall user experience when using a cloud application, including performance, reliability, security, and usability. There is no shortage of examples of the ways in which a poor QoE can disrupt cloud adoption, and how – in turn – that disruption can cause fresh problems. Problems can include:

  • Slow performance: When using cloud applications, users expect fast load times, minimal latency, and quick response times. However, if the QoE is poor, it can lead to slow performance, frustrating users and negatively impacting their productivity. 
  • User adoption: In addition to the direct impact on productivity for teams, a frustrating experience with an app or technology can also lead to users abandoning those that cause issues, sometimes selecting their own inferior alternatives. This can have significant implications for data protection and security, as well as wasting enterprise spend on the troublesome tech that has low adoption rates.
  • Cost implications: Cloud adoption involves a significant investment in infrastructure, licences, and ongoing maintenance, and if the QoE is poor, it generally drives up those costs. It may result in additional costs associated with troubleshooting, debugging, and maintaining the application which can impact the overall return on investment. 

So if we can agree that QoS doesn’t cut it in isolation, what can organisations do to focus on a good QoE for cloud applications?

  1. Prioritise QoE, rather than QoS, when selecting a cloud provider. Look for a provider that offers robust performance, security, and reliability guarantees, but in a way that resonates with the metrics that users notice and that inform their qualification of their own experience. Conduct a thorough evaluation of potential providers, including testing with real world users and use cases, to ensure that they meet your organisation’s specific requirements and expectations.
  1. Acknowledge that individual users are increasingly likely to be hybrid—working in offices as well as remotely throughout the course of an average week.  Work to ensure that the QoE of one type of access does not differ in any discernible way from another, as the best performing access model will set the standard for experience scores across the board. 
  1. Leverage SD-WAN technology. SD-WAN uses software to dynamically manage and optimise traffic across a wide area network (which means it covers your remote workers as well as your office-based staff). SD-WAN can improve QoE in several ways, including providing application visibility and control, dynamic path selection, application-aware routing, and network resiliency. By leveraging SD-WAN, organisations can ensure that their cloud applications are performing at their best, even during peak usage times or in the face of network issues.
  1. Consider your routing decisions. It’s incredibly common for network decisions made in a pre-cloud era to still be dictating routing for cloud traffic, the most classic example being backhauling users to your data centre where your legacy security tools live. This results in a lot of extra delays and poor performance when there are more sensible ways to do things. Security, for example, can happen in-line as data traffic flows on the fastest route between user and app – don’t detour it unnecessarily. 
  1. Involve end-users in the process. User buy-in is critical for successful cloud adoption, and involving users in the selection and implementation of cloud solutions can help ensure that they are engaged and invested in the process. Conduct user surveys, focus groups, and training sessions to get user feedback and input on how to optimise QoE for their specific needs.
  1. Finally, consider working with a trusted technology partner to help you navigate the complexities of cloud adoption and ensure a good QoE. A decent technology partner can provide expert guidance on selecting the right cloud provider, implementing SD-WAN, and engaging end-users, among other things. They can also offer ongoing support and maintenance to help ensure that your cloud applications are performing at their best. I’ve included this pointer specifically following a few sessions I attended recently run by some of our partners. The value and insights they provide to their customers – and the way they help them navigate technology decisions is really invaluable. 

All tech companies talk about putting the user or the customer at the centre of everything, so why does the industry still talk in metrics that centralise around technology performance rather than user experience and benefits? When you shift your goals (and the targets of your tech suppliers) to be focused around QoE rather than QoS the benefits are felt in performance, productivity, security and cost. 

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Steve Foster
Steve Foster has spent his career working to bridge the gap between business need and technical solution. Steve comes from the networking world, with 20 years of experience as a solutions engineer, solutions architect, and solutions engineering manager with major networking technology vendors. In his current role Steve focuses on supporting the transformation and security strategies for Netskope's clients across the Middle East and Africa.

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