Managed SD-WAN Advantages Software defined wide area networking can save money and improve performance.
By: John Shepler
Digital transformation is a wonderful thing for business… until you run into snags trying to implement it. One of those unanticipated snags is the need for WAN bandwidth connections far beyond what you ever thought you’d need. You can slug it out trying to make everything work and not break the bank. Or, you can enlist the help of managed SD-WAN to make your connectivity something you don’t even think about anymore.
How Did Connectivity Get to Be Such a Big Deal?
Chances are that when your business was primarily bricks and mortar, you installed a broadband connection for when you needed to access the Internet and that was plenty good enough. It works for point of sale. It works for online ordering. It’s even good enough for a brochure-style web site so that potential customers can easily find you.
Then the transformation began. First it was VoIP phone to replace the old analog landlines. Then came online ordering for both you and your customers, followed by automatic restocking, customer relationship management, financial and tax accounting in the cloud, lead generation, online advertising management, factory planning and on, and on and on. Under the weight of too many software packages to keep track of, eventually some these processes relocated to cloud servers, with some still in your local data center.
That good old broadband service that got you started with the Internet is no longer satisfactory. Even upping the speed as much as you can still doesn’t make it work right. Phone calls get garbled, but not all the time. Workflow slows to a crawl, but not all the time. This inconsistency is driving everybody crazy. You never know when things will zip along seamlessly or when it will all slow to a crawl for a few seconds or a few minutes or the entire afternoon. You need better and you can get it.
The Expensive Solution: Build Your Own WAN Network
You can avoid many of the vagaries of the Internet, especially on shared broadband connections, by building a private network for your operations. This means getting everything off the Internet that you can. All connections to branch offices, warehouses, factories, and any cloud providers can be made with dedicated private lines. As you might expect, each line costs plenty and you’ll need lots of them.
MPLS networks with guaranteed performance levels can reduce the cost when operations are spread over long distances. MPLS is a privately run Wide Area Network with a special protocol that makes it more secure than the Internet. The general public also has no access. It’s business subscribers only and they are only admitted if the network can handle the traffic. For multiple locations, MPLS is less expensive than private lines, but still pricey.
Managed SD-WAN Is More Cost Efficient
SD-WAN stands for Software Defined Wide Area Networking. The software defined aspect is where the savings come from. The managed aspect takes the burden of running all of it off your back. If done correctly, Managed SD-WAN makes your connectivity invisible. You don’t have to worry about it. It just works.
Here’s briefly how SD-WAN does its magic. The trick is to use the least cost connections that will get the job done, but make sure that quality doesn’t suffer. Take the Internet. The least costly connections are shared bandwidth, like cable broadband and wireless, but these are also the most likely to get congested and vary in performance. The most costly are dedicated private lines, but these may be wasted on low priority traffic that doesn’t need low latency and jitter and isn’t bothered by a bit of congestion. If you aren’t using a private line, it’s just idling and you are paying for it anyway.
SD-WAN needs at least two connections in order to make traffic decisions. These can be a mix of cable broadband, Ethernet fiber optic WAN, fixed wireless access, satellite broadband, LTE or 5G cellular, MPLS network and even older wireline services such as T1, PRI or DS3.
What SD-WAN does is continuously monitor each connection’s performance so that it knows the available bandwidth, latency, jitter, and packet loss on a moment by moment basis. When you have traffic in the form of packets, it notes the quality of service you require and then picks the best connection for those packets. Phone conversations and video conferences need very stable connections to work well, so they get a higher priority and QOS requirement. Backups to off-side storage aren’t so demanding and can live with a lower quality link. Other processes are assigned to the right connections for their needs.
Better Performance, Less Cost, Fewer Headaches
Managed SD-WAN is handled by your provider so that you don’t have to worry about day to day connectivity issues. You add locations or policies as you need to. The supplier figures out how to program the system to make everything work. It’s all transparent to you and the cost is considerably lower than trying to optimize a morass of connections yourself.
Are you frustrated with your current connections enough to want an easier and more reliable solution? If so, get a competitive quote for your needs by one or more SD-WAN providers and see if they can save you money and improve performance at the same time.
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