As enterprises expand, through organic growth or acquisition, they need to support the IT needs of more distributed locations. These often include teams in shared office spaces versus enterprise-owned or leased facilities. To serve remote locations and users, enterprises are rapidly moving toward cloud-based applications including Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).
As always, IT teams are under pressure to contain costs and are turning to Software Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) to play a role by replacing legacy Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and other private networking solutions. Beyond cost savings, SD-WAN – when engineered and managed well – can improve the quality of service, security and ease the burden of managing complex enterprise networks.
But not every SD-WAN service is created equally. Different services offer different benefits. Some are easier to integrate into corporate infrastructure than others and business models vary from vendor to vendor.
Here are five important questions to ask when moving away from private networking to the new world of SD-WAN that will make it easier to support cloud telephony, secure voice communications on fixed, mobile and web platforms, and meet business productivity and compliance requirements.
Which SD-WAN approach is right for our industry?
For many businesses, mainstream “vanilla” SD-WAN platforms can meet their needs. But in industries that are more compliance or regulatory-driven like financial services, healthcare, government and education, SD-WAN must serve specific needs for communications within the organization and with partners.
Different SD-WAN products provide different levels of application visibility – some are more focused on network optimization and some are focused on security – so make sure you are selecting a solution that meets demands of your industry and business.
What cost and licensing offerings are available?
There are major differences in how SD-WAN is priced, even within a single vendor. For example, one provider offers three different SD-WAN services and all are different from one another. Large Communications Service Providers (CSPs) offering SD-WAN today already support multiple platforms, and give customers choices (from simple to premium, for example).
Just as the CSPs have mandated more open standards for their virtualized network architectures of the future supporting cloud, they are also able to be more flexible when it comes to serving their customers in ways that fit their requirements and budgets.
How is SD-WAN implemented and supported?
When engaging with an SD-WAN vendor, ask about the process from A to Z. How is their SD-WAN solution designed, engineered and maintained? Ask about the transformation process of moving off old MPLS circuits to broadband access, find out how applications, administrators and end-users are impacted, and learn what is required for fail-over and “five 9s” availability.
In terms of continued support, look for SD-WAN solutions that can be fully managed from the cloud, enabling a single pane of glass for device management and SD-WAN control. Further, dashboards can provide a visualization of overall SD-WAN performance, as well as detailed records for troubleshooting.
How does the SD-WAN integrate with other cloud and premise systems?
More and more enterprises are embedding voice, messaging and video live chat into internal and external platforms, from CRM to ERP to customer engagement and contact centers and web-based self-service applications. If latency is important, ask for statistics that prove Quality of Service (QoS). If there are MPLS circuits your company wishes to maintain, make sure the SD-WAN solution will integrate.
Further, by selecting an SD-WAN solution that enables the ability to prioritize business critical traffic over routine traffic, single or multi-link environments, and data destination and source, business can not only ensure that the most important applications perform at their best, but that the SD-WAN solution can grow and evolve as business priorities change.
How secure is the SD-WAN?
Businesses need trusted technology partners now more than ever, including the CSPs they have trusted with their voice and data networks for years. As such, it’s important to consider if security is part of the SD-WAN offering you are considering or if it costs extra. Is it appliance-based or cloud-based or a combination? How is the network edge being managed all the way to device authorization and authentication? What kinds of security features, including alerts, notifications and compliance reporting, are available? For example, by selecting an SD-WAN solution that can put prioritization and routing intelligence at the edge of the network means that security decisions can be made instantaneously and efficiently.
As we enter into this new digital world, enterprises have the opportunity to enhance their IT team’s capabilities by selecting the right SD-WAN technology and service provider – including improving voice, video and business performance through multiple connections, prioritizing traffic at the application level, and focusing on security – ultimately driving quality of experience and business continuity from branch offices to global network systems over the long haul.