Software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) have become a staple for large organizations, helping them better communicate and interact with each other across the globe. But despite having a smaller presence and reach, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have also started to take advantage of this technology.
Why SD-WAN, and why now?
SMBs have typically been more contained and less distributed—geographically speaking—for a long time. This always meant they didn’t need to invest in a WAN of any kind, let alone SD-WAN. They could manage well by relying on simpler tools like site-to-site VPN. Likewise, SMBs didn’t have the desire, need, or budget to add unnecessary complexity to their IT environments. But this has changed.
Over the last few years, cloud-based technology has become at once more sophisticated, easier to implement, and more relevant to all manner of industries, vertical markets, and business sizes. SMBs have started following in the footsteps of larger enterprises by moving their data and becoming more reliant on public clouds and software as a service (SaaS). As SMBs started to see the benefits of this technology, they began to look at ways to improve their experiences with those platforms. For many, the answer may be SD-WAN.
Choosing the right SD-WAN
Smaller businesses are looking to start implementing SD-WAN quickly, but it’s no easy feat.
Simplicity should be top of mind. When you deploy SD-WAN into your environment, although it adds a layer of sophistication, it also adds more complexity. The added functionality must be worth the effort of dealing with additional complexity. To make sure they find the right balance, businesses should assess exactly what they need and deploy solutions capable of meeting those needs without any extra bells and whistles.
The most critical components of an SD-WAN deployment are the ones specific to your business, and this will change depending on the industry you work in. By tailoring the deployment to the requirements of your specific organization and industry, your SD-WAN will perform better. It’s critical for the experts working in-house who intimately understand the business and its IT profile to communicate which pieces of SD-WAN matter most and have a say in the final deployment.
Once the deployment is in place, organizations can start reaping the benefits, such as faster application responses. SD-WAN supports “intelligent,” application-optimized communication across the WAN segment of a connection and can be implemented in various gradients that overlay onto existing hardware. It matches the traffic you’re generating with the network it’s running on and can be optimized for data to travel across regular or high-speed internet paths based on information sensitivity, time of day, and other factors. But to get the most bang for your buck, it’s critical to monitor the networks.
With any IT service, monitoring is imperative to supporting IT teams. When it comes to SD-WAN, monitoring can ensure businesses aren’t paying for performance they don’t need and pay only for the performance they get. Application performance management (APM) tools provide businesses with metrics to let them know how effective their SD-WAN is. After all, if it’s going to spontaneously route traffic to share information at the fastest possible speed, you need to know when the route changes and what it looked like before and after the change.
APM tools can also show where SD-WAN drops off in performance by monitoring net flow and identifying what’s contributing to web traffic, including who’s using it.
The future of SD-WAN
As organizations continue to adopt SD-WAN, the service will continue becoming what it wants to be: an easy-to-implement and cost-effective overlay. But it’ll also lead to more competition with ISPs, who will feel pressured to operate at the level of SD-WAN. And with many workforces now being remote, there will be more pressure on ISPs to deliver experiences similar to SD-WAN.
Though SD-WAN won’t extend into every employee’s house, the most successful organizations will be able to intelligently route outbound traffic from the SMB facility to get it to employees using the best performance possible.
As we all adapt to whatever comes next, we’re going to see a spike in numerous technologies trying to match the performance of SD-WAN. But before you implement it, spend some time thinking about the benefits you want from an SD-WAN so you’re not out of pocket. And once it’s in place, remember to implement effective monitoring solutions so you can be confident you’re reaping all the benefits. Taking all of this on board will ensure your now distributed and remote workforce can better communicate and interact with each other no matter where they are in the world.