From automation to advanced threat protection, how SD-WAN can help transform your business.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that humans want two things: to be in control and to have things fast – think fast food, fast cars and fast internet speeds. Waiting for anything can feel like a death sentence and in the business world, this often translates to huge competitive disadvantage.
There are countless solutions that have worked to make business processes faster and faster, but our need for speed is in danger of leaving the underlying network behind. As a result, there is rapidly rising industry demand for a newer way to network. In a recent survey by Forrester, it was reported that 56% of network managers sought the ability to centrally monitor, manage traffic and remotely provision their WAN.
Fortunately, software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) now exists to not only meet this demand but to lead a networking revolution across the sector. In essence, you can think of it as air traffic control for businesses or the Uber of the networking world; the same technology that underpins both services is fundamentally the same.
Both solutions started life as traditional business models relying on human operators manually controlling multiple forms of traffic and deciding what gets sent where to complete which journey.
Then, in 2009, the process of hailing a taxi was put in our own pockets in the form of the Uber app, giving us more control and greater visibility of each automated component of the journey – from available vehicles, to route efficiency and real-time demand.
Driven by similar technology, SD-WAN connects every single one of a business’ individual networks – including branch offices, cloud-based workloads and even data centres – to deliver the same result. Just like hailing the nearest car with a simple click, SD-WAN offers one single, centralised portal to overview and manage all the points where a business’ network is running for a seamless, convenient and ultra-efficient experience.
And this makes it an incredibly agile solution. Traditionally, making changes to networking configurations in branch offices would require manual configurations being created and installed and, most likely, multiple on-site technicians employed to perform the changes.
But more and more businesses are learning that this is both expensive and time-consuming – not to mention a contributing factor to outages caused by human error.
Compatible with multiple access and mix technologies such as long-term evolution (LTE) and ultrafast broadband (think FTTP and G.Fast), SD-WAN allows for the rapid deployment of WAN services – such as bandwidth or firewalls – without the need for the IT personnel, meaning your employees’ time can be better used elsewhere to benefit the needs of the business.
In addition, SD-WAN configurations are simpler and less brittle than their traditional WAN counterparts, and the availability of zero-touch provisioning – a key benefit of SD-WAN networking – reduces manual configuration of devices altogether.
This means that bandwidth can be easily added or reduced as business requirements evolve, providing businesses with the agility they need to stay ahead of competitors. Reducing network complexity is another huge benefit that zero-touch provisioning can help to bring about, and with every industry on the planet looking for new ways to reduce the complexity of their networks, industries such as manufacturing, retail and healthcare set to benefit greatly.
Without the need for major network overhauls, retailers can leverage true business opportunities such as pop-up shops during peak holiday periods; healthcare providers can share critical patient data securely with new sites, mobile facilities or on-the-road carers in real time; and manufacturers can leverage the power of the internet of things (IoT) to support current demands and trends, meet deadlines and address future needs.
Advanced threat protection
But ensuring the wellbeing of a business’ network is becoming increasingly difficult as technology advances. Users are demanding access to more applications and data way beyond the traditional parameters, the cybercrime environment grows more and more hostile by the minute and there are more end points to protect than ever before.
While traditional WAN solutions handle security through multiple appliances at each individual site, SD-WAN’s has inbuilt security protocols – much like Uber’s in-built ride-sharing safety features – giving businesses one less thing to worry about.
The security features built into SD-WAN cover more traditional protection as well as providing hyper-intelligent, real-time threat defence solutions. Designed with strong end-to-end capabilities across the entire network, SD-WAN is designed to integrate securely with and complement cloud providers’ security system.
Built-in encryption, content filtering, intrusion detection (IDS) services and firewalls are just a few examples of the technology that allows businesses to rest assured that their data is robustly safeguarded from getting into the wrong hands, as well as business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities that maintain connectivity even during multiple network failures.
SD-WAN also facilitates granular control and enables companies to create policies to inform the network how certain types of traffic should be treated, keeping high-risk traffic from ever entering the network in the first place.
Through WAN segmentation critical business assets can operate in isolation to ensure that sensitive data remains secure and that potentially compromised network edges and business partner data can be quarantined and scrubbed at a moment’s notice. In addition, it can ensure that guest wifi access is kept completely separate to mitigate the risk of a data leak.
Come businesses great or small, the act of connecting geographically disparate branches or offices hits IT budgets hard. Traditional MPLS lines – considered a dependable staple of network connectivity – are expensive and for many businesses often create a “price vs performance” ultimatum.
SD-WAN reduces the reliance on expensive lines, while maintaining overall network performance. Business can effectively leverage all available network connections to full capacity, facilitating the best performance of critical applications and helping to prevent costs associated with lost productivity.
SD-WAN also allows for bandwidth selection with the ability to mix and match network links according to content type or priority. Additionally, any backup connections frequently employed in WAN environments but rarely used, and therefore adding to the overall network costs, can often be fully utilised within an SD-WAN environment.
And while we’re on the subject of environments, an SD-WAN solution can also help eco-conscious businesses reduce their carbon footprint. With fewer devices on site helping to ensure better use of resources, the reliance on cooling equipment is dramatically reduced.
An easier ride for your business
As businesses continue to move their processes and applications from on premise to the cloud, they need to ensure their workforces are equipped with constant and consistent access to the data and apps they need, as well as guarantee a superior end-user experience – from seamless processes to crystal-clear video connectivity – especially when it involves the customer experience.
Businesses must ensure they take advantage of all the opportunities the cloud has to offer while maintaining local efficiency and visibility, so striking a balance between true scalability, security, and granular control is key.
Just as Uber transformed the business of hailing a ride, SD-WAN is transforming the business benefits of wide area networking. Designed to efficiently handle the high-volume of traffic that the modern and future world produces, it aims to give business owners a much easier ride when it comes to handling their overall estate. Most importantly, the tech ensures the network is always available. And let’s face it, the business consequences of a network going down are far greater than not being able to find a taxi.