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What Every Business Leader Needs To Know About SD-WAN

Updated: Nov 8, 2021

SD-WAN greatly impacts network performance, but what's the catch? Learn what every business decision maker needs to know about it in this guide.

Enterprise IT teams concerned about improving network performance are increasingly deploying SD-WAN architecture.

Only 10% of respondents in a recent survey were not planning to adopt an SD-WAN network. Around 43% of respondents had already installed the technology in 2020, up from only 18% in 2018.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted many businesses to remote or hybrid working. This is further encouraging companies to change their network designs to incorporate SD-WAN.

What is SD-WAN? What are the benefits? What challenges do enterprise decision-makers need to know about?

SD-WAN Defined

SD-WAN refers to software-defined wide area networking. Wide-area networks (WANs) connect enterprise local area networks (LANs) in different locations using routers. These locations can include data centers, domestic and international branch offices, and increasingly, remote workers.

SD-WAN allows IT teams to use software to manage the distributed network from a single location.

SD-WANs optimize networks by using the fastest and most appropriate route to transfer data. SD-WANs are protocol agnostic. They support a range of connection types including Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), long-term evolution (LTE), and broadband, as well as WiFi, and 4G. In that way, IT teams can adjust the network to find the best balance of productivity and performance.

SD-WAN Benefits

There are several ways SD-WANs can help businesses to improve how IT networks perform. They can tackle some of the main frustrations that IT teams face.

Enhanced Network Performance

SD-WAN network performance offers improvements over traditional WANs. How?

By continuously monitoring network routes, SD-WANs identify outages and congestion. They then send network traffic over the most efficient route. SD-WANs allow network managers to prioritize traffic. They are able to shift bandwidth-intensive applications like VoIP and video conferencing between connections to avoid disruptions that could cause lag in the quality of service.

Reduced Interconnection Costs

The traditional approach to having a reliable enterprise WAN was for companies to have redundant WAN links. Expensive MPLS links were typically used to connect branch offices to the corporate office, while public Internet connections were used to provide Internet access. SD-WAN's intelligent path selection makes it possible to replace expensive MPLS links with regular internet links to connect a company's locations.

Improved User Experience

Traditional WAN architectures are typically not designed to work with cloud-based services. Traffic from branch locations are usually back-hauled to a data center or central office first. This can cause a lag between the user and the cloud service.

SD-WANs prevent lag by relaying traffic straight to the cloud using the most efficient route. This improves the experience for the user and helps to improve their productivity.

Increased Visibility

Using software for monitoring generates snapshots from every point on the network. Real-time data allows IT teams to see how the network is performing at all times. They can then assess which connections are used the most and for what.

Continuous network monitoring provides greater visibility into the way the network performs. IT teams can use the data to identify problems in real-time and act to resolve them. They can also gain a greater understanding of areas that need improvement. This helps in making informed decisions.

Greater Control and Flexibility

By using software to manage the network, IT teams have increased control over the network. How?

SD-WANs reduce the need to configure individual hardware routers at each location. Instead, IT managers have virtual control. They can use zero-touch provisioning to configure remote connections. This allows them to set up workers in new locations within hours rather than weeks.

Flexibility and control are especially useful when enterprises are undergoing change, such as opening new offices or switching to remote work during the pandemic.

Increased Bandwidth Efficiency

SD-WANs are more efficient than traditional connections, as they can run circuits simultaneously. How do they work?

There are two types of SD-WAN: active-active and active-passive. An SD-WAN does not leave a backup circuit unused. Instead, an SD-WAN with an active setup uses continuous connections to direct traffic over the best route for the application.

A passive setup uses a single circuit and provides fast failover to the secondary circuit if the primary link fails. By making the backup circuit active, the network makes more efficient use of the bandwidth.

Enhanced Security

SD-WANs can create encrypted tunnels to protect data even as it travels over public networks. Enterprises can use virtual overlays to segment traffic based on their security policies. IT managers can isolate security threats and apply different security levels to different categories of traffic. In this way, they can protect the most sensitive company data.

The centralized, virtual environment gives IT teams the ability to configure all the devices on the network at once. They can apply security patches and update applications across the enterprise at the same time. This removes the possibility of an employee not updating an application and leaving it vulnerable to a security threat.

SD-WAN Challenges

The advantages of using an SD-WAN are clear. But there are challenges that enterprise managers need to be aware of before making the switch.

Migration Disruption

Shifting to an SD-WAN requires some network downtime, which can affect employees' ability to get work done. IT teams need to install and configure extra devices to set up the network. But the use of ZTP allows them to set up devices remotely. A global SD-WAN solution provider like UpTime365 can help with the transition.

Measuring Cost Reduction

Making the transition to SD-WAN requires capital expenditure and resources, incurring short-term costs. SD-WANs promise a cheaper alternative to MPLS. But in some places, MPLS is not much more expensive than other types of circuits.

By increasing network uptime, SD-WANs save enterprises on lost revenue, but this can be difficult to quantify in terms of cost savings. UpTime365 helps organizations to measure their ROI from SD-WAN technology by leveraging our deep knowledge of KPIs that make sense.

Managing Multiple Vendor Devices

SD-WAN user interfaces provide IT teams with a centralized view of the network. But there can be compatibility problems if there are devices from more than one vendor in the network. The network analysis tool should be able to present data from many different vendor devices to provide a complete view.

Improve Your Network Performance With SD-WAN

It can be a challenge to optimize enterprise WAN to align with the growing adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) & mobility devices, remote work, and hybrid cloud services.

At UpTime365, we can help you stay competitive by converting your traditional WAN into an agile SD-WAN. You can make more efficient use of your network while lowering costs and enhancing productivity.

Want to learn more about what we have to offer? Feel free to get in touch with us today and see how we can help.

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