Does your business have multiple locations, remote sites, or a network of branch offices? Is your company increasingly relying on cloud services? If so, a technology called software-defined wide area network, or SD-WAN, could improve your business performance and lower your costs. Here’s what you should know about the benefits of SD-WAN and how it works.
Evolution of the wide area network
To connect their locations, companies have traditionally built their own networks, known as wide area networks (WANs). WAN networking uses a system of routers that are programmed with rules and commands for directing and prioritizing Internet traffic. This approach, using multi-protocol label switching (MPLS), ensures reliable performance for mission-critical applications. It also offers data security by separating traffic from the public Internet.
However, businesses are embracing digital transformation, which means they’re multiplying their network traffic by:
- Shifting more functions to the cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) or infrastructure-as-a-service offerings. (Think Salesforce, Slack and cloud versions of Microsoft Office as examples.) More data flows from the cloud to individual office locations and back, rather than between a corporate headquarters server or data center and remote sites.
- Connecting more devices to the Internet, including each employee’s computers, laptops, and phones.
- Incorporating the “Internet of Things” into their production and service processes.
While these shifts make businesses more efficient and productive, they also require more from a company’s network. Managing these bandwidth demands with a traditional router-based WAN is expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to modify as business and technology evolve. That’s where SD-WAN comes in.
What is SD-WAN?
Software-defined WAN relies on software — instead of routers and other hardware — to direct and manage network traffic. SD-WAN routes data over multiple types of commercially available Internet connections, including broadband, fiber optic, and LTE. Here are the benefits of an SD-WAN solution:
- Affordability. SD-WAN is typically more cost-effective than older wide area network technologies.
- Efficiency. This solution offers greater resiliency and efficiency by routing data over the strongest available connection at any given time.
- Control. SD-WAN provides more control by allowing you to prioritize which processes and applications move data first. For example, you could ensure that social media use does not derail the quality of a video conference or voice-over-Internet-protocol phone calls. In fact, SD-WAN makes this prioritization even easier than before because administrators can make changes to such rules quickly with point-and-click software.
- Flexibility. Companies can make changes for remote sites from any location, rather than manually re-provisioning routers onsite. And they can monitor network performance digitally.
The implementation of this network solution can make organizations nimbler and provide savings on the cost of IT staff required to manage the network. Businesses can further streamline the IT work associated with SD-WAN by choosing a provider that manages it.
How to get started with SD-WAN
If you’re considering SD-WAN technology for your organization, here are some factors to keep in mind when choosing a provider:
- Management: Make sure the provider offers easy-to-use, centralized management tools that allow you to monitor your entire network. For example, Comcast Business offers a streamlined and easy-to-use self-service portal and app to help you manage the network.
- Service guarantees: Understand the provider’s service-level agreement, which is its commitment to provide a level of service and compensate customers if it falls short. In addition, find out what resources the provider offers if you need help.
- Performance: The goal of implementing SD-WAN is to achieve a fast and reliable network. The ActiveCore SDN platform from Comcast Business pairs enterprise networking with Gig-speed Internet for the optimal performance.
- Security: Every company is concerned about data security. Choose an SD-WAN provider that offers advanced features to protect against malware and other threats.
If you’re not ready to completely convert to SD-WAN, not to worry. Businesses with existing WANs composed of MPLS can keep those legacy systems and blend them into a SD-WAN hybrid solution. You can assign applications that require real-time information to MPLS and send other applications to the public Internet, saving money while increasing speed. Learn how Comcast Business can help you implement a total or partial SD-WAN solution to keep your company connected.