SD-WAN: The Savior of Remote Work Challenges

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Click to learn more about author Patrick Miller

The desire for certainty has never been stronger, and our new normal does show signs of improving, but as we all found out early this spring — nothing is certain. As more businesses return to work, we should focus on what we do have control over our network, IT infrastructure, and applications. Maintaining the health and safety of employees and customers is at the top of everyone’s mind, and most organizations have taken the necessary steps required by state and federal government agencies. For many companies, the safest option is to have their employees work from home.

The demands that remote workplaces put on IT departments are challenging when balancing the streaming capabilities of systems to provide seamless access to the data and necessary applications needed to do our jobs. With regular business operations transforming overnight and now poised to transition again, the need to support current customers’ business continuity plans is being challenged like never before.

Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) has emerged as a viable and cost-effective add-on to increase the flexibility and robustness of your network. This allows for remote access to the applications and infrastructure needed to keep business operations going in this uncertain time. SD-WAN has the ability to orchestrate (similar to a cloud’s hypervisor) layers of traffic over multiple and disparate types of last-mile access methods.  

By optimizing your routing and prioritizing various types of application traffic like data, voice, and video over broadband (co-ax, DSL, LTE) or traditional access (Bonded T1, fiber) methods, your network can withstand the additional load of all the video-chat calls and sustain the loss of an access method. It evaluates network traffic patterns and chooses the most efficient route across the network in real-time to ultimately achieve the best performance possible. 

This smoothing of network issues is a great feature when you are limited to purchasing two broadband connections from the same provider. SD-WAN is very powerful and can bring significant value to the business when scoped appropriately — it’s important to remember the foundation you are building your new SD-WAN service on. 

Perks of SD-WAN

There’s so much that can be done with SD-WAN. But not all SD-WAN solutions are the same. Therefore, you must be sure your business has laid out the project in such a way to maximize benefits. Many providers can:

  • Replace router capital expenditures with SD-WAN op-ex
  • Maximize application bandwidth utilization of broadband connections
  • Improve security at branch locations by leveraging edge-based security services
  • Offer optional WAN optimization software that is typically a part of the solution
  • Provide accessibility to third-party services with APIs tied directly into most SD-WAN offerings
  • Manage every aspect of the network with dynamic dashboards and software-defined networking options
  • Eliminate the need for hardware and spin up virtual SD-WAN appliances in the cloud for real-time provisioning, allowing you to pay for what you use
  • Minimize network outages with failover automation that takes effect in the event of a disaster, when diverse network paths are provisioned
  • Leverage data adjacency for your storage and applications hosted in the cloud
  • Maximize protection by including your SD-WAN controller in your disaster recovery playbook

A Deeper Dive into SD-WAN

In a recent virtual meeting, panelists discussed deployment models that include placing edge devices in the cloud to be adjacent to the customer’s hosted storage and applications. This optimizes the networking topology, providing additional control and efficiencies for IaaS hosted applications. This approach to network design (bringing network management and orchestration into the cloud) is vital to the evolution of SD-WAN from a traditional hub and spoke — which was previously difficult to configure — to something fully integrated into the business continuity, managed security, and disaster recovery playbook of applications hosted in the cloud.

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