Six Things to Consider When Selecting an SD-WAN Solution

SD-WAN Solution

Software-defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) solutions are quickly gaining traction as a preferred way to connect users to their applications. And for good reason. As companies rely more and more on cloud-based applications and the internet, historic WAN architecture that sent traffic from branch locations to a data center at company headquarters no longer makes sense. It causes delays, degrades the performance of applications, and consumes expensive leased-line bandwidth.

As a result, more and more companies are making the move to an application-aware SD-WAN solution that uses software to more intelligently route traffic based on the business requirements for an application. If you’ve decided your business could benefit from an SD-WAN solution and you’re preparing to make the leap for your company, there are six critical things you need to keep in mind to select the best SD-WAN solution to suit your needs.

Architecture of the SD-WAN Solution

One major thing to consider when exploring SD-WAN solutions is whether you want a cloud-based, on premise, or combination architecture for your solution. With a cloud-based solution, there’s less hardware to manage. There’s usually no requirement to host a server onsite. Cloud-based solutions can be configured to receive automatic updates and feature upgrades. Companies that don’t have the trained staff or time to manage equipment might opt for a completely cloud-based solution.

Some people are more comfortable with a physical appliance they can touch, plug in, and manage. While cloud-based solutions are very secure, some customers feel physical on-premise devices offer more security. They like to have control of the physical devices and know what upgrades and updates are being applied to their network before they happen.

Customers sometimes ask us which option is best, but there isn’t a right-or-wrong answer to that question. We often find the best solutions blend both cloud-based and physical functionality. But it really depends on a number of factors that are specific to your company’s needs. So we have a series of questions we ask that help determine the architecture that will allow you to get the most out of your SD-WAN solution.

Network Security Provided by the SD-WAN

An SD-WAN is basically a solution that builds VPNs over some type of WAN connection so all sites can be connected together. When deploying this solution to connect to the public internet, you need to have security features built in. You need to select a platform that allows for the encryption methods and security elements that are important to you.

Many solutions, especially those that are cloud-based, provide software updates for security vulnerabilities. Cloud-based solutions keep up with security threats almost automatically. But it’s important you select a vendor you know is on top of their game with security updates. Many solutions also feature a licensable integrated advanced threat protection against malware and internet attacks. It’s also common for solutions to include an intrusion prevention system (IPS) and allow you to control where users can go on the internet.

When looking at physical solutions, it’s important to consider how difficult it will be to keep up with the security updates. While performing the actual update is typically a pretty small lift, if it causes an outage it introduces new headaches. Cloud-based solutions are always up.

SD-WAN Connectivity Bandwidth Specifications

What are your bandwidth needs today and how do you expect them to change in the next three to five years? It’s important to identify an SD-WAN solution that will grow to the specs of your future connectivity needs. Especially if you have locations in rural areas where there are limited options for WAN connections, you might need to look for solutions that have optimization and acceleration features built in. When you’re unable to get an optimal connection, these solutions will help you to get the most performance out of your available links.

You don’t want an appliance at a remote site to become a bottleneck. Every appliance has throughput specifications. It’s important to select an appliance that will be able to support you internet connection and have the ability to grow as your specs increase. It’s important to also determine how easy it is to add on new sites, and understand the equipment and licensing needs for them.

Cost Savings of SD-WAN Options

For some of our customers, cost savings is the most important consideration when choosing an SD-WAN solution. The primary cost benefit of utilizing SD-WAN is it enables you to use low cost public internet circuits instead of more expensive private internet circuits. Secure WAN activity can replace those traditional MPLS circuits, and you can create secure tunnels for traffic across public internet.

The lower cost means you can use two or more cheaper public internet circuits and have the same security with more paths. Using two public internet circuits is considerably more affordable than one private MPLS or fiber connection.  So if one WAN fails, you have backup connectivity. It’s a more affordable way to have always-on high-speed internet access.

This is becoming more important as the number of people working from home is at an all-time high. Many SD-WAN solutions offer an easy way to send an appliance out for users to work from home. They offer a smaller SD-WAN gateway meant for home users, allowing remote workers to plug into the internet and have all of the functionality they would have in the office.

Complexity of SD-WAN Management

It’s also important to consider the resources you have to manage your SD-WAN solution. You don’t want to chase bells and whistles you don’t need just to end up with a more complex network that requires more people and time than you have available.

While there are solutions available that can accomplish almost anything, many of our customers are looking to scale back the complexity and make the system easier to manage. So it’s important to consider the functionality you need versus what’s available. If you will be adding new sites to the network in the future, you may be interested in solutions that allow you to deploy zero-touch provisioning. As an admin, you can send the device to a new site, it can be plugged in, and it will register and configure itself and start working without any intervention from an IT technician. We typically recommend this for anyone with 10 or more sites to manage, or companies that are geographically spread out and don’t have IT support at all locations.

It’s important to note that the features customers need drive the complexity of their solution. More features will come with additional management complications. At a minimum, you need a solution that allows you to monitor the health of the network, receive notifications, and make day-to-day changes as needed. For more complex requirements, Applied Technologies often helps customers build profiles to make the infrastructure work. Prebuilt profiles make feature-rich solutions more manageable for on-site tier 2 or 3 engineers to manage.

Automated Traffic Routing Needs

One of the most advantageous features of an SD-WAN solution is the ability to automatically route traffic across different WAN connections based on congestion and network performance. The SD-WAN can be utilized to automatically use the best connection for the most critical traffic and lower quality connections or less critical traffic, like guest access for instance. Most SD-WAN solutions can do this, but some are better than others and can monitor and respond to traffic in real time. These self-learning systems can allow you to configure policies that ensure critical traffic is always guaranteed a certain amount of bandwidth, and what’s left over is fair game for other traffic.

Traditional WANs can accomplish this, but not very easily. SD-WAN turns a very manual and time-consuming process into a simple task with dashboards that show you how the solution is working and how traffic is being used.

Make the Right Decision for You with Applied Technologies

As your partner in deploying an SD-WAN solution, Applied Technologies can help you make the right decisions for your organization’s needs. We meet you where you are on your SD-WAN journey, listen to your concerns and unique circumstances, and help you find and implement the solution that will provide the greatest impact. Whether you’ve already made up your mind on what you need or you’re just getting started, Applied Technologies can architect and deliver a solution to get you where you need to be. Reach out to our team today to start the conversation.

The Five Biggest Business Benefits of Utilizing SD-WAN

SD-WAN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For many years, traditional wide area network (WAN) technology has been the standard for IT, voice, and data networking in organizations of all kinds. WANs connect local area networks in multiple office locations together through routers and virtual private networks. As the demand for cloud activity in business has increased traditional WANs have struggled to keep up, resulting in performance issues and reduced productivity.

 

To solve for these issues, many organizations are considering replacing traditional WANs with software defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions. While traditional WAN infrastructure is hardware-defined on individual devices, SD-WAN solutions allow organizations to set policies in one centralized location and push them out to all devices on a network. A centralized virtual controller defines how traffic on the network is routed.

SD-WAN offers considerable benefits to organizations attempting to manage complex data networking requirements. In this blog, we’ll explore five big reasons your organization should consider making the switch to SD-WAN.

 

SD-WAN Improves Network Performance

One of the biggest benefits of implementing SD-WAN is drastically improved network performance. Different types of traffic respond differently to network performance. Voice and video data, often referred to as real time data, can become choppy if the network is too bogged down. Realtime data requires reliable connections.

With an SD-WAN solution, policies are predefined and centrally located. Instead of configuring policies individually on branch equipment, they’re set in one central location and pushed out to branch controllers. An SD-WAN solution allows your organization to automatically steer traffic based on network conditions to identify more reliable and efficient routes for high performance traffic.

Solve Network Complexity Issues with SD-WAN

Traditional WAN systems were not designed to do what they’re tasked with in most organizations today. As our needs have evolved, these systems have become increasingly large, complex, and difficult to manage with multiple layers of connectivity. Policies must be defined and configured individually for every single branch link.  If an organizational security change occurs, policies also must be updated on each of those branch links.

SD-WAN solutions drastically simplify WAN management. The centralized controller serves as a single pane of glass, or portal, into the performance of the entire network. All policies are managed from a central location and pushed down to branch equipment. Traffic can be easily monitored and rerouted. Troubleshooting also becomes significantly easier. Instead of needing to physically check individual pieces of equipment when issues arise, SD-WAN gives your team an understanding of the network from one portal, without needing to get on edge devices.

Automation and Zero-Touch Provisioning to Improve Efficiency

Before SD-WAN, deploying connectivity to branch sites required a lot of manual upfront configurations. For many IT teams, that meant a lot of employee hours provisioning routers and going on site to complete device configuration. If you need to deploy a configuration change at sixty different sites with a traditional WAN solution, that means you need to touch every site to deploy it.

Most SD-WAN solution offerings have self-provisioning baked in. As a result, configuration is pulled from the central controller and branch equipment doesn’t require as much individual configuration. Devices can be plugged in at branch locations with no configuration, and the device automatically checks in with the network and is configured accordingly. Setting up a branch location, which used to take days from a network perspective, can often be done in about 20 minutes with an SD-WAN solution.

Reduce the Costs of Your WAN Configuration

WAN usage always comes with a price tag. The greater the requirements for reliability and security, the higher the cost. Most organizations with a traditional WAN solution use a private MPLS connection, which offers a great deal of reliability and security. But it can also come at a significant expense.

SD-WAN solutions often reduce the cost required for a WAN configuration. Instead of depending on high-cost connections like MPLS circuits, SD-WAN can utilize affordable broadband public internet circuits to build a reliable and secure connection. If you’re located in an area without access to reliable internet connectivity, an MPLS connection may not even be an option. SD-WAN opens organizations like yours up to alternative connectivity options.

SD-WAN Delivers Flexibility and High Availability

Traditional WAN networks can only route traffic through a single connection. If you were receiving a telecommunications connection from one internet provider, and they had issues, you had issues too.

An SD-WAN solution can actively use and integrate a wide variety of connections and multiple forms of traffic into the WAN infrastructure. If you want to continue to utilize your MPLS connection for specific types of traffic, for instance, you can. You can also integrate connections from multiple telecommunications companies. Utilizing multiple connections, you can set policies for which networks specific data types use. Traffic can be directed based on policies, or circuits can be integrated to serve strictly as a backup. Additional connections can easily scale to your organization’s pool of SD-WAN resources.

If versatility and a consistent, reliable connection matter, SD-WAN can help you achieve it.

Applied Technologies Can Help

There are a wide variety of SD-WAN solutions, ranging from simple to complex, depending on your unique circumstances and needs. Applied Technologies works with clients to identify, configure, and implement a tailored SD-WAN solution to help your organization get the most from the benefits outlined in this article.

In addition, we offer training to help your staff manage the network with limited third-party involvement. Traditionally if your team didn’t have the expertise to do configurations, you needed to bring someone in to make them. While we’re still available to support you when needed, with the appropriate training a SD-WAN solution will allow you to bring more expertise in house.

When you’re ready to realize the benefits outlined in this blog, make Applied Technologies your first call. Our team will work with you directly to understand the complexities of your network requirements and implement an SD-WAN solution suited specifically to your needs.