For companies with multiple locations — whether that means having a few branches across the UK, international offices, or dispersed employees who work from home — network connectivity can be a challenge. Not only do you want to make sure everyone has reliable access to the data and applications that they need, but you want to make sure everything stays secure and efficient. Our article covers the benefits of SD-WAN for businesses.
To solve this challenge, many organisations are turning to network infrastructure like software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) to manage their connectivity. While it may seem a bit confusing at first, this technology can potentially improve network performance and reduce network costs, among other benefits that we’ll explore in this article.
What is SD-WAN?
To understand SD-WAN, it helps to break the term into its components. The “SD” stands for “software-defined” and “WAN” stands for “wide area network”, which is typically used to connect multiple locations.
“The traditional WAN (wide-area network) function was to connect users at the branch or campus to applications hosted on servers in the data centre. Typically, dedicated MPLS circuits were used to help ensure security and reliable connectivity. This doesn’t work in a cloud-centric world,” notes Cisco.
So, SD-WAN enables organisations to control WANs via software.
“SD-WAN separates the control and management processes from the underlying networking hardware, making them available as software that can be easily configured and deployed. A centralized control pane means network administrators can write new rules and policies, and then configure and deploy them across an entire network at once,” explains Palo Alto Networks, a cyber security company.
Benefits of SD-WAN
By using software to manage a WAN across multiple locations, especially as hybrid working and remote working become the norm, companies can gain several benefits, such as being able to:
Reduce costs over large geographies
While not guaranteed, as the specifics can vary from organisation to organisation, SD-WAN can often save companies money.
However, it’s important to note that some SD-WAN cost savings apply more so to companies spanning large geographies, as compared to companies with offices over a small area within the UK. As Gyrocom, a UK networking and security company notes, “the bigger the geography you’re delivering over, the more expensive something like MPLS gets,” (with SD-WAN often used instead of MPLS).
That said, UK companies can still potentially save money with SD-WAN, especially if you have international offices. But even if you’re not very geographically dispersed, this technology can reduce maintenance costs through centralisation.
“SD-WAN is a single appliance and service updates can be carried out remotely, making the solution an easy one to manage,” notes Daisy Communications, a UK telecoms provider.
Perhaps a more direct benefit of SD-WAN, even for companies that only have branches within a small geographic area, is that it can add flexibility in terms of how you manage your network. As locations change, such as if you switch to a hybrid working model with more satellite offices, for example, it can be easy to adapt your infrastructure accordingly.
“The proprietary appliances associated with traditional WANs limited flexibility and made upgrades and changes slow and costly. Software-based architecture and centralized management vastly simplify SD-WAN ongoing maintenance and upgrades,” explains Red Hat, an open-source software company.
Another important benefit of SD-WAN is that by using software to manage the network, a company can often improve the overall network experience. By increasing application speeds and minimizing downtime, SD-WAN can help your employees perform at their best.
For example, Citrix says its SD-WAN solution “allows you to connect employees directly to their workloads in the cloud while automatically adapting to changing network conditions. Your users get the best experience for every app, even when network problems like outages and congestion occur.”
While much still depends on implementation and oversight, SD-WAN can often help companies improve their security. Part of that has to do with the centralisation that SD-WAN provides.
Vodafone, for example, notes how this technology can be used to “set security policies for the entire network. You can create and distribute security policies across the business, which can then be enforced and maintained centrally.”
SD-WAN solutions can also be considered security software in the sense that they can provide features such as segmentation.
“Segmenting your network limits any attack damage to a manageable area,” explains Riverbed Technology, an IT company.
When to consider SD-WAN
If your organisation has multiple locations, including if you’re leveraging remote working or hybrid working arrangements, there’s a good chance that SD-WAN is at least worth considering.
You may find that moving to a centralised software solution leads to benefits like more flexibility, better network performance, improved security, and reduced network costs. However, these benefits can vary significantly depending on factors like the locations of your offices and your current setup.
So, it may be worth it to look into a few IT solutions and compare their overall quality to your existing situation. There are many SD-WAN vendors that you can directly assess, or you might prefer to use a managed SD-WAN service, where a third party such as a managed service provider (MSP) handles the SD-WAN solution on your behalf.
YourShortlist can help cut through this complexity and enable you to more easily determine which SD-WAN solutions are right for you. We’re a technology consultancy using procurement best practices and data insights to save companies time and money. Our goal is to make business technology procurement simple, transparent, and cost-effective. Book a consultation at your convenience. We won’t charge you anything, and we won’t share any of your project details without your explicit approval.
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