The shift to more employees working remotely in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic requires businesses to reorganize their information technology (IT) systems.
Among the business tools that are becoming more popular is the software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN). A traditional wide-area network (WAN) is no longer sufficient for managing employee connections from a range of locations. Over 60% of US-based companies plan to increase their SD-WAN use this year, according to a recent survey.
What is an SD-WAN and how can it help your business to manage data safely and effectively?
What Is an SD-WAN?
A WAN is a business technology that links local area networks (LANs) in different locations using hardware such as routers. An SD-WAN takes it to the next level and uses software and cloud-based technology to connect remote networks. It simplifies operations and makes it easier for IT departments to manage the growing number of connections in business networking.
SD-WANs integrate virtual private networking (VPN) for remote workers to ensure they have a secure way to access company files and applications.
The Advantages of an SD-WAN
There are several key benefits to companies using an SD-WAN depending on their IT needs.
SD-WANs can use any type of transport service, including multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), broadband, 4G, long-term evolution (LTE), and so on. While businesses have relied on MPLS in the past, they can now use the best route. The software can monitor the network to identify any potential issues, such as network outages or congestion, which would slow down the connection.
Using SD-WAN reduces the need for costly private circuits, making it a more cost-effective alternative to MPLS.
The growth of cloud-based applications was one of the main drivers for the development of SD-WAN. Traditional WANs were not designed to work with the cloud.
They typically backhaul traffic to a hub for security inspection, causing a lag that affects performance. SD-WANs send traffic straight to the cloud provider, which has built-in high-capacity circuits.
SD-WANs give IT departments central control over all points on the network. They no longer need to push out updates to each router in the company. And data sent over an SD-WAN to the cloud is encrypted, enhancing network security.
The Challenges of Implementing an SD-WAN
While there are clear benefits to making the switch to an SD-WAN, there are challenges to be aware of to ensure a smooth transition.
Deploying SD-WAN requires installing devices to replace WAN routers, or adding extra devices alongside them if they will be used with an MPLS network. The good news is SD-WAN features zero-touch provisioning (ZTP), which enables remote configuration of the devices.
By routing around problems with circuits, SD-WAN can make it harder to identify connectivity issues. This in turn can reduce network redundancy. But using WAN monitoring software offers continuous visibility into the network.
MPLS circuits offer high reliability. But if the SD-WAN routes traffic over lower-quality connections, it can affect performance. This can especially present challenges for voice and video traffic, which is increasingly important for remote work.
Add an SD-WAN to Your IT Business Tools
SD-WANs are best used alongside traditional MPLS networks to enhance network security and connectivity. Consider installing an SD-WAN as one of the business tools that can take your company to the next level.
For more technology advice for your business, check out our other articles.