Is SD-WAN right for you?

SolarWinds

By Chrystal Taylor, Head Geek, SolarWinds
Monday, 16 May, 2022


Is SD-WAN right for you?

In recent times, software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN) have become a critical factor for the operations of large companies, assisting them in better communications and global interactions. In fact, in 2020, the Australian SD-WAN infrastructure market experienced 25% growth yearly. It’s time now that small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), despite their smaller presence and reach, also take advantage of this technology.

The time for SD-WAN is now

SMBs have typically been more contained and less geographically distributed for a long time. This always meant they didn’t need to invest in a WAN, let alone SD-WAN. They could manage well by relying on simpler tools like site-to-site VPN. Likewise, SMBs didn’t have the desire, need or budget to add unnecessary complexity to their IT environments. But this has changed.

Over the last few years, cloud-based technology has become more sophisticated, easier to implement and more relevant to all manner of industries, vertical markets and business sizes. SMBs have started following in the footsteps of larger enterprises by moving their data and becoming more reliant on public clouds and software as a service (SaaS). As reported by the ABS, 55% of all businesses saw a 13% growth using paid cloud computing in 2019–20, compared to the year prior. As SMBs started to see the benefits of this technology, they began to look at ways to improve their experiences with those platforms. For many, the answer may be SD-WAN.

Finding the “one”

Smaller businesses are looking to implement SD-WAN quickly, but it’s no easy feat.

Simplicity should be top of mind. When you deploy SD-WAN into your environment, although it adds a layer of sophistication, it also adds more complexity. The added functionality must be worth the effort of dealing with additional complexity. To ensure they find the right balance, businesses should assess exactly what they need and deploy solutions capable of meeting those needs without extra bells and whistles.

The most critical components of an SD-WAN deployment are those specific to your business, which will change depending on the industry you work in. By tailoring the deployment to the requirements of your specific organisation and industry, your SD-WAN will perform better. It’s critical for the in-house experts who intimately understand the business and its IT profile to communicate which pieces of SD-WAN matter most and have a say in the final deployment.

Once the deployment is in place, organisations can reap the benefits, such as faster application responses. SD-WAN supports ‘intelligent’, application-optimised communication across the WAN segment of a connection and can be implemented in various gradients that overlay onto existing hardware. It matches the traffic you’re generating with the network it’s running on and can be optimised for data to travel across regular or high-speed internet paths based on information sensitivity, time of day and other factors. But to get the most bang for your buck, it’s critical to monitor the networks.

Know your metrics

With any IT service, monitoring is imperative to supporting IT teams. When it comes to SD-WAN, monitoring can ensure businesses aren’t paying for performance they don’t need and pay only for the performance they get. Application performance management (APM) tools provide businesses with metrics to show their SD-WAN effectiveness. After all, if it’s going to spontaneously route traffic to share information at the fastest possible speed, you need to know when the route changes and what it looked like before and after the change.

APM tools can also show where SD-WAN drops off in performance by monitoring net flow and identifying what contributes to web traffic, including who uses it.

Shaping the future

As organisations continue to adopt SD-WAN, the service will continue becoming what it wants to be: an easy-to-implement and cost-effective overlay. Ultimately, this will lead to more competition with ISPs, who will feel pressured to operate at the level of SD-WAN. With many workforces now being remote, there will be increased pressure on ISPs to deliver experiences like SD-WAN.

Though SD-WAN won’t extend into every employee’s house, the most successful organisations will be able to intelligently route outbound traffic from the SMB facility to get it to employees using the best performance possible.

We’re certainly going to see a range of technologies attempt to match the performance of SD-WAN. However, it’s worth considering the benefits you want from an SD-WAN, ensuring you’re not out of pocket. Once you have decided on the right technology for your organisation, it’s important to remember to implement effective monitoring solutions to be confident you’re reaping all the benefits. Taking all of this on board will ensure your now distributed and remote workforce can better communicate and interact with each other no matter where they are.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/momius

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