Since it was first developed a few years ago, SD WAN has gone from a relatively unknown technology to a popular IT solution that assists in the running of thousands of business networks. While there’s a wealth of information out there on what SD WAN is capable of, you can’t trust everything you read – especially when so many articles are coming from companies trying to sell you the tech!
That’s why we’re here to sort the facts from the fiction and clarify the real benefits of implementing SD WAN into your business network!
What Is SD WAN?
To understand what SD WAN can do, it’s good to start by comparing it to older networking solutions – specifically, traditional WANs (or Wide Area Networks).
Pretty much every business you come across nowadays will have a WAN in some form. At its most basic, a WAN is a series of branch locations connected to one central IT hub that can provide application access across the branches. Typically, these branch locations would have their own dedicated internet connection, which is then configured to work as a VPN (or Virtual Private Network) allowing the company greater security over the internet.
In addition to keeping the company’s applications and services centrally, the IT hub is usually where the IT professionals are based.
What Makes SD WAN Different?
SD WAN doesn’t really change any of this at the level of infrastructure – rather, it offers an extra layer of control for your existing system. This means that nothing hardware-wise is replaced, as it only functions as an overlay that can help manage your connections.
As a tool for greater unification, SD WAN provides centralised control, allowing you to manage your network through one, simplified interface with access to all of the devices in your WAN.
As you can imagine, this can be hugely helpful for companies – but SD WAN isn’t just about the level of control it can afford you.
When devices communicate across your network, most of them will be using different languages. For instance, data sent over a traditional wired connection won’t be handled identically to data sent over a wireless cellular connection. SD WAN helps by virtualizing this language, meaning that different types of connection can function together. If you have one location with a cellular 4G connection, and another that uses a VPN protected internet circuit, an SD WAN system can allow them to work together.
This opens up a whole new level of flexibility in terms of business network design, especially if you factor in the provisioning of any new sites you want to bring onto the network.
What Can SD WAN Offer To Your Business?
Now that you understand what SD WAN can do from a technology standpoint, let’s start to consider it in terms of helping out your business. At the end of the day, no matter how advanced your technology is, if it can’t directly benefit your company then it isn’t worth implementing.
Getting New Sites Up And Running
As we established earlier, SD WAN is primarily a tool that allows you to control your network systems using a singular, unifying language – this can be incredibly useful to getting your new sites online.
There are actually two benefits here: you can get ‘hands on’ with devices that aren’t physically anywhere near you, and you can ensure that you won’t come across any barriers with connection types. If you find that you can get a new location running with a series of 4G SIMs, then SD WAN can let you, even if you’re involving traditional circuits and broadband connections at other points in your network.
This is only one issue you’ll potentially run into when setting up new sites, of course, particularly as you still need to get the physical equipment in place and plugged in. But if you manage to do this, then your IT team will be able to configure everything from your current office, saving you time even if you still find a few roadblocks on the way.
Quick Class Of Service Adjustments
Many businesses these days rely on applications to keep running – if this applies to you, then SD WAN could be seriously beneficial.
Basically, SD WAN provides you with a pathway control system, meaning that your high priority traffic can get across your network even if there’s high amounts of congestion from elsewhere. With SD WAN, you can easily control your Class of Service (CoS) preferences across the whole network, rather than having to alter them at the level of each individual device.
This means that you can make adjustments as and when you need to without having to go across different offices, a huge advantage if your industry landscape is constantly changing.
However, there are still a few limitations you’ll unfortunately need to consider. While these CoS changes are useful, they’re nothing close to the level of functionality you’d expect from an MPLS system – you can’t use SD WAN to micromanage data from individual applications or users to nearly the same level of detail.
Straightforward Security Provisions
As you would roll out applications from the central hub location, security can be rolled out in a similar way through the use of an SD WAN system. Data protection is becoming increasingly important for every business, and ensuring that your provisions can all be stored centrally is a great move to make.
Typically, firewalls have been used for business network security, with each firewall protecting an individual physical location. Because SD WAN lets you roll out any application to a variety of sites, you can hold security provisions centrally too. You’ll have to discuss this with a provider who can design and build the best security solution for you, but if you can manage this, then your data security will become much simpler in the long run, and therefore much more effective.