When we think of customer service technology, most of us default to customer-facing tools like live chat and feedback collection.

But, the technology that powers these features is a major component that's often overlooked by businesses. After all, it doesn't matter if you have all the latest gadgets if you don't have the proper network and systems to run them on.

New business models drive the need for a new network model, and SD-WAN addresses this current IT challenge. Simply put, SD-WAN can convert your expensive and complex network into one that's much more cost-effective, secure, and easy to manage.

In this post, we'll explain what SD-WAN is, discuss the reasons you should adopt it, and explore the benefits you'll experience by doing so.

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What's SD-WAN?

Software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) is an innovative technology that abstracts network hardware, simplifies IT management and enhances employee performance. This allows businesses to replace expensive private WAN connections -- like multi-protocol label switching (MLPS) -- with higher-performance WANs that use low-cost internet access.

When you're an enterprise business, this technology plays a major role in connecting teams throughout your organization. For example, if you operate internationally, this network optimizes your ability to share information between employees in different locations. So, if an employee in Tokyo needs customer data that's stored in Europe, SD-WAN makes it easy to access that information. That's because it uses cloud-based technology to connect your data centers so employees can quickly find the information they're looking for.

Why Companies Should Adopt SD-WAN

As applications continue to migrate to the cloud, IT staff are quickly realizing that traditional WANs aren't built for this transition. With the traditional WAN architecture, once organizations adopt cloud-based applications in the form of SaaS and IaaS, a burst of traffic affects programs distributed across the globe.

What does this mean for your business? Well, these changes can have several implications for IT. Employee productivity may be compromised by performance problems and WAN expenses can increase the inefficient use of dedicated and backup circuits.

Now that we've covered the basics of SD-WAN, let's review some of the benefits it can provide to your business.

5 Benefits of SD-WAN

1. Better Customer Experience

With SD-WAN, you can expect the performance of critical applications -- such as voice and video -- to improve. For example, SD-WAN can enhance VoIP performance, creating a better customer experience in your call centers.

2. Faster Application Performance

Since SD-WAN uses cloud-based technology, it performs faster and more reliably than traditional WAN systems. This allows you to adopt and combine several applications without jeopardizing their performance.

3. Significant Cost Savings

With SD-WAN, you'll reduce the total cost of ownership by removing maintenance and professional services costs. Since there isn't any hardware to manage, there won't be a need to hire someone to perform routine checks and assessments.

4. Improved Security

SD-WAN virtualizes network functions like routing and firewalls which helps boost encryption levels and utilize cloud and hybrid VPN functionality. Additionally, since it's a cloud-based setup, any further security measures that you'd like to install are easily integrated into the system.

5. Quick Deployment

Data centers in new locations can be activated in as little as minutes using two-factor authentication. This allows you to expand your business into new countries or states without having to go through a tedious setup process.

While these benefits demonstrate how SD-WAN can optimize your network, one common question that business owners have is, "What's the difference between VPN and SD-WAN?"

Let's explain this in the section below.

The Difference Between SD-WAN and VPN

The main difference between a standard VPN and SD-WAN is the features of software-defined networking (SDN), upon which SD-WAN technology is based. SD-WAN consolidates network options and WAN features into a single platform, creating easier management for IT teams.

VPN, on the other hand, branches office communication by offering authenticated WAN security between two or more endpoints. End-to-end VPN encryption is only a small component of overall security, as IT teams are responsible for supporting cloud-based applications. And, standard VPNs normally don't include options to route traffic based on optimization and security.

So, when it comes to comparing SD-WAN and VPN services, businesses should consider factors like cost, cloud-usage, and application awareness.

If you're thinking about making the switch, take a look at the section below for some questions you should consider before adopting this network setup.

Does SD-WAN Make Sense for My Business?

After reading the above sections, you may be wondering if SD-WAN makes sense for your business. And, is now the right time for you to make the switch to SD-WAN?

We completely understand that any change to your business is a big decision, so why would this be any different? To help, we've compiled a list of questions for you to consider:

  • Are you looking to improve application performance, particularly for cloud apps?
  • Do you have plans to increase bandwidth at a remote or international site in the near future?
  • Do you need to replace an expensive private network?
  • Are you interested in simplifying or outsourcing the management of your network?
  • Would you like to build resiliency into your network to guarantee uptime?
  • Would you like to decrease turn-on time for new sites?

Networking has changed -- and continues to do so -- because the network's capabilities need to reflect the growing requirements created by new technology and continually shifting business practices. SD-WAN can lower maintenance costs, increase data capacity, reduce rigidity and make your network more manageable for your IT team.

For another trendy IT topic, read how you can avoid data silos.

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Originally published Feb 3, 2020 8:00:00 AM, updated May 05 2020