If you’ve got any responsibility for a business IT network, there’s a good chance you’ll have heard about SD WAN.
There’s every possibility that your network is performing perfectly adequately without SD WAN – but, like with a host of other IT innovations, it’s useful to know what’s possible, so you can understand how your network can adapt to your growth requirements.
Here, we’ll explore SD WAN in a little more detail, explaining how it works with your network, how it compares to other solutions on the market, and what it might offer your organisation.
What actually is SD WAN?
Since SD WAN isn’t a standalone product, it’s useful to understand the fundamentals of a WAN system to appreciate how the two things come together.
You business almost certainly has a WAN – even if it’s not something you’ve officially named. A WAN (or Wide Area Network) is the term used to describe a number of devices, connected together, but generally in different geographical locations. So, if you’ve got a central office and satellite offices, your network would be considered a WAN, especially if you hold all your digital business information in a central location.
A traditional WAN setup would involve an IT team that supports servers in your main office, and a series of devices based elsewhere that access that information.
How does SD WAN fit into this picture?
With that quick overview of what a WAN looks and operates like, you then need to understand how the SD part work. To use the full name, SD WAN is actually a ‘Software Defined Wide Area Network’ system – and how it works can have an impact on how your whole business works.
Consider the traditional model:
An IT team is based where the greatest IT activity is; at your servers. Ordinarily, this will be the point in the business that requires the most maintenance, so your team will run a support desk service for the rest of the company from this location.
When installation or maintenance of remote devices is required, your team will usually be required to hit the road and deal with it in person.
The ‘Software Defined’ part of SD WAN changes this significantly.
As we’ve already mentioned, an SD WAN system overlays your current network, syncing with all your devices. When laid over the top, this software provides a control system that almost entirely replaces the need for your IT team ever needing to lay their hands on your IT devices – since the system will control virtually every configurable part of the devices, even the function of physical switches.
On that basis, SD WAN brings almost complete control of every device on your network to your one central location. Rather than needing to get in a car or even jump on a plane, your IT teams can simply log-in to your control panel and work remotely.
What does this mean for businesses?
The great thing about SD WAN for business is the fact that you’re not really adding anything to your network – you’re simply allowing your team to access everything from the comfort of their own department.
You won’t have to worry about compatibility either – since SD WAN is generally accepted to work perfectly with 99.9% of all mainstream networks devices, operating systems, and applications. This often takes away a big anxiety relating to introducing a new system: the concern of compatibility.
So, with control firmly rooted back in your IT team’s department, you can start to think about what this means for your business.
A more efficient way of working with IT
Clearly, there are enormous bonuses that come with an IT team that doesn’t have to take to the road when there’s an issue that needs to be dealt with at one of your sites. This often means you can keep a smaller team, since cover is never compromised when staff are out and about.
Although it might not be something that’s on your business radar at the moment, this also opens the doors to some incredible opportunities for growth, especially when you consider how SD WAN can truly give you access to your devices anywhere in the world.
The scope for bringing international talent into your business is nothing short of incredible – and that can be a breath of fresh air if you’re sitting in a location that doesn’t necessarily represent a hotbed of employee talent. With SD WAN, there’s no reason you could have an international team – all working from your centrally (or cloud-based) data, on devices that are quickly and efficiently managed in another country. In fact, as long as you’ve got someone to physically connect the machines, you could configure a full site using your SD WAN portal.
SD WAN vs. MPLS
If you’ve got your finger somewhat on the pulse of networking technology, you’ll be aware that MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) systems are one of the most popular ways of managing traffic across business networks.
Now, since SD WAN gives you the ability to configure individual devices, including Class of Service settings that dictate how traffic is handled across your network, you might wonder if SD WAN makes MPLS defunct.
In truth, this is a little way off yet.
Is probably better to consider SD WAN to be an overall network management tool – and MPLS as a data traffic management tool. SD WAN can certain be used to adjust CoS settings, but MPLS is (for the time being) a more sophisticated way of micro-managing the paths data can take through your network.
Is SD WAN right for your organisation?
Since every business is unique, there’s no certain yes or no when it comes to SD WAN fitting around what you currently do. Instead, you should think about the systems you use and how you manage your network at the moment.
If you’ve got a spread of locations over different areas or even countries, then there’s a good chance that SD WAN could help – and there’s an even bigger chance that your IT team will thank you for making their job significantly more efficient!