Traditional wide area network (WAN) technology evolved in the pre-Internet era. It is a facilities-based model, built for static businesses where people work at the office and applications are centrally hosted and controlled by the company.
The term facilities-based refers to the business model of large telecoms owning large networks of fiber and wireless towers. Your company overlays its WAN on the facilities of the large telecom.
But the cool thing about the Internet is, it’s not really facilities-based. Yes, it does rely on data centers, servers, routers and other equipment located “somewhere” and connected by wires and services owned and controlled by “somebody.” – but the Internet is greater than the sum of its parts.
Without high speed, reliable and secure access to the Internet, there’s no way for people to contribute and participate meaningfully in the digital economy. The COVID pandemic showed the importance of the digital economy and the real and tangible impact it has on our lives. Food delivery, merchandise sales and video chat all became critical elements to peoples’ lives. Businesses with the ability to move online prospered, and those requiring bums-in-seats didn’t.
These changes aren’t going to be undone, ever.
For the digital economy to work, reliable Internet connections are required. Critical business data can’t move unsecured over the Internet and businesses need multi-site networks to ensure data flows between branches, headquarters and to data repositories safely, securely and, most importantly, reliably.
The practical, lay-person’s definition of a WAN is “a bunch of connections that link the multiple offices, branches, data centers and cloud services used by a business together.” That’s it. And now, the WAN also needs to provide access, reliability and speed for work-from-home and offsite workers. The connections can be provided by one or more telecom companies. The more widespread the company is geographically, the more carriers a business must work with and the more in-house technology and skill they need to sew these different connections into one single, logical WAN.
However, traditional telecom networks weren’t built for this. They’re facilities-based, organized around who owns the cables, the towers and the mobile radios. And they’re quite static, not easy to change, process-driven (remember they’re telcos), and the telecom’s don’t interoperate or collaborate well together.
Using SD-WAN – software defined wide area network – instead of telecom WAN — gives telecom competitors the ability to deliver secure, multi-site networks at price points that more businesses can afford without being limited by the facilities (fiber and connections) of any specific telecom. SD-WAN enables these competitors to use multiple broadband internet connections like the ones you use at your home from multiple telecoms, cablecoms or ISPs at each business site and make them behave the same as the more expensive telecom solutions. Yes, there’s some complexity and additional cost involved but you, the business owner, have more choices. And, as with all things, more choices equal better service, and better ROI.
To implement an SDWAN, a potential vendor will walk you through a sizing process with a series of questions (see sidebar) to develop an understanding of what data your business has, how that data moves around, and who uses it. Data refers to files, information, phone calls and video conferences. It’s all just data. With this information, the provider can help you size the connections you need at each site while ensuring you can get them.
Then they’ll implement, installing either a physical device or a virtual/logical device at each site and plugging in all the internet connections. That’s it. It’s done.
An SDWAN network can span multiple regions, countries or continents. Each site can have connections from a different ISP – and multiple connections from different ISPs is a good thing for failover and uptime. The SDWAN software makes all these different connections into one single, secure private network for you, encrypting your data, supporting phone and video calls with priority service and connecting to your cloud applications. It can integrate with existing networks. It can incorporate wireless failover for your critical sites so point of sale terminals and critical applications always have access.
That’s the beauty of SDWAN. It’s made to be flexible, to give you options and to give you choice. It is digitally efficient, using the latest technology to adapt to the marketplace and create new opportunities. With COVID demanding new solutions to existing interactions, the SD-WAN can give companies the necessary tools to meet and exceed customers’ expectations.
SD-WAN IMPLEMENTATION QUESTIONS
The Short List
- How many business sites do you have?
- How many staff at each site?
- Do you have on-premise phone services or do you use a cloud service for phones and video?
- How many staff at each site could be on the phone at the same time during your busiest hours?
- How many video calls could be going on at each site at the same time, max?
- Do you store data at one of your locations? Do you backup data to one of your locations or is this already in some offsite or cloud location?
- Do you operate a support desk, order desk, help desk or contact center at any of your locations? Which one?
- Do you have any existing cybersecurity solutions? How are your networks protected?
- Do you have, or want, guest WIFI and staff WIFI?
- Where is your business-critical information stored? E.g. billing, financial information? How is this secure and transmitted/backed up?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Geoff has been involved in the internet and telecom industries since 1994. He has grown new business units, products, and sales at companies including Telus, Sporg.com, Talemetry, Bell Canada, Allstream, and Urbanfibre. https://www.ttgi.io/