If you pride yourself on your up to date knowledge of the IT world, then you’ll likely have heard the term SD WAN thrown around by experts – however, it can be hard to know exactly what it means!
Sadly, although there’s lots of great articles with accurate information on the web, there’s also plenty of information that actually ends up just being marketing hype, or even worse, entirely false. In this article, we’ll explain what SD WAN is, how it works, and what it can really do for your business.
What Does SD WAN Mean?
Let’s begin by breaking down this jumble of letters, starting with the more familiar WAN part: Wide Area Network. This is simply a series of devices connected over an area of any size; even the internet is technically a WAN! In terms of your business, a WAN will be a central hub that can hold servers and other infrastructure devices, as well as offices, cloud services, a series of branches, and more.
Each of these sites will likely have its own LAN – Local Area Network – that then becomes a WAN when hooked up to the internet and to other LANs at various locations. The resources that are kept at the central hub location, which is typically the business’s main office, are then accessible from any point in the WAN. This means that you can access software, storage, security provisions, and more from practically anywhere.
What Can You Do With SD WAN?
However, SD WAN isn’t just a variety of WAN. Instead, it’s an overlay that is put over your existing WAN, allowing you to access a whole new layer of control options through a piece of software, which is compatible with all of the devices in your WAN. It can even replace the controls that are usually only accessible if you get hands on with the device in person.
Therefore, you can have control over your business network no matter where you are, a huge benefit for any IT staff who find themselves going back and forth between offices to sort out network issues! But there are advantages beyond giving your IT staff some respite – here are just a few of the questions that are commonly asked about SD WAN technology:
Can SD WAN Improve SaaS End User Experiences?
If your company relies on SaaS – Software as a Service – applications in its day to day operations, then SD WAN could prove enormously beneficial, as it provides a central hub from which you can ensure all of the satellite operations are accessing the same application with the same speed and priority that is afforded to the data.
When working with real-time applications, you have to make sure that they’re always running as well as they can, particularly if they’re being used by customers. SD WAN lets you identify and fix network problems without the need to bring someone on site – this means that you can keep your business online at the most important moments. If you don’t rely on SaaS applications, this might not be a big deal – if you do, then SD WAN could be game changing.
Can SD WAN Allow For Instant Expansion To New Locations?
Anyone who has had to deal with getting a new site on your business network knows how tricky and irritating it can be. Getting these locations up and running instantaneously would be ideal – however, we aren’t quite at that point yet with SD WAN.
While SD WAN can provide an overlay for the existing network and help with configuring the devices, you’ll still need someone to physically set up the cables and devices at the new location, otherwise your SD WAN system will have nothing to work with. But if you can get somebody to the new location in time, you might find that SD WAN can still save you valuable days or weeks in the long run.
Does SD WAN Let You Manage Traffic Priority and Bandwidth Easily?
Lots of providers insist that their SD WAN solutions can allow for a higher quality of service when compared to different WAN management technologies. But this is more marketing hype than it is unbiased advice.
Although SD WAN certainly has the capability to improve your quality of service, you’ll probably be able to make similar changes without the need for an entire additional technology. In fact, if you’re ever wanting to improve your network efficiency, the alterations should begin at a hardware level, and changes to your existing network should come before fancy new additions.
Could SD WAN Replace MPLS Systems?
Many hopeful business owners are wanting to hear that SD WAN will totally replace the need for expensive MPLS systems. MPLS is a data carrying technique used by many businesses with high performance networks, who need to make the most from their WAN. It stands for Multi-Protocol Label Switching, and it works by intelligently altering the paths and priorities of various data types, meaning that the more crucial applications can run more smoothly (at the cost of less important applications suffering slightly). Essentially, if you’re reliant on a certain application, MPLS can ensure that it will always run unhindered by network congestion.
The CoS (or Class of Service) settings that SD WAN provides can function in a similar way to prioritise traffic – however, because MPLS is a part of your infrastructure, while SD WAN only overlays it, the former is much more all-encompassing with the changes that you can make.
So unfortunately, it might be some time before we can say goodbye to these MPLS systems; though SD WAN is a highly versatile technology, there are still things it can’t quite promise.
Will SD WAN Benefit Your Business?
Because every business network operates in a different way, SD WAN won’t provide every business with exactly the same advantages. For instance, you might be planning to expand to a new site and use SD WAN to help set up the new devices, but you may not rely on any SaaS applications that would benefit from the prioritising settings.
So before you make any significant investments into SD WAN – or SASE systems (combining SD WAN solutions with network security solutions) , you’ll have to do more research on how it will relate to your business specifically. The level of assistance you’ll find from the tech also depends highly on your current situation – for example, if you’re hiring the services of an MSP who monitor your systems 24/7 for issues, you might not see much of an improvement.
Alternatively, if your IT team are struggling to keep up with the maintenance of a network infrastructure that stretches to multiple different sites, introducing SD WAN into the mix could relieve their stress and improve their ability to run your network.