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SD WAN was once an IT solution only used by early adopting tech enthusiasts, but this is no longer the case, with this technology now being used to underpin thousands of business networks around the world.
But as is unfortunately the case with lots of new tech, it can be tough to figure out what it’s really capable of - especially when much of the information available online ranges from inaccurate to completely false!
That’s why we’re here to go over what SD WAN actually is, how it works differently to a traditional WAN solution, and how it could really help your growing startup.
What Is A Software Defined Wide Area Network?
To get a thorough understanding of SD WAN and its more security focused relation – SASE, or ‘secure access service edge’, it’s good to first compare it to how a traditional WAN functions - after all, pretty much every business with more than one site will have a WAN of some kind.
In simple terms, a WAN is a series of branch locations that all connect to a single central IT provision. This provision can then provide application access to each of the branches in the WAN. Typically, these locations will then have their own individual internet circuit connection, configured to work as part of a VPN (virtual private network), that gives the company a secure network even across the broader internet.
In addition to housing the services and software of the company, the IT HQ is also usually where the IT team will work from.
What Can SD WAN Do?
First of all, SD WAN isn’t actually a different type of WAN - in reality, it doesn’t change the core of how your WAN functions. Instead, it works as an overlay for your existing WAN that provides you with an extra layer of control, connecting to your devices and managing these connections.
Because SD WAN lets you bring every element of your network together to be controlled centrally, it also allows you to have a unified interface through which you can make remote changes to your device settings. You can see how this has great potential from a business perspective!
But it isn’t just about this additional control, as there are other benefits to this technology. Devices use a wide variety of languages when they communicate across your network - data being sent over a traditional wired connection, for instance, isn’t handled the same as data sent through a wireless cellular connection.
SD WAN is able to virtualise this language, allowing for different languages to be used with one another. This means that, if you wanted to connect one site that has a VPN protected internet circuit to one with a 4G connection, SD WAN can make this happen. When it comes to network design flexibility, this opens up a whole new world of options.
What Benefits Could SD WAN Really Offer Your Business?
Now that you understand how SD WAN functions from an IT perspective, it's time to put this knowledge into practice and look into how it can impact your startup more directly. No matter how advanced a technology is, it’s only useful if you can put it to good use - otherwise, you just have an expensive network solution without much to show for it!
Similarly to how other kinds of support can be provided from a single central site, security can also be rolled out over your whole network from a central location through SD WAN. As data security is only becoming more and more important, having a single provision through which you can protect your whole network is invaluable.
You’ll probably know that network security has traditionally come in the form of firewalls that can protect each individual site on a WAN. As SD WAN lets you roll out any application to a range of sites, you can also hold security provisions in a similar way. You’ll need to speak with your provider about the best way to build this solution into your network infrastructure, but once you do, you’ll be on your way to much more effective security for your data and business.
As explained earlier, SD WAN allows you to control your systems through a single unified language - when it comes to getting new sites online, this is an invaluable asset. As well as getting into the nitty gritty of devices that are actually far away from the IT professional working on them, this also means that you won’t run into language barriers with connection types.
Therefore, if it’s faster for you to get a site going on a router configured to use 4G SIMs, then you can, even if you’re making use of traditional circuits elsewhere. But this is only a small part of getting new sites going - you still need to ensure that all your equipment is in place and wired up correctly. But if you can do this, then the IT team can spend the rest of their time at the office while they fine tune everything, making the process much more streamlined.
If you, like many companies these days, have applications that you heavily rely upon to deliver your service, then SD WAN could be a great step for your business. This is because SD WAN comes with a pathway control system, which means that your highest priority traffic can get across the network even if significant load is taking up the bandwidth elsewhere.
Through SD WAN, these class of service (CoS) adjustments can be quick and easy, removing the need to manually adjust the settings of each device, and making on the fly tweaks much more of a possibility.
But we should still go over one of the major limitations of SD WAN in this regard - that is, the fact that they fall short next to what a more costly MPLS system is capable of achieving. Though SD WAN can be helpful, it doesn’t currently allow for the level of micromanagement that MPLS can bring - but maybe some day...