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With a multitude of industries, including retail, restaurant, and banking, becoming increasingly dependent on technology, distributed enterprises are struggling with core foundational network issues. SD-WAN offerings provide a compelling solution to addressing customer and employee needs for quality end-user experience. As they evaluate SD-WAN solutions, enterprise customers are encouraged to consider issues of network security, coverage, cost, and complexity.

Network Security – In this age of digital dependency, network security is a critical consideration. Not only because of the potential damage to a business in the event of data breach, but also because there are so many different ways to protect a network.   Some solutions rely on cloud-based security, while others use premise-based security.  Some providers use internal solutions, while others use market-vetted offerings. As with many other aspects of a business, enterprise customers must carefully weigh the strengths and weakness of each approach.

As network security has evolved from the era of managing whitelist/blacklist policies to Unified Threat Management (IDS, IPS, Web Content Filtering) and now to AI/ML enabled solutions (MDR, SIEM), many enterprises are hard pressed to keep up with the evolving threats and meeting the legal requirements of “due care” with in-house resources.

Further complicating the issue is the lack of available qualified network security professionals. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts there will be 3.5M cybersecurity job openings by 2021. Given the complexity of the requirements and limitations of internal resources, enterprise customers are encouraged to consider offloading this burden to a managed service provider that can offer them secure SD-WAN.

Coverage – Surprisingly, for larger distributed enterprises, there is still a common challenge of meeting minimum internet access requirements across the entire estate of remote locations. While they may be able to easily exceed the bandwidth needs of most sites, many enterprises still struggle with over 20% of their locations unable to achieve adequate connectivity. The result is customer-facing and employee-facing technologies that may provide a poor end-user experience.

Enterprises must carefully consider the cost of a poor end-user experience and expend the necessary effort to resolve these issues with available technologies. When buying more bandwidth is not economically feasible or possible, enterprise customers should turn to WAN optimization technologies that are often built-in to many SD-WAN solutions. While remote locations do not always control the size of available network access, they always control how they use the available network access.

Cost – As with any business solutions, enterprise customers are encouraged to consider the total cost of ownership. Cost not only relates to the monthly fees for network access and equipment, it also includes the operational overhead, such as helpdesk support, operations, field maintenance, billing, etc.  As enterprise customers compare the cost of the current solution against an SD-WAN solution, they should also consider the cost of using in-house resources versus outsourcing to managed service providers.

While SD-WAN solutions provide the opportunity to reduce costs, enterprise customers must take care not to forfeit those savings elsewhere. Cost associated with internal IT needs still count against the bottom line. With the escalating requirement for the presence of technology, internal technical resources must be carefully managed to fully exploit the business opportunity with technology. Offloading labor intensive network management responsibilities frees up internal resources to pursue those technologies that lead to genuine competitive advantages.

Complexity – As the technology within a single remote location increases (e.g. Wi-Fi, VoIP, digital media, etc.), the complexity across the entire system grows exponentially. Consolidation of technology support services is an effective method for controlling the complexity. Instead of having a multitude of vendors supporting a multitude of solutions, enterprise customers should seek individual vendors who have proven their capability to support a multitude of solutions at scale.

Such an approach not only lowers the support cost, it may also reduce the time to repair. Instead of one technician only solving one issue, a single technician may resolve multiple issues within a single site visit. Having a single, responsible point of contact simplifies troubleshooting and repair efforts for your enterprise. Streamlining the responsibility into one position also prevents multiple vendors who may be involved from passing the blame to other players unnecessarily. 

With Managed SD-WAN solutions, enterprise customers will bring in improved capabilities and performance for their network. Additionally, an SD-WAN solution reduces current network costs. When the business is dependent on technology, managed SD-WAN can enable a competitive advantage.