Across any industry or market segment, customers matter. Period. They are the lifeblood of your business and the customer's experience (CX) with your brand and services directly translates to the bottom line. Your network plays a key role in the CX as it must provide the application performance, security, and flexibility to address evolving business needs and initiatives. There are a number of C's which wreck the CX but the right SD-WAN solution can help address these challenges.
Legacy private networks, such as MPLS, typically offer very limited circuit choices to connect branch sites to the core network. Businesses normally work with a provider who connects branches with a T1 (very little bandwidth at 1.5 Mbps) or an Ethernet (more bandwidth but comparably expensive option) circuit. SD-WAN technology allows businesses to utilize a wide variety of broadband circuit connections (cable, fiber, cellular, microwave, satellite, etc.), balancing cost and multi-Mbps capacity choices at a per site level.
This ability to choose the best circuits for a location's specific needs improves the CX through higher application availability and responsiveness (Related: Learn more about an SD-WAN appliance). Imagining your commute home from work at rush hour, would you prefer a large highway with more traffic lanes or a single lane street? And, would you prefer to have the choice of multiple avenues to arrive at the same destination?
For traditional routed networks, operators would need to configure very specific rules based upon different network elements (IP subnets, VLAN's, DSCP values, etc.) to try and classify applications. Current applications have many components (transactional, updates, transfers, video, etc.) that reside in various hosted datacenters (for instance, public cloud, private cloud, or 3rd party vendor).
The traditional classification methods simply don't scale and quickly hamper a business's ability to add new applications and experiences, leaving the customer feeling frustrated and less satisfied. In contrast, with an SD-WAN solution, you have the ability to apply classification based upon application knowledge and flow behavior. This makes them more adaptable and intent-based, in better alignment with business rules versus needing to classify against the network architecture. SD-WAN solutions can also accommodate cloud vs datacenter flows, providing prioritization for each without the need to route all the traffic back to a central point before forwarding it on to the Internet.
In an effort to enhance the CX, branch applications are evolving to provide more visually stunning and immersive experiences. There are an increasing number of applications running across the WAN which demand more and more bandwidth. Congestion ruins an experience, from rush-hour traffic to amusement park lines and delayed packets on the network. When critical traffic is unable to effectively traverse the network, the customer suffers as things like the check-out process, interactive signage, and VoIP calls quick degrade and perform poorly.
Managed SD-WAN can help this scenario by automatically classifying critical applications and providing a 'fast-lane' for those packets. Different SD-WAN platforms perform traffic handling in various ways, including use of multiple transport links, dynamic flow prioritization, and slowing of less important traffic to ensure key applications have the capacity they require. Congestion could still exist in the network, but the SD-WAN Quality-of-Service (QoS) provides predictable application performance at the branch by rerouting important traffic around the WAN congestion.
As your business grows (number of branches, devices, applications, etc.) so does the level of complexity. Having separate platforms and managements systems, for branch items like routing, firewalls, and optimization, can lead to configuration challenges and errors.
If not handled correctly, this complexity leads to customer dissatisfaction as expected functions and services are not operating as expected. Examples could be incorrect security settings that allow a data breach to occur, network traffic taking suboptimal routes resulting in longer wait times, or devices simply not connecting and working reliably. Secure SD-WAN offers a central orchestration system for configuration management and policy enforcement. They are designed to scale and enforce consistency so that the configuration at the 10th, 100th, or 1,000th site is the same. Customers benefit from a consistent experience, and peace of mind, across branch locations.
As your customer expectations and experiences continue to evolve, make sure your business can evolve as well by partnering with a managed secure SD-WAN provider.