Kurt Richter

Kurt Richter

11.17.2020

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work. Enterprises globally have had to shift their operations and shut their offices to help slow the spread of the disease. The result: In the blink of an eye, millions of employees tapping corporate networks and applications that mostly reside in the cloud from their home-based remote offices.

To say this this work revolution has been a strain is certainly an understatement.

Ill-prepared businesses are having to adjust to this new norm while ensuring they can secure, support, and manage their remote users and avoid unpredictable user experiences in the last mile. At the same time, security is more important than ever as corporate data moves into unsecured spaces.

This “forced” digital IT transformation in just under two months has had a notable impact on enterprise networking. In fact, an IDC survey of 250 large-to-medium-size companies in June found that almost half of all respondents—48%–reported they will increase investment in advanced automation platforms to reduce the manual management of the network.

These new challenges highlight why now is the perfect time for enterprises to consider an SD-WAN (Software-defined Wide Area Network) architecture to power their businesses and networks. SD-WAN is a WAN overlay architecture that allows enterprises to leverage any combination of transport—including MPLS, dedicated Internet, broadband, and LTE services—to securely connect users to applications.

SD-WAN improves cloud and on-premise application performance by optimizing enterprise network connectivity, in turn maximizing user experience and boosting productivity.  SD-WAN platforms also provide greater visibility into what’s happening across the network. At the same time, SD-WAN solutions can proactively recognize and remediate many network issues in real-time, thus reducing impact to productivity and collaboration.

A Higher Level of Service & Agility

SD-WAN gives enterprises a higher level of service and more intelligence into what the WAN is doing. That means when the enterprise tasks the CIO with adding features such as live streaming across the WAN, SD-WAN provides that flexibility, often with little to no intervention required from the IT organization.

SD-WAN typically provides greater application intelligence, examining network traffic, identifying the application, and making classification and forwarding decisions accordingly. Network management teams can use this application-awareness to prioritize their business traffic across the entire WAN or for individual branches or remote users.

That’s key because the source of application and network issues across a network can be considerable. Branch information can be collected and centrally processed in the SD-WAN policy engine and technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence can perform a proactive diagnostic of network reliability or application performance.

All of this can save IT organizations significant time and effort in deploying, reconfiguring, and troubleshooting, improving the remote IT operational experience as well as the end user experience.  In short, by employing SD-WAN, enterprises can get a better handle on their connectivity, their bandwidth, their network, and their applications—allowing businesses to operate smarter and more efficiently, especially during this new remote era.

Security Considerations

While greater application intelligence and visibility can be useful for security teams, SD-WAN technology can also open the door to security challenges if not property addressed.

Because SD-WAN solutions bring distributed Internet to multiple locations within an enterprise, firewall technology is necessary to keep data and applications safe. Many SD-WAN providers have already integrated firewall technology and other security features into their products. Industry consolidation between SD-WAN providers and security providers is also on the rise, such as Palo Alto Network’s recent acquisition of CloudGenix.

The key is to make sure you work with a partner who understands clearly how to secure SD-WAN solutions effectively with clear KPIs that work well with your IT organization.

Layering in Managed Services

The added network automation provided by SD-WAN affords organizations with significant benefits, but enterprises can further operational gains by layering managed services on top.  This allows an organization to redirect valuable IT personnel’s attention from “keeping the lights on” to activities that drive additional value to the company.

These services can range from Managed SD-WAN solutions to Managed Security Services that address security from the network’s edge all the way to the cloud, and incorporate automation, Zero Trust architecture, and best practices for security and industry-specific compliance.

To be sure, anything an organization can do to get its people doing more of what drives value to the enterprise sets a business apart from its competitors. SD-WAN is built to do just that.

From tapping an improved cloud-based delivery system to maximizing scalability and productivity to seamless security, SD-WAN will make smart businesses look, work, and perform smarter.

In these uncertain times, that can be a game changer.

 

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