Thursday, 28th October 2021

SD-WAN: Sorting fact from fiction

Almost every new technology or innovation creates as much uncertainty as it does excitement. Businesses want to take advantage of solutions that can improve how they operate, but often need pointers on how they should go about it and why – opening the door for myths to develop around how things could and will work. By Jonathan Rowan, Business Development Director at SSE Enterprise Telecoms.

SD-WAN (or Software-Defined Wide Area Networking) is no different. Deployed correctly, SD-WAN can enhance network capability by improving visibility, offering greater control and supporting the individual needs of a business. Essentially, it’s a piece of technology that can enable IT teams to manage a network to address their specific and ever-changing needs.

But, according to research from SSE Enterprise Telecoms, there are plenty of misconceptions around SD-WAN, too. With businesses asking questions around complexity, security and deployment in particular.

This piece debunks the myths of SD-WAN and looks at the clear benefits it offers businesses (giving you a bit of insight on all there is to know about the technology along the way).

Defining SD-WAN

Historically, networks would run directly into an enterprise data centre from the office branches. But with the widespread uptake of cloud-based applications, that is no longer the most efficient way. For software applications, hosted in the cloud, it makes far more sense to have a software-defined WAN that can intuitively make decisions on the most efficient routes.

From a business perspective, this means smarter and more effective use of bandwidth, so that apps are running smoothly, staff have a better IT experience and can spend their time focussing on value-adding tasks. A much more productive use of time than trying to deal with slow or non-working IT.

Myth #1 – It’s too complex

One of the most common misconceptions around SD-WAN is the idea that it will be too complicated to implement. In fact, 47 percent of IT professionals feel this way, with 30 percent feeling they have a lack of skilled resource to manage it. It’s understandable that this would be a cause of concern for businesses. But there’s no need for them to be apprehensive about the roll-out phase.

Like any network, the complexity of implementing SD-WAN depends on how many locations it’s being deployed in, and what and where the locations are. The reality is, the network technology can be implemented without disrupting daily business operations, and depending on the number of deployments, it can be set-up in a matter of months.

Myth #2 – It’s a security risk

SD-WAN relies on software to keep cloud applications secure. And this is understandably a concern for some businesses and IT executives. Everyone has heard stories of the cloud being hacked for sensitive information. So the idea of securing those software applications with yet more software is perhaps the reason why 36 percent of IT workers cite security risk as a reason to avoid SD-WAN.

Stories of cloud hackings understandably cause trepidation among CTOs and CIOs, and provide good reason to be wary. But their concerns around software-defined network security aren’t shared by their peers who are already using it. In fact, SD-WAN adopters are nearly a third (32 percent) less likely to feel frustrated with their network security than non-users. This is perhaps due to the fact that SD-WAN can house encrypted tunnels between every site in the network, offering the same level of security as a VPN without the time and effort that typically comes with a VPN installation. These in-built encryption capabilities, make sure that only authorised users can access the network and view the information inside.

Myth #3 – Anyone can deploy it

The idea that SD-WAN can be delivered with zero touch deployment is misleading and is likely the reason why some people believe anyone can deploy it. While it is highly automated, existing sites will require migration as part of the delivery of the solution.

A network overlay absolutely requires less manual work than a hardware alternative. But that’s not to say that a project can be implemented without prior knowledge or expertise. SD-WAN is uncomplicated and offers many benefits, but the installation project should be delivered by an experienced and trusted team. That way, businesses will have peace of mind, knowing that their networks will run seamlessly and to the standards expected.

Making a decision to benefit your business

The emergence of myths around SD-WAN are understandable. It’s not necessarily the immediate cost-saver some would want (or expect it to be). But as an investment in operational efficiency it’s a great choice for the modern business. Implementation and deployment can be taken care of in a matter of months and the benefits to the network are immediate.

The challenge is that misconceptions around SD-WAN will mean that companies risk making a poorly informed choice when deciding whether or not to invest in the technology. And as a result, could potentially find themselves missing out on the clear benefits the technology provides. Are you unsure if your business is SD-WAN ready? Take our myth busting SD-WAN readiness survey and find out for yourself.

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