In some cases, business technology is a game of increments — gradual improvements made by providers and adopted by organizations over months or years. Other times, innovation strikes hard and takes the business world along for the ride.
Then, there are the in-between cases, or situations where various components of business-critical technologies advance at different rates. The continued growth of technologies such as cloud, software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN), and unified-communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) certainly fits this bill.
Businesses have been moving their
communication workloads to the cloud for as long as the cloud has been around. But the demands that these real-time communications place on a network — as opposed to the simpler needs of one-way communications, such as email — can be significant. And while the end result is workable, it's not always optimal. Large companies taking communications to the cloud can be faced with brownouts and jitter, unless they're willing to make major investments in private networks to overcome the problem.
With one of the most exciting developments in years — the application of SD-WAN technology to UCaaS — the business communication world's movers and shakers are pushing real-time, cloud-based communications toward their true potential and providing a better, smarter, and more efficient service in the process. Take a closer look at what this advancement means for business communications:
A Brief History of SD-WAN
Indeed, many advancements are made possible thanks to the simultaneous growth technologies. In this case, just as SD-WAN was emerging, the cloud was also evolving rapidly. This may not seem huge on its face, but it's a phenomenal combination in practice. The cloud made many things businesses traditionally did over WAN possible via the internet. This allowed companies to break free from maintaining numerous complex data centers and IT structures, a major change in and of itself.
This is where cloud communication and collaboration come into play. Though the cloud did represent a cheaper and more accessible way for businesses to employ critical network-backed communication tools, there were some definite challenges. Pushing multiple streams of real-time data over the cloud, for example, could compromise quality of service (QoS).
What Is SD-WAN's Role with UCaaS?
While there's effectively no end to the benefits cloud-based communication and collaboration offer, any business would want to minimize issues leading to poor quality of experience. This is especially true considering the smartphone revolution and modern employees, who expect a solid, collaborative experience across multiple devices no matter where they work or what they do.
Moving unified communications to the cloud created an interesting scenario, with voice treated similar to any other data coming through. However, this often isn't enough for real-time communications. Now you have to contend with bandwidth and QoS concerns.
Here's where the advancement applies: By bringing SD-WAN capabilities to UCaaS, communication providers are able to elevate quality of service. They're applying technical architecture parameters that allow connections to be provided in a priority bandwidth from Point A to Point B, thus enhancing the overall experience for business communication users.
Two key ways the technology makes this happen:
- Active, Smart Monitoring: With technology that constantly searches for the best possible path for real-time communication data to take, communications are properly prioritized. An employee engaging in a video chat, for instance, will get better quality of service than the staffer watching Netflix® during lunch.
- Abundant Failover: The best solutions applying SD-WAN to UCaaS allow users to pick from multiple networks. For instance, an organization experiencing problems with its standard WAN connection at a branch location could temporarily switch to a commercial broadband line generally used to manage internal data activity, then switch back when things are on the up-and-up again. This hybrid approach could also include other networking solutions, such as an LTE connection.
With these advancements, a company's IT staff gets all the flexibility of a hybrid communication solution, the intelligence of a managed solution, and the control it needs to make it all come together. That's a big change in the communications arena, where tech staff must sometimes sacrifice the ability to make granular change in the name of cost or flexibility.
A Bright Future
Naturally, this prioritizing and shaping also leads to more efficient bandwidth usage. Think of it this way: By bringing in SD-WAN for UCaaS, it's like taking the $300 you spent on connectivity and squeezing out bandwidth equivalent to (or even greater than) a 3 MB Ethernet circuit, which can cost upward of $600 to $700. Companies can "squeeze" that bandwidth out of multiple locations, getting more for what they currently use or saving money by dropping to a more appropriate package.
More, this prioritizing and shaping further ensures the customer receives higher-quality bandwidth, providing an even better bang for their buck. On one hand, they get more efficiency. On the other, they get better, smarter performance for their real-time communication needs, deriving even more benefit from the bandwidth they use. In other words, they simultaneously get better performance from their cloud-based unified communications solutions and save space.
Perhaps best of all, this is still an emerging technology in terms of adoption and overall capability. As provider companies take managed products and essentially stitch them together into one structure, end-user organizations will see an even greater level of customizability, flexibility, and control.
In short, the future is bright for UCaaS thanks to the deft application of SD-WAN technology. Communications companies building these performance enhancements into their existing platforms can provide even better service — and experience — to an existing slate of solutions, all while making the technology less complex and more accessible. In this sense, the capability represents both a natural next step for communications and a milestone improvement for a critical business function.
Whether your organization is looking to modernize an aging communications structure, enhance collaborative ability across a broad number of geographical locations, or simply make better use of the bandwidth it currently pays too much for, there's a lot to love about these advancements.