A version of this article first appeared in Channel Partners.
In the grand scheme of technology, SD-WAN solutions aren't anything new. Originally designed to help organizations set up and manage VPNs over broadband at their various locations, the technology has been around for about seven years at this point. That's a long time, considering all the advancements that have occurred over that period.
When you apply the technology to communications, however, things get a little more modern. More and more businesses are moving their most critical communication tools to the cloud, a transition that does not remove the nonnegotiable needs for efficient bandwidth usage and excellent quality of service (QoS). In the past three-plus years, Vonage and a handful of other carriers have helped companies meet these needs by integrating SD-WAN technology with unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) platforms, a pioneering solution that brings organizations numerous benefits, such as better voice and video call quality, more deployment options, better bandwidth usage, and (as a result) increased financial efficiency.
The result is a solution that helps many businesses in many different contexts. Let's talk about the technological and business advancements that make SD-WAN for UCaaS solutions a boon for so many businesses, then take a look at the reasons a company like yours may soon wish to consider it.
Exploring Communication Needs, Quality, and SD-WAN
From the outside, the path of technological advancement often looks like a straight line. From the ground level, however, things are rarely that simple. For example, look at commonly used network communication tools such as video conferencing and Voice over IP (VoIP). While these technologies solve many problems for companies that don't want the cost and complexity of a private branch exchange (PBX), it's no secret some businesses have adequate bandwidth to handle them and others don't. If you've ever worked in an office where VoIP calls frequently jitter, garble, or completely drop out, you've seen what can happen when a company is in the latter camp.
Much of this disparity comes from the way network communication tools work. When you send an email or visit a website, some network delay is okay and most often this delay is imperceptible to you. On the phone or video screen, though, the inability to quickly transmit data can lead to all sorts of trouble. This is why network communication solutions are called "real-time" communications: The product works by transmitting data (namely, callers' voices) in real-time.
In turn, this puts certain requirements on businesses that rely on great call quality. This isn't to say the average VoIP or video conference is unreliable, by any means. Instead, it simply means that even a single garbled call can lead to significant losses for some businesses. When you add in reliability concerns such as, "If I'm on VoIP and my internet connection goes down, what happens?" this has put businesses with private circuit data connections such as MPLS in the best place to utilize VoIP. Though costlier per-location and more technically demanding, these private MPLS connections have historically provided the best way to enjoy top-notch VoIP call quality.
You make a call from your VoIP line, and the SD-WAN solutions you deploy automatically prioritize the traffic.
Introducing SD-WAN for UCaaS
Considering its challenges and advancements, SD-WAN for UCaaS represents a perfect path into cloud communications for many companies. It allows businesses on broadband connections and others without a need or budget for MPLS to get the best possible QoS out of cloud communication.
To take a deeper look, that means if you run a business with several locations, you've probably already moved a lot of your systems and processes to the cloud. Even then, most of these processes probably aren't in real-time. Your nightly reporting software may send numbers to a server in a public or private cloud environment, but it doesn't need a constant back-and-forth stream to accomplish this.
Further, your company might not want to have every branch location on the private circuit. Instead, you may have many on commercial broadband accounts, with or without backup data connections in case your primary goes down.
This is where SD-WAN comes into play for many customers. SD-WAN for UCaaS tools constantly search for the best possible path for real-time communications, allowing companies on broadband connections to do more with less in terms of data connectivity. You make a call from your VoIP line, and the SD-WAN solutions you deploy automatically prioritize the traffic.
Even better, turning back to the backup connections, SD-WAN for UCaaS can move between multiple connections. This further ensures call quality and uptime, even if one connection or the other suffers an outage: Your calls aren't interrupted even if the service must switch from one data source to another, turning a guaranteed interruption into a seamless experience.
SD-WAN Solutions Have More to Offer
All in all, these benefits can save companies money in three ways:
- You're not paying private circuit rates, since you can safely deploy VoIP over regular broadband and get similar quality, a savings that only increases with the number of locations you have on-circuit.
- You get more uptime, since you don't have to worry about a temporary data outage affecting your location's ability to make phone calls.
- Solutions such as Vonage's SmartWAN firewalls, VPN concentrators, and other extras make it easier to defend privacy and dramatically simplify the act of creating VPN tunnels between multiple locations.
With that said, you don't need to be a large, distributed business to make great use of SD-WAN for UCaaS. Nor do you have to drop your private circuit connection. For instance, if connectivity issues are the only thing keeping you from moving to VoIP, SD-WAN can offer an appreciable improvement in quality and consistency. This can be great news for rural companies and others without access to high-quality broadband. For example, a company using an LTE cellular connection could move from PBX to VoIP using SD-WAN for UCaaS. Further, companies running a hybrid network of private circuit- and broadband-connected sites could use the technology to ensure a baseline level of call quality from the cloud communication solutions.
All these factors come together to describe a technology that will only become more important as more companies move their communications to the cloud. When a business' phones are its lifeline, stakeholders can't afford concerns over connectivity and quality. Wherever your business is with its move to the cloud, SD-WAN for UCaaS could be what you need to move "over the hump " — and away from expensive, needlessly complex extras in the process.
For more on optimizing network bandwidth and enhancing quality fo service, contact a Vonage representative about the SmartWAN solution.