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8 Business Benefits of Using SD-WAN

This article was updated on July 11, 2024

Employees and customers alike expect reliable and easy communication, no matter where they are. Unfortunately, video conferencing and similar functions can eat up bandwidth, challenging networks and risking degradation throughout the company. And building private-line solutions can be cost prohibitive for businesses of any size.

 

So what alternative is there?

 

Enter SD-WAN.

Photo of small-business owner using a laptop for a video meeting and talking on a headset.

What Is SD-WAN?

Simply put, SD-WAN — or software-defined wide area network — is a technology that continuously sorts and optimizes complex network traffic, allowing businesses to deploy bandwidth-hungry communications solutions effectively. With SD-WAN, your communications traffic is placed in proper order, ensuring real-time, two-way traffic and other high-priority data gets the treatment it deserves.

Vonage’s SD-WAN solutions — SmartWAN and Smart-WAN+ — are designed to meet the communications network quality of service (QoS) needs of modern businesses. SmartWAN provides a powerful yet simple solution for supporting cloud-based communication and integrated collaboration applications. SmartWAN+ takes this a step further, adding professional managed services that enable the rapid deployment and centralized control that help ease the management burden.

What Are the Business Benefits of SD-WAN?

Organizations are increasingly embracing digital transformation to keep pace with emerging market trends, fluctuating customer demands, and increased competition. But traditional network architectures weren’t built to handle the new workloads and complexities these initiatives bring. Combined with the fact that many business-critical services are often distributed across multiple clouds, it’s likely you’ll encounter reduced network performance, especially at branch locations.

One way to avoid this is through software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). SD-WAN benefits businesses by reducing overhead costs and increasing network performance. They  cut out expensive routing and reduce hardware costs, all while offering your business the flexibility to access multi-cloud services.

Many businesses are adopting SD-WAN to reduce overhead and support new applications and services. Let’s take a look at some of the main SD-WAN features and benefits.

1. Easy To Manage Multiple Offices

Does your company have branch offices? Then you should definitely check out SD-WAN technologies like SmartWAN+. The technology's ability to bundle internet connections is powerful for managing communications across multiple offices. You don’t have to have separate IT teams at every location — instead, everything can be handled centrally. 

2. Optimized Bandwidth

Because SD-WAN technology sorts and shapes the traffic that comes over a company's network, it can significantly optimize the bandwidth its critical solutions use. This access to prime bandwidth over the Internet becomes critical in terms of guaranteeing quality of experience (QoE).

3. Cost-Effectiveness

As businesses deploy more and more cloud-based applications, the amount of data traveling over a WAN grows exponentially, and operating costs follow right along. SD-WAN can cut these costs by leveraging low-cost local internet access, offering direct cloud access, and cutting the amount of traffic over a WAN.

4. Reduced Complexity

Digital transformation can add complexity to a network, which can hurt network performance and over-burden IT teams (for instance, by requiring them to be on-hand at remote sites to manage the local infrastructure). SD-WAN eases the IT burden by simplifying WAN infrastructure, using broadband to off-load non-critical business apps, automating monitoring efforts, and managing traffic through a centralized controller.

5. Increased Agility and Higher Uptimes

By dynamically routing traffic over multiple network paths, SD-WANs offer greater agility and flexibility, allowing organizations to respond quickly to changing network conditions. That means if a connection fails, or there’s a local issue, you can minimize disruption by sending the data through alternative routes — perfect for ensuring high levels of customer satisfaction.

6. Improved Performance

Not all network traffic is created equal. SD-WAN can be configured to prioritize business-critical traffic and real-time services like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and then steer it over the most efficient route. By facilitating critical applications through reliable, high-performance connections, IT teams can help reduce issues like packet loss and latency — and boost employee productivity and morale.

When you throw in the simplicity of dealing with a single provider for a number of your most important services, it’s easy to see why Vonage’s SmartWAN solutions are increasing their presence in businesses around the U.S.

7. Cloud-Based Advantages

As we’ve mentioned, more and more services are becoming cloud-based. Luckily, SD-WAN enables direct cloud access at the remote branch, thereby eliminating the need to route all cloud and branch office traffic through the data center. As a result, workers can directly access cloud applications regardless of their location — without burdening the core network with additional traffic to manage and secure.

As well as this,  SD-WAN improves cloud application performance by prioritizing business-critical applications and enabling branches to directly communicate to the internet.

8. Security

Digital transformation is a double-edged sword. While it can improve customer satisfaction and extend market reach, it can also expose an organization to significant security risks. To counter that, many SD-WAN solutions offer built-in security. 

However, the basic firewall and VPN functions provided by most SD-WAN solutions are often not enough, especially for companies handling sensitive information such as healthcare or financial services. This can add additional pressure to your IT team, forcing them to try to add extra security on top of what’s provided. A better option is to look for SD-WAN solutions that provide a wide range of integrated security features that can help prevent data loss, downtime, regulatory violations, and legal liabilities.

How Is SD-WAN Different From WAN?

You can think of SD-WAN as an evolution of the traditional WAN, providing advanced services and decreasing costs while at the same time setting the stage for more advanced capabilities in the future.

Let’s take a look at some of the basic differences between WAN and SD-WAN.

SD-WAN

Traditional WAN

Reduced network cost

Conventional WANs are usually an expensive mix of private and public data lines

Application prioritization options that let users send important data over the best network link

Offers reliability and predictability with prioritization of critical traffic like voice and video

SD-WAN security benefits include encryption and VPN for secure end-to-end network connections

Traditional WAN's MPLS connection is normally very secure

Easy to update and scale

Changes to traditional WANs need to be done manually

SD-WAN solutions have in-built virus detection, IPsec, firewall management, and encrypted network traffic for data security

Using traditional WANs on MPLS can offer great QoS

Can detect outages in milliseconds

As users and applications have moved beyond the enterprise, the traditional resilience perimeter has dissolved

Offers clear network visibility, allowing users to check the status of the different devices connected to the network, and can operate them from a centralized location

Traditional WANs miss out on the ability to monitor the performance of their network

What Are Some Disadvantages of SD-WAN?

SD-WAN offers a ton of business benefits. But we can’t weigh up SD-WAN pros and cons without considering the possible downsides. Here’s a few of them.

  • Reliability: Because they rely on the internet, SD-WANs can be less reliable than traditional WANs, facing congestion, packet loss, and other performance issues.

  • Complexity: SD-WANs can be complex to implement and configure, as they require specialized skills and expertise in software-defined networking.

  • Adoption Issues: Finding skilled staff to help implement and manage it may be difficult — unless you’re using a full-service provider like Vonage.

  • High Upfront Costs: SD-WAN can be expensive to implement. This is because businesses need to buy equipment from a vendor and pay for a service provider to manage it for them. Traditionally, you would scrap your existing edge routers and replace them with those from the SD-WAN vendor you've selected. Budgetary concerns may force you to do it yourself.

  • Security: Since they rely on the public internet to transport traffic, SD-WANs can be less secure than traditional WANs.  As the technology uses a mesh network topology, each device can act as a repeater for the other devices, putting businesses at risk for data leakage, denial of Service (DOS) attacks, and more. However, there are solutions. With SD-WAN, users can have end-to-end encryption over a VPN connection, as well as implement and integrate additional security layers like firewalls for unified threat management.

  • Technical Issues: With SD-WAN, businesses often need to invest in equipment and pay for a service provider to manage it for them. This can lead to technical issues if the business doesn’t have the expertise to properly manage the network.

VBC’s Smart-WAN and Smart-WAN+ solutions mitigate or eliminate many of these disadvantages. For example, Smart-WAN can minimize disruption by creating fail-safes over multiple customer-provided internet connections, as well as provide high levels of security and privacy using a hybrid network solution. Our fully managed Smart-WAN+ solution provisions circuits through trusted partnerships with ISPs, cable, and wireless providers, and it enables monitoring and management of circuit performance and troubleshooting of issues.

How Do You Know if SD-WAN Is Right for Your Business?

The SD-WAN market is growing, at least partially driven by a transformation in how today's companies are organized. It’s also not limited to businesses — it’s increasingly popular on campuses, for instance. As a result, there are several factors to weigh as you consider SD-WAN solutions.

For example, do you have, or plan to open, satellite offices across the U.S. and even globally? For organizations that manage multiple locations, SD-WAN makes the IT team’s life easier. SD-WAN delivers software-defined application routing to the WAN, enabling the network to connect a company’s many locations securely and with the option to improve resiliency through multiple transport options. Without a network that performs, productivity suffers — employees struggle to collaborate and users complain of sluggish applications.

Another factor is security concerns. Sensitive data is being transmitted over longer distances, increasing the chance of it being intercepted or compromised by a hacker. SD-WAN can offer security and segmentation through centralized policies to help combat the threat of malicious intrusions into the network. Many SD-WAN providers also offer features that monitor and protect data in transit and between router paths.

Handling management and upgrades have been a challenge with legacy WAN solutions. For example, to add a new application to the network, a technician would need to create virtual routing segments, implement new access control lists, apply quality of service policies, and more. Scaling these moves to meet the demands of modern distributed businesses is a huge challenge. Not with SD-WAN — and if you’re working with a provider that offers it as a service, often upgrades or deployments can be done with zero touch or effort on the part of the customer.

If you’re like many companies, chances are you have an overburdened IT staff which lacks the resources needed to truly optimize and protect your network. Even worse, many legacy approaches to managing a WAN require levels of expertise that can be hard to find and keep on staff.

SD-WAN is the answer. With centralized management, application performance optimization, and network resiliency, it’s the perfect way to get the most out of WAN. 

To sum up, it isn’t that SD-WAN can do more than other WAN solutions. It’s the ease and efficiency that you gain from SD-WAN that will be a game-changer for how you manage your WAN.

Meeting Customer Expectations

Like we said at the start — customers and employees expect reliable communication and collaboration capabilities. Ensuring you’re using your limited bandwidth efficiently and prioritizing business critical applications is key, but challenging if you operate over multiple locations. 

The solution? SmartWAN and SmartWAN+ solutions from Vonage. Designed to overcome these challenges and meet the communications network QoS needs of modern businesses, they’re the perfect way to reduce the pressure on your IT team while improving your daily operations.

Still have questions about SD-WAN?

The advantages of SD-WAN, when compared to WAN, include lower operating costs, improved performance, optimized bandwidth, and the ability to better manage communications for multiple locations. Disadvantages can include complex implementation and configuration, high upfront costs, a reliance on internet connectivity, and security challenges.

VBC SmartWAN provides a powerful yet simple solution for supporting cloud-based communication and integrated collaboration applications. Our solution ensures reliable, cost-effective, and secure support for Vonage Business Communications’ Desktop, Mobile, and integrated apps.

VBC SmartWAN+ from Vonage provides the same benefits as SmartWAN, plus professional managed services that enable the rapid deployment of network connectivity to your offices and centralized control that helps ease the management burden.

The best SD-WAN solution will depend on the IT resources and expertise of your organization. If you have an overburdened IT staff, then SmartWAN+ is the better solution. Vonage can be the extension of your IT department by ordering, provisioning, and implementing both circuits and SD-WAN solutions.

Scott Rigdon bio
By Scott Rigdon Sr. Content Writer

Scott creates effective and engaging blog articles, web pages, email sequences, and other content for Vonage. His journalism degree, editing experience, and advertising background give him a unique perspective on content structure and strategy. When he's not working, Scott enjoys reading, movies, and helping his wife restore their mid-century home. Oh, and sandwiches.

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