How to Implement SD-WAN: An Introduction

How to Implement SD-WAN: An Introduction

SD-WAN is one of the most important technologies in the communication landscape today. Offering the perfect combination of flexibility and scalability in an age of UCaaS and remote work, SD-WAN allows companies to adapt their tech stack for the age of cloud.

Currently, the marketplace is growing at an accelerated rate, boasting a CAGR of 34.5%, and a projected value of $8.4 billion in the next 3 years. For those who adopt this powerful technology, SD-WAN could offer everything from better cost-savings, to improved control over your network, minimizing the risk of lag and inconsistency for your workforce.

Of course, before you can begin to leverage the benefits of SD-WAN for yourself, you first need to know how to implement it.

Step 1: Understand SD-WAN

The first step in successfully implementing SD-WAN is understanding how it works, and why your business needs it. Simply put, SD-WAN (Software-defined Wide Are Network) technology offers companies a virtual WAN architecture, where they can leverage a variety of transport services, from LTE and MPLS, to broadband internet.

With a centralized control environment, SD-WAN ensures you can easily access fast connectivity and reliability for your most critical applications. It also means you can intelligently direct network access across a range of environments, supporting hybrid and remote workers too.

SD-WAN solutions are ideally suited to companies who need to support applications hosted in a range of on-premises data centers, private and public clouds, as well as SaaS services. In other words, if you’re one of the many companies investing in a flexible, cloud-based future for your workplace, you can probably benefit from SD-WAN.

Step 2: Determine Your Requirements

Once you know the benefits of SD-WAN, the next step is deciding how you’re going to take full advantage of the new technology. Assessing your existing WAN architecture is a good first step, and there are plenty of SD-WAN providers who should be willing to talk through your potential WAN implementation for you.

You can work hand-in-hand with your vendor to build a plan for your SD-WAN implementation, looking at things like how many remote workers you have, and what kind of additional security measures you might need to take.

You should be able to create relatively comprehensive “site profiles”, to give yourself and your vendor an overview of what your new network is going to look like.

Depending on the SD-WAN vendor you choose, they may be able to do a lot of the hard work on your behalf. Most vendors will be happy to walk you through your options, and even assist you in creating “proof of concept” sites, for testing functionality.

Step 3: Evaluate your Product Options

SD-WAN comes in a wide range of different shapes and sizes, from a variety of vendors. There are a number of unique SD-WAN products on the market, each with their own benefits and services to offer. Some will come with specialist features, like self-healing connections, which automatically transfer network traffic to another transport service when your first option is unavailable.

There are even products emerging in the market which come with built-in security features and additional applications. SASE solutions or “Secure Access Service Edge”, are rapidly emerging as potentially the “next stage” of SD-WAN for some companies.

Choosing a SASE solution means you’ll get security features and bonus capabilities included with your networking package, alongside all the benefits of SD-WAN. This could be a good option to look into if you would otherwise have to purchase security services separately.

Step 4: Know your Service Options

Outside of comparing the different levels of SD-WAN functionality you can get, it’s also worth looking into the different kinds of service available. Some SD-WAN solutions allow you to manage most of the implementation and control of your technology on your own.

SD-WAN is much easier to manager than a traditional WAN-based network, because you’ll have access to a centralized control environment, where you can make changes to networking policies, and adjust functionality for multiple environments remotely. However, it can still be complex to consistently manage and monitor this network.

A managed service provider could be an ideal alternative for a company without enough time to watch their SD-WAN network regularly. These MSPs can provide you with extra support in the form of network configuration and quality of service management. Most SD-WAN providers will be able to offer both managed service and DIY options.

Step 6: Deploying SD-WAN

Before jumping into the deployment stage, most companies will want to run extensive tests on the “proof of concept” network to ensure everything works properly. It’s also worth making sure you provide your team members with the training they need to leverage SD-WAN, particularly if you’re going to be managing the network on your own.

Going live with your new solution can be a nerve-wracking process, which is why it’s so important to ensure you have the right level of service and guidance from your SD-WAN vendor from day one. A good provider will be on-hand to help you if you hit any snags with the roll-out process.

Once your SD-WAN environment is fully implemented, the only thing left to do is monitor the ecosystem, and consistently optimize your network based on what you learn. A managed service provider will be able to help with this part, and could even provide you with regular advice on how to update your networking policies and strategies.

Enjoy your SD-WAN Deployment

Like any digital transformation initiative, implementing a new SD-WAN ecosystem into your business environment can feel like a complicated process at first. However, with the right vendor to assist you, there’s a good chance you’ll find the whole experience is a lot simpler.

If you want to make sure your SD-WAN deployment is a success, remember not to rush the process, and take your time figuring out exactly what you need before you start making changes to your network. Don’t forget to be extra cautious when it comes to choosing your ideal vendor too.

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