As unified communications as a service (UCaaS) becomes more attractive to organizations, so does pairing it with a low-cost, reliable, and secure underlying circuit. Enter software-defined wide-area networking, or SD-WAN.
Businesses Find Security and Flexibility with SD-WAN
Until now, businesses have been hesitant to run voice, video, and data across the public Internet. Without a way to ensure priority and quality of service, traditional broadband has been a no-go, despite its inherent cost-effectiveness.
SD-WAN has been a godsend in this arena, enabling a multitude of benefits and protections for public Internet connectivity. Perhaps most importantly, SD-WAN supports flexibility. With a simple on-site edge device, businesses can support a combination of MPLS and broadband circuits, multiple broadband circuits, or even wireless 4G connections. SD-WAN is an overlay that enables management of the connections, including optimizing and securing traffic.
When it comes to cloud-based UCaaS, having that type of granular control is essential. Voice and video and conferencing traffic can be negatively impacted by delays, jitter and packet loss. These types of traffic need to be prioritized with voice first, video second and Internet third. Also, most organizations want some level of protection on these types of communications. SD-WAN features the ability to find the path of least resistance and VPN tunneling to fortify sensitive traffic across the public Internet. In a sense, SD-WAN gets you as close to a dedicated line as possible while still using a broadband circuit.
With SD-WAN, businesses can expand unified communications to more locations in a cost-effective manner. For instance, if an organization has 200 sites and is worried about spending $800,000 for MPLS connectivity to support unified communications at each, IT can potentially cut the cost in half by using SD-WAN with broadband circuits. Or you can couple broadband circuits and MPLS installations and use the SD-WAN edge device to optimize both circuits for cost efficiency, sending voice and video through MPLS and other traffic through the broadband circuit.
SD-WAN Enables Centralized Management and Provisioning
UCaaS also becomes more accessible because the underlying architecture can be fully managed by a service provider. Need to extend services to a newly acquired business? SD-WAN supports zero-touch provisioning, enabling a remote office employee to plug the device in to get it up and running. There is no need to send IT to the branch office. All services, including unified communications, network configurations and updated policies, can be provisioned and managed through a centralized dashboard. This option also affords organizations access to analytics about the performance of unified communications traffic across the different circuits.
SD-WAN also provides failover, automatically switching traffic from one circuit to another in case of an outage or slowdown.
At West, we are proponents of the SD-WAN approach. However, we caution that making the move to SD-WAN with broadband takes some planning, and we realize broadband circuits are not universally available. Therefore, if you are currently running an MPLS network, start to research your options well ahead of your contract renewal. You’ll likely need a hybrid SD-WAN network with a mix of MPLS and broadband. Contact us soon to get started.
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