Ollie Wallington, Head of Business Development at Wireless Logic
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly accelerated the shift to digital platforms and fundamentally shook up the IoT landscape. Companies were left with no choice but to embrace digital transformation and reassess business configurations in the wake of lockdowns and social distancing guidelines across the globe.
For many businesses, the only option is to expedite their adoption of flexible and cost-efficient network options to complement their cloud operations, delivering business continuity in what continues to be an uncertain market. Working with Managed Service Providers (MSPs), Internet Service Providers (ISPs), or directly with IT Resellers, organisations can maintain efficiencies across their increasingly intricate and distributed network. Traditional WAN is becoming less prevalent as it can often restrict growth and agility requirements, due to its limitations in cloud environments. As a result, businesses are deciding to refresh their WAN and consider SD-WAN to help manage an increasingly distributed workforce across a wide area network.
SD-WAN is a network that is abstracted from its hardware to create a virtualised network overlay that can span across large geographical distances and connect several locations to a central network. The technology relies on different forms of underlay communication, such as MPLS or ADSL. As well as fixed-line connectivity, we are seeing more and more projects now incorporating 4G and 5G as part of the SD-WAN connectivity piece, as a backup for improved security, network resilience and real-time connections.
End-to-end network resilience
While it’s been around since the early 2000s, it wasn’t until recently that SD-WAN’s adoption has spiked, which has led to organisations working with MSPs, ISPs and IT Resellers to ensure connectivity solutions that were rapidly deployed at the beginning of the pandemic are sustainable in the long term.
SD-WAN provides WAN simplification, bandwidth efficiency and lower costs, plus improved resilience and performance by using agnostic bearer services that minimise single points of failure across a wide area network. Retailers, in particular, are turning to SD-WAN and 4G as a failover solution to ensure uptime, and that they are always alive to transact in-store when a fixed-line goes down.
SD-WAN’s efficiencies are also beneficial to smaller deployments, such as satellite offices, and with critical applications such as voice and video. It can help choose the best path depending on latency, jitter and packet loss, and less critical applications can then be load balanced across multiple lines in order to optimise bandwidth.
In addition, SD-WAN enables ISPs, MSPs and IT Resellers to take advantage of uniting public internet, cellular, private and now 5G across a single, virtual and high-capacity network offering. Cellular plays an important role in these deployments, acting primarily as a back-up to a fixed-line, in addition to providing the ability to rapidly deploy a connectivity solution where a fixed-line is not available.
Confronting SD-WAN challenges
SD-WAN is a game-changer for distributed networks to address the demands of digital transformation within organisations. Nevertheless, SD-WAN migration requires careful planning to overcome potential challenges. One of the biggest considerations for businesses and their IT partners is SD-WAN security. Cloud firewalls are no longer sufficient in today’s increasingly connected marketplace, meaning that companies need to ensure tighter security features are deployed, configured and consolidated to restrict potential cyber threats and ensure employees can continue working securely.
What’s more, any SD-WAN security strategy that is developed and implemented must be flexible and scalable enough to meet the organisation’s future infrastructure requirements. ISPs, MSPs and IT Resellers can also show commitment to IoT security, through regular training, monitoring and auditing for their customers. Accreditations like the ISO 27001 information security management certification also demonstrates that the company takes the management of its customers’ data seriously.
Businesses and their IT partners are also faced with the choice of selecting a network provider. Network resiliency and reliability are an important value proposition of SD-WAN, and they need to select providers that are best suited to their needs. To navigate these challenges, ISPs, MSPs and IT Resellers can partner with a specialist IoT connectivity provider as they deliver connectivity across multiple mobile networks under one platform and bill. These experts have the relationships, knowledge and experience to effectively manage such processes, as well as minimising the complexity of providing multiple mobile network profiles to customers.
Future of the network
SD-WAN brings businesses much-needed ROI in today’s unpredictable and fast-paced marketplace, by improving operational agility, efficiency and performance in the longer term. Additionally, with cellular connectivity integrated into the solution, it gives business leaders peace of mind with a backup solution to ensure uptime, and that networks can be monitored or redirected as needed to improve application availability. For ISPs, MSPs and IT Resellers, SD-WAN allows them to bolster their network proposition by adding a simple, secure and flexible 4G or 5G connectivity solution as a failover or as primary rapid deployment connectivity where a fixed line is not available, with help from an IoT managed service provider with expertise in the industry.
Whilst companies and their IT partners can reap the benefits of this technology, they also need to consider the security risks associated with deploying SD-WAN, in addition to choosing the right network for their business. Still with the help of an IoT connectivity provider and as more companies move to SD-WAN, the migration process should become increasingly streamlined and less complex in the future.