Among all the compelling business reasons to move to SD-WANs – software-defined wide area networks – there is one reason that sometimes doesn’t make the top 10, but should really be right up there contending for the top spot. That is the positive impact on the users of that network.

Companies are drawn to the greater visibility into their networks and the ability to understand their whole ecosystem of applications and how much bandwidth those apps are using. And then being able to set their own priorities for those applications.

For those organizations with existing or soon-to-be-opened branch locations, it’s easy to deploy high-speed connectivity to those sites. Then there are the additional advantages of reduced network outages, consistent high performance for business-critical apps, simplified and centralized network control and visibility, detailed views of app performance and usage, and overall boost in network efficiency and scalability. 

Is it the app or the network? 

Frequently, when users on a laptop or other device are having some kind of trouble, they’ll assume that something is wrong with the app they’re using or the device itself. But the network could be a factor in how that app is performing, which impacts the user experience.

This is particularly true in the current working environment in which users leverage all types of cloud applications. That has introduced a lot of new on-ramps and off-ramps to the network expressway, and just like a physical expressway, congestion can take a toll on how quickly and how enjoyably users can get to their destination.

There are so many moving parts in this scenario that it can easily overwhelm an existing WAN, which isn’t always particularly adaptable to the world of real-time and cloud-based apps and ever-changing branch office needs.

The SD-WAN cure

High network availability is one promise of a properly engineered SD-WAN. But even with a highly available network, it’s critical to address other potential problem areas, such as latency or congestion or the data delivery rate.

The well-built SD-WAN will have multiple connections to corporate sites, which enables the system to find the best path for the specific application need and to prioritize the transport of the most important data in line with the company’s specifications.

The intelligence of an SD-WAN, when combined with business policies and preferences, ensures that critical applications are always treated with the highest priority. For users of the top priority apps especially, it not only improves their experience, since they’re no longer fighting the network, but it makes them more productive. This holds true all the way down the apps priority list, since an efficient SD-WAN handles all the traffic more smoothly.

Our SD-WAN customers typically see performance improvements due to reduced latency across the network. And because of the multiple connections inherent in an SD-WAN architecture, traffic can be instantly rerouted due to congestion or even failure in some of those connections. These connections also positively impact user experience.

Doing it right

Moving to an SD-WAN is a deliberate process. It involves a deep understanding of the existing network and all the apps that are being used throughout the organization. It is an eye-opening experience for most companies, because even the most vigilant often aren’t aware of the full range of apps that are in use on the network.

In this consultative process, companies come to see not only how many apps are involved, but their bandwidth impact on the network. Even with the improved capacity of an SD-WAN, they still need to determine the top apps so they can be sure that what matters most gets through unimpeded.

That includes gazing into their future, to gauge their network and application needs over the next few years as well, so that as much future-proofing can be built into the SD-WAN as possible right at the beginning.

Many companies prefer to start their SD-WAN migration with a limited trial, to get a real sense of how this new architecture is going to work for them and to get proof that they are heading in the right direction. And after perhaps a couple of months of testing, in virtually every case the trial confirms to them that this is the right choice.

It’s important for companies to know that often a service provider will charge separate consultation fees connected with the process of investigating and designing an SD-WAN. This additional financial burden isn’t necessary, but something you should ask about when evaluating providers. Look for a provider that has highly trained design engineers that offer top-level support to help you design the best SD-WAN solution for your needs without charging you incremental fees.