The software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) delivers a number of business benefits by enabling organizations to centrally manage and monitor different types of WAN connections. Policy-based management makes it possible to dynamically route and optimize traffic to branch locations, prioritize mission-critical applications, and provide Quality of Service for real-time applications such as voice and video. If one connection is down, SD-WAN can automatically detect an outage and move traffic to a working connection. Because you don’t have to configure network devices individually, it’s much easier to change and update policies.

SD-WAN also allows you to take advantage of different types of connections. Many organizations are relying less upon expensive MPLS connections and taking advantage of broadband Internet and wireless LTE services. This allows you to provision connectivity more quickly and gives you the flexibility to scale up or down based on current business needs so you don’t have to overprovision for peak demand.

Unfortunately, many organizations don’t realize the full benefits of SD-WAN because they struggle with implementation and management.You have to learn and evaluate the technology and vendors. Once you procure the equipment, you have to learn how to operate it. There’s a significant learning curve involved, and most organizations don’t have the in-house expertise to support a seamless migration to SD-WAN.

As a result, organizations typically take a phased approach to SD-WAN implementation to account for every minor issue that pops up, from configuration errors to software glitches. To get it right, you have to take it slow, which delays time to value.

Part of the implementation process is choosing the right connectivity options. For example, Internet connections are cheaper and easier to set up, but MPLS connections are more reliable and deliver more consistent performance. You need to choose the right connections for specific workloads to not only control costs, but to ensure optimal performance.

You also have to configure WAN optimization at each location and implement a system for monitoring your connections and the health of your network. Many organizations take the “zero-touch” selling point too literally, not realizing that SD-WAN needs to be continuously monitored and fine-tuned.

Security needs to be part of the planning process from the outset. While SD-WAN solutions often have built-in tools, you’ll likely need to deploy additional security solutions to ensure that your connections are private and protected, and that costly data breaches and compliance headaches are avoided.

Because SD-WAN often incorporates multiple devices and applications from multiple vendors and service providers, managing and troubleshooting such a complex environment can be difficult. Developing policies that are consistently applied across all connections is a complicated process. This complexity, combined with a lack of in-house expertise, can easily bog down your staff and delay problem resolution.

These challenges have one thing in common. They all can be avoided with the right expertise and guidance. Let IPC help you select and implement the right SD-WAN solution and provide ongoing monitoring and management to ensure it’s working properly and supporting your business goals.