The remote workforce is growing rapidly. A recent study by Swiss services organization IWG suggests that more than two-thirds of professionals around the world now work away from the office at least once every week. Although increased workforce mobility delivers proven benefits, it also presents some very real challenges related to enabling remote access to corporate communications, applications and data.

Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions address those challenges. Drawing upon software-defined networking (SDN) principles, SD-WAN enables IT organizations to dynamically mix and match connectivity options to optimize traffic, improve application performance and control expenses. These are essential capabilities for organizations looking to deploy and manage connectivity for small office / home office (SOHO) workers.

There are many good reasons why more organizations are looking to enable flexible working strategies. The IWG survey found that flexible working not only reduces commuting time but enhances productivity, staff retention, job satisfaction and even creativity. This is in addition to the financial and strategic advantages that it brings for businesses.

The rise of cloud computing, mobile access and unified communications have all contributed to remote work capabilities. However, these changes have also dramatically increased network traffic and intensified connectivity demands in ways that outstrip legacy WAN capabilities.

Traditionally, organizations provisioned dedicated circuits or multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) links to interconnect locations, backhauling web traffic to headquarters due to the inherent unreliability of Internet connections. As organizations continue to adopt advanced cloud services, mobile applications and collaboration tools, they’re finding that the cost and complexity of traditional WAN models are unsustainable.

In light of that, remote locations are increasingly implementing direct connections to the Internet. This reduces WAN costs but can result in performance problems, particularly with interactive applications such as voice and video conferencing.

This can be particularly problematic for SOHO workers who only have access to consumer-grade Internet connections. Connecting to an IP phone system via the typical broadband Internet service often results in garbled calls, delays, echoes and other issues.

That was one of the problems facing Denver-based law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. Brownstein sought to give its attorneys the flexibility to work from home as needed to better serve their clients but was concerned about call quality problems. When the firm turned to IPC for help, we immediately suggested the SD-WAN solution from InSpeed Networks.

InSpeed eliminates call quality issues by prioritizing interactive applications over other Internet traffic. A small onsite appliance sits between the Internet and the local network and automatically connects to the InSpeed cloud. Patented cloud technology continuously monitors and manages WAN traffic, while end-to-end encryption ensures robust security.

The plug-and-play simplicity of the InSpeed solution means that Brownstein’s IT team can manage the platform remotely through a web-based portal. The firm’s attorneys — many of whom are not particularly tech-savvy — gain a user-friendly platform that delivers the same high-quality experience at home that they had in the office.

Brownstein’s IT team has been so impressed with the technology that they are exploring other use cases. For example, the firm has implemented InSpeed for its after-hours help desk rotation so that technicians have the flexibility to work from home.

There’s no slowdown in sight for the remote workforce movement. However, organizations can only realize the benefits if they have a connectivity solution that ensures communication tools and cloud apps can be accessed and used with no decline in quality. InSpeed’s breakthrough approach overcomes the limitations of conventional WAN architectures to ensure clear communication and responsive apps over any connection.