Many organizations have struggled to take full advantage of their unified communications (UC) deployments, usually because of a lack of planning and buy-in across the organization. However, the perception of UC has begun to change. Organizations are now viewing UC as a competitive differentiator and promoting it as such. As a result, UC is being approached more strategically than in years past. Specific use cases are being identified and goals are being established. Detailed implementation plans are being developed to maximize end-user acceptance and utilization of UC tools.

However, the effective use of UC requires more than just a strategic approach — without robust WAN connectivity, users will experience garbled voice calls, jittery video and unresponsive conferencing. In most cases, UC performance problems can be traced to the WAN, particularly as more organizations replace costly leased lines and MPLS connections with broadband Internet links. Broadband Internet provides “best effort” delivery that’s fine for email, text files and web browsing but generally inadequate voice and video.

Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) technology has emerged as a solution that can help organizations maximize the value of UC. Following the software-defined networking model, SD-WAN uses software to centrally manage WAN devices. WAN configurations, monitoring and maintenance are automated, which reduces complexity and costs. Plus, built-in Quality of Service capabilities mean organizations can use broadband Internet links to reduce costs and accelerate WAN provisioning.

Connections are continuously monitored to ensure that traffic travels across the optimal network path according to predefined policies. SD-WAN reacts to changing network conditions on the fly with minimal if any manual intervention required. This is particularly valuable for organizations with branch offices that have little or no onsite IT staff.

How does SD-WAN benefit UC? SD-WAN creates a single, smart-link abstraction to aggregate bandwidth and control how data is sent over multiple WAN links. This improves network reliability and efficiency and allows traffic to be prioritized. For example, SD-WAN can ensure that UC traffic such as voice and video uses a less congested link with lower latency without the need for manual changes to complex routing configurations. If one link is lost, the impact on the WAN is much smaller, making the network far more resilient.

Also, organizations no longer have to backhaul UC application traffic from remote sites through the data center, a common practice that increases the likelihood of latency and packet loss. SD-WAN can measure path characteristics and determine the optimal traffic pattern, and establish secure and seamless interconnections between multiple sites.

IPC’s FastSpectrum SD-WAN solution, powered by InSpeed, makes it possible for organizations to meet the real-time requirements of interactive UC applications. FastSpectrum establishes a VPN tunnel that serves as a high-performance connection between an onsite appliance and a cloud-based controller. The onsite appliance self-configures and automatically prioritizes traffic for guaranteed Quality of Service. It’s a fully managed, plug-and-play solution that improves WAN performance by streamlining traffic.

UC can be a game-changing technology for your organization – if your WAN can handle it. Let us show you the benefits of SD-WAN for UC and how FastSpectrum helps you maximize these benefits.