It’s been a challenging year for IT. The pandemic has reshaped everyone’s working habits. Businesses first had to adapt to remote working, almost overnight in some cases. More recently, we’ve seen a move to hybrid working, with employees returning to the office when permitted, and working from home on others. And things continue to be fluid.

It was through this run of events that some businesses found out exactly what their network could and couldn’t do. Those that had already prioritised agility and mobile working found themselves in a better position to cope with rapid change and make a success of business continuity. Others have been playing a tricky game of catch up, and many IT teams are still feeling the pressure of this.

Make a positive move

What these events have highlighted is that organisations need to be a step ahead on networking capabilities. And the move many are choosing to make to improve agility and security is the move to Software-Defined Wide Area Networking. SD-WAN is particularly relevant for SMBs with multiple branches. Whether you have 200 employees or 2,000, SD-WAN can help you improve the performance of cloud applications, boost user experience and cut costs. 

What’s wrong with traditional WAN?

Traditional WANs weren’t designed for cloud services and SaaS applications, such as Office 365, Salesforce, Slack and Dropbox. Typically, traditional WANs require backhauling all traffic from branch offices to a hub/data center for security. The delay hinders application performance, which in turn causes a poor user experience, denting productivity and morale. This set up can also mean you’re paying more than you need to for the traffic flowing across your network. 

Why is SD-WAN the answer?

In essence, SD-WAN is a highly secure, software-based approach to wide area networking, that provides greater flexibility and control over connections between multiple sites in an organisation. It can use any mix of connectivity – broadband, 4G/LTE, FTTC and MPLS – letting you control how traffic is directed and prioritised across multiple uplinks. It enables your network to adapt instantly and intelligently to changing performance conditions and maintain quality of service. With SD-WAN solutions able to provide security and intrusion protection, cloud-destined traffic doesn’t have to be backhauled from each branch to a central hub. It can flow from branch to cloud safely and securely, delivering improved application performance. Real-time performance monitoring makes it easy to spot and fix issues across the network, often before quality of service is affected. 

What does this mean for business?

SD-WAN can overcome legacy issues associated with MPLS, deliver cost savings, simplify management and boost agility. Businesses can make cost savings by directing traffic along the right connectivity option. For example, you can steer traffic away from MPLS and onto cheaper broadband where quality of service isn’t an issue. More expensive MPLS can be reserved for latency-sensitive traffic, such as VOIP. Smarter routing improves application performance wherever employees are working – in-branch or remotely. 

With SD-WAN technology, you have centralised control via a user-friendly dashboard. Changes can be made quickly and easily in minutes, whether they are part of the company’s strategic vision or in response to unforeseen circumstances. This increased agility strengthens the business’s ability to take future events in its stride.

Lake District National Park Authority – a real-world example

We recently partnered with the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) to bring their network infrastructure up to date. They have 12 offices spread over 900 square miles, with a mix of connectivity solutions – SDSL, ADSL, fibre to the premises and radio, plus VOIP and homeworkers on VPN. There were a number of factors driving the need for change – ageing firewall, limited functionality on VPN routers, no redundancy and security concerns. After considering a number of solutions, Cisco Meraki was selected. 

Happy, confident customers

By using Cisco Meraki, we were able to deliver a reliable SD-WAN solution that ticked off all required outcomes – WAN Failover with Auto-VPN, no dependence on fixed IP, PCI compliance, improved malware detection, support for more nodes and remote access VPN. It was efficient to implement, with downtime for some sites as low as 10 minutes. LDNPA now has a platform that’s secure, easy to manage and ready to be built on as needs arise.

A flexible solution to fit your business

What this example demonstrates is how SD-WAN overcomes many legacy issues and limitations with minimum effort. Cisco Meraki is a particularly powerful solution as it offers a complete cloud-managed IT portfolio with single pane of glass management. Integrated hardware, software and cloud services deliver simple, secure, optimised connectivity. You can manage it in-house or take advantage of our managed service option. 

Trust TruStack to get you future-ready

At TruStack, we’ve put SD-WAN in place for many different customers, and we can offer the upfront expertise and ongoing support that creates an end-to-end solution for businesses small and large. If you’d like to understand what SD-WAN could do for your business, please get in touch with us. 

Contact us via our form available here.