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8 Points to Help Tailor SD-WAN For Your Agency

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No one SD-WAN solution is right for everyone.

Some come with security built-in, some with it as an add-on. Some are best for cloud-based enterprises, others for the traditional spoke-and-wheel approach to networking. While changing your network to SD-WAN is a step in the right direction, it's not enough by itself to get the most for your agency.

So how do you get a tailored SD-WAN? First, work with a vendor like Hughes that gives you a wide range of SD-WAN solutions from best-in-class vendors, backed by the expertise to find the right solution for your specific needs. Secondly, it's all about measurements. 

See the eight points below to better understand how to tailor an SD-WAN solution that measures up to your agency's needs.

Security

Nothing is more critical in networking than security. In distributed enterprises, you must find a service that provides the right level of protection to defend against threats without excessive burdens that prohibit productivity. After all, more is at stake than a few packets here and there. Massive fines. Downtime. Loss of reputation. Getting the right-sized security offering can be the difference between success and failure by itself.

So how do you secure your tailored SD-WAN?

  • Determine if your SD-WAN has the necessary security built-in. Some solutions require a complimentary security system. Be sure you have the time and expertise to implement.
  • Is the solution PCI compliant? Does it meet other certifications your industry may require?
  • Some SD-WAN solutions have edge-based cloud security (e.g., at your remote office locations) or cloud-based, a more centralized approach. Is your network designed for intra-branch traffic or just SaaS-based traffic, with most traffic working through a cloud environment shared in your company? Do your network applications require intra-branch traffic, or will your traffic route directly to a data center or cloud service? The answer dictates which security solutions will work for your company.
  • What advanced threat management features do you need? These days it’s crucial to provide services that offer protected wi-fi connections, especially guest wi-fi networks.
     

Cost

While security is paramount, the cost is often the most significant constraining variable in an SD-WAN purchase. A big cost driver is specific SD-WAN solutions that charge based on bandwidth usage. These have a variable monthly fee on top of the software license and hardware costs. The move to SD-WAN will be a cost-saver in the long run, but understanding the budget will ensure you get the performance you need.

How do you find the right price?

  • Understand what the price includes. Operating and maintaining your SD-WAN can be an addition to the initial deployment costs. A Managed Service Provider can provide ongoing 24/7 support, maintenance, and repair far more cost-effectively than most companies can deliver on their own.
  • Understand any variable costs that may go up or down, for example, with metered connections
  • Don’t pay for bells and whistles you may not need.

Real-time Apps

You don’t want your VoIP service to put your business on hold because, say, a customer is streaming endless content at your coffee bar. Understanding how many real-time applications like voice and video you have, and understanding their importance in your ecosystem, will help you find an SD-WAN solution that will perform.
For example, with the Hughes Managed SD-WAN solution, we use Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to assure high-priority applications get the resources they need.
To tailor an SD-WAN solution for your agency, ask the following questions:

  • What and how many real-time applications do you have?
  • What is their importance in your service delivery?
  • What level of performance are you willing to accept?
  • What solutions does the vendor provide to classify packets by data and prioritize your most important traffic?
  • Does the vendor have sub-second path selection and multi-session optimization?
  • Does the vendor have an application assurance approach that maximizes the performance of the constituent interaction points?
  • Do your applications require high-level interactivity? The constant back and forth of data flow like an AI recommendation engine, or an employee app that allows for mobile service delivery are examples of the interactivity Hughes can support.

Cloud Access and Application Location

Not all networks are the same. Where are your apps located? Are they local at each agency site, in a series of data centers, or cloud-based and working as a SaaS model? What types of cloud access you need and how important is local versus cloud-based computing to your agency will determine if you’re optimizing your network or paying for connections that don’t map to your network topography.

How do you find a tailored cloud program?

  • Is your agency cloud-centric, data-centric centric, localized, or a hybrid model?
  • Do you route all traffic through a few data centers?

Service Level Needed

Like cost, this should be a point you decide on very early in the process. How much network optimization do you have the ability and desire to take on? Do you want to take your valuable IT staff tasked with network management, or do you need them working on more productive, service-delivery tasks? Do you want to assume the burden of staying current with the latest updates and advances, or do you want a partner to look ahead and handle the day-to-day patching and updating that goes along with network maintenance?
At Hughes, for example, we have a full buffet of service options, from our fully managed offering to pure customer DIY. And while fully managed may carry a higher cost, it provides many benefits from maintenance to optimization that pay off sooner rather than later and allow you to focus on an exceptional customer experience.

How do you decide on service coverage?

  • What level of technical expertise do you have on staff?
  • Do you need extended hours or 24/7 coverage?
  • Can you deploy a large-scale network change without interruption to your core services, or do you want a partner to help ensure a smooth transition?
  • Do you want network analytics made available?
  • Do you want zero-touch provisioning?
  • How much time over the next five years do you want to devote to network maintenance and updating?
  • How much time do you want to devote to staying current on network trends to keep your network competitive?
  • Do you have a help desk and ticketing system? Do you want to continue to carry that expense?

Agility

Agility has a specific meaning. How quickly can you make changes? 

Can you efficiently run different configurations at different sites? How easily can you stand up new areas or pilot new technologies?

What does tailored agility deliver?

  • Reduced time to implementation
  • Dynamic and automatic configuration updates
  • Ability to stand up and unwind sites without impacting business
  • Fluid transition to new cloud services or SaaS apps
  • Ability to alter the underlay circuits, upgrading from 4G to 5G, without affecting the SD-WAN overlay

Partnership Stack

Maybe you like what you have and want a solution that will work with the existing infrastructure. 
The right partner should with your current technology stack. 
Don’t sacrifice what’s working if you don’t have to.
How to get a tailored partnership:

  • What parts of your infrastructure currently perform well?
  • What would you like to keep?
  • What parts of your infrastructure have certifications or have met compliance regulations that you may need to continue using?

Bandwidth

SD-WAN will allow you to leave legacy dedicated circuits (MPLS) for a more scalable, flexible, and cost-effective solution with Broadband. Scaling your bandwidth based on requirements at each location will allow you to do much more for the same budget.

What does tailored bandwidth look like for you?

  • Determine what capacity you need both at average, peak, and beyond peak traffic levels.
  • Understand what WAN optimization and compression techniques the vendor provides and determine how that impacts the capacity you need. Thoughtful planning, and the use of a robust SD-WAN solution to optimize performance, allows for circuits to be right-sized, ending the cycle of buying more capacity to meet occasional needs.
  • Determine if your network requires the use of metered connections like satellite or cellular. How does your vendor work with metered connections to minimize dependence and maximize performance?
     

Understanding these 8 points can help you to choose a tailored SD-WAN that leads to more success for your agency. Download our Infographic.

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