How SD-WAN can drive efficiency and support digital transformation

For multi-site businesses, driving digital transformation successfully is no mean feat. If enterprises are going to embrace new technologies, they need to be underpinned by secure, agile and efficient networks. Unfortunately, IT decision makers are often wrangling with outdated legacy infrastructure, meaning their networks aren’t always in the best shape to support their business’ ambitions.

Complicating matters further, many enterprises have concerns about the investment that is often required to modernise their networks – not to mention how difficult it can be getting sign-off from the board for new projects. This scenario is all too common and often prevents IT teams from being able to take advantage of new solutions such as Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN). Although SD-WAN offers a host of significant business benefits, SSE Enterprise Telecoms’ research revealed that 43% of those considering implementing this solution are still worried about cost, while a third are concerned they would not get the savings and efficiencies promised.

Whilst those concerns should absolutely be taken seriously, the reality for those who have already deployed an SD-WAN solution is very different. For the vast majority of businesses, SD-WAN is actually helping to drive efficiency.

In fact, our research showed that fewer than one in five early-adopters of SD-WAN believe they are not yet getting the efficiencies promised. However, although these businesses have not yet experienced the savings they expected, with the visibility and control SD-WAN can offer, those benefits will come with time.

How does SD-WAN drive efficiency?

SD-WAN enables businesses to use multiple types of connectivity within their WAN – whether it’s Ethernet, optical or broadband – and route traffic dynamically based on application needs and quality. With the simple addition of a transport and vendor agnostic box installed at branch site, network managers can have full oversight of their network estate. This visibility gives them more control, flexibility and agility, helping to drive efficiency by ensuring the network is optimised effectively, can be deployed quickly to new sites, and integrated with new technologies.

Enterprises can also achieve greater insight into how exactly their networks are being used with real-time intelligence of the IT estate. For example, if an Ethernet circuit isn’t being used in the way, or as much as, it is provisioned for, organisations have the potential to make cost savings by reducing the capacity or by changing the connectivity type being used. SD-WAN gives network administrators the ability to make better, more informed decisions so businesses can begin to truly optimise their networks, and do so in a more timely fashion.

SD-WAN and productivity

SD-WAN also contributes to higher productivity, which can further provide efficiencies. In modern workplaces, employees depend on reliable, continuous access to digital applications. A slow network – which might be caused by a branch using too much bandwidth or an inappropriate type of connectivity – can lead to decreased productivity for the whole business, as well as interrupting important communications. Improved employee productivity as a result of better performing networks may be a less tangible metric to measure, but we can all empathise with the frustration felt when we don’t have access to IT systems or infrastructure which are essential for our job.

With SD-WAN, an organisation can choose which route traffic should take, for example ensuring only important or sensitive traffic is sent over Ethernet for guaranteed speed and security, while sending lower priority content such as email or Skype over Business Broadband. Ultimately, SD-WAN can ensure the right traffic is sent over the right connectivity, as well as making it clear to network administrators where they might need to review capacity.

SD-WAN can also improve productivity simply by freeing up time for IT personnel to focus on other digital transformation tasks. Businesses with multiple locations, such as retail organisations with multiple branches, have historically faced challenges when it comes to maintaining access to critical applications and data for employees across all their sites. Traditional legacy network hardware meant that skilled people had to manage it at each location – and time to market was also slow for new sites. With SD-WAN, once the initial box hardware is installed, networks can be deployed, managed and optimised remotely meaning quicker time to market and, fundamentally, quicker time to revenue.

SD-WAN can contribute significantly to successful digital transformation, ensuring that businesses aren’t held back by the constraints of their legacy infrastructure and are geared up for the future.

Supporting digital transformation

To thrive in the age of continual digital change, businesses need networks that can easily adapt while enhancing productivity – which is exactly what SD-WAN offers. With the improved visibility, agility and control offered by this solution, enterprises can move forward with the business of transformation, whether that’s introducing new connectivity solutions, onboarding new applications, or integrating with public and private clouds.

Only once businesses are armed with a thorough understanding of their networks and the ability to optimise their estates will IT decision makers be able to do all of this in a way that also drives cost savings and efficiencies. Although the exact impact of SD-WAN will vary from business to business, this should reassure IT decision makers that the initial investment into this network overlay is one which will soon result in a number of business benefits.

Take a look at our eGuide series to find out more about SD-WAN and the benefits it can bring to enterprises.

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