Digital transformation (DX) has been on everyone’s lips for the past couple of years, but now with the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing that the necessity of DX has been greatly accelerated, as many businesses attempt to cope with the demands of a remote workforce and customers. Digital transformation (DX), of course, can mean many different things, but whatever type of DX you’re talking about, connectivity is at its core, and those businesses proving extraordinarily flexible seem to be fueled by software-defined networking (SD-WAN) playing the unsung hero in the background.
Doing any type of business in this current climate requires higher bandwidth, faster speeds, and more secure connections as demand is growing at an exponential rate that is far exceeding the capabilities of many companies. The COVID-19 pandemic underscores how important this is as the crisis has forced companies to test the limits of mobility and flexible bandwidth while maintaining secure connections.
The stark reality many businesses are facing is that their workforces are not mobile enough, and their networks are not flexible enough to make the transition to remote work in a way where operations aren’t seriously hindered. However, we’re seeing that companies that have already moved to SD-WAN are proving extremely adaptable at implementing remote connectivity and are benefiting from greater bandwidth at less cost in this current climate.
This is because SD-WAN virtualizes networking infrastructure piece-by-piece, allowing software rather than hardware to manage the network and its connections. This means you can implement major changes faster, cheaper and exert total control over how that network runs; introduce automation, orchestrations and security in ways that weren’t possible before; gain an entirely new way of looking at your network – you now view it through data, with visibility into applications and network traffic.
This is crucial in a crisis like we’re facing now. SD-WAN equipped businesses to have greater flexibility to scale their networks or introduce additional innovations to enable them to cope with the fast-moving and dynamic demands of our current environment.
Another imperative COVID-19 has thrust into the foreground is long-term cost efficiency as companies look to invest in solutions that offer them flexibility, reliability, and savings in times of economic turbulence – something SD-WAN is uniquely positioned to do. To be clear, deploying SD-WAN does involve upfront costs, just as adopting any new technology does, but in the long term digitizing your network can bring real cost savings, freeing up valuable resources during economic downturns and booms alike.
Think of it like investing in a Tesla or solar panels for your home that in the long term could save on gas or electricity. As many of us are truly embracing collaboration tools now more than ever out of necessity—think Webex, Microsoft Teams and Zoom, SD-WAN can deliver these services remotely—and more cost effectively than traditional internet connections.
Of course, before deciding on whether to deploy SD-WAN there are several factors to take into account:
- Consider your geographical needs. SD-WAN’s primary function is to connect multiple locations that aren’t physically connected, so it’s crucial that companies should look for an SD-WAN solution that provides no-touch provisioning so updates and applications can be provisioned remotely.
- Data security. It’s common for SD-WAN vendors to offer simple security features, but that may not be enough to protect against application-layer attacks. Identifying a vendor that provides advanced security features that can easily be managed is crucial when it comes to securing data. More often than not, this includes integration with security-focused applications that are specific to a portion of the security application stack, this management of the best of breed applications is key to success.
- Planning for the future. COVID-19 is sucking all the air from the room right now, but soon the widespread adoption of IoT and 5G will have profound impacts on how we interact with our customers. From virtual and augmented reality to enabling technologies like artificial intelligence, SD-WAN solutions deployed with the foresight to eventually support disruptive technologies are necessary, even if your business is not quite there yet.
As someone who’s overseen thousands of SD-WAN site deployments and is currently working with a leading fintech company to connect their banking clients across the globe, I can tell you that a strategically planned SD-WAN deployment can empower any number of business operations in innovative ways and give companies the tools to navigate extraordinary circumstances.
If you pull back the curtains on any successful digital transformation, there’s a good chance SD-WAN is a critical element of it. And as businesses adjust their IT strategies for a 5G-connected, post COVID-19 world, SD-WAN deployment is only set to accelerate.