How to Choose an SD-WAN Provider for Your Business

Looking for an SD-WAN provider?

Running a network solution that works for your business is more important than ever. You’ve got many solutions to choose from out there, but one of them, the SD-WAN, is hotter than ever. Many companies are turning to it since it’s a software-based solution that can offer your company high speeds and also erase geographic boundaries! SD-WAN stands for Software-Defined Wide Area Network. The right SD-WAN provider should also help you address your long-distance networking needs. 

In this article, I’ll walk you through the buying criteria you should look for when deciding on which SD-WAN provider is for your business. Before we dive into that, let’s take a look at the impacts an SD-WAN has on security, cloud, and networking. 

SD-WAN’s Impact on Security, Cloud, and Networking

One of the big benefits of using an SD-WAN is that it’s software-based. In today’s modern IT environment, it’s essential to have everything at your fingertips! An SD-WAN allows you to get all your information and control from a centralized control dashboard. You can also have zero-touch provisioning out of the box. That means your SD-WAN is ready to go without any lengthy configuration time or troubleshooting bad connections. Lastly, SD-WAN is also a low-cost solution since it’s software-based. You don’t need to purchase all the hardware associated with setting up a network. 

You’ve got the benefits down, let’s get into what you need to look for when you’re buying an SD-WAN. 

Top 3 SD-WAN Buying Criteria

In this section, I’ll cover the top 3 buying criteria you should consider when buying an SD-WAN.

1. Network Analytics

You’ll want to ensure the SD-WAN you get will give you real-time and logged network analytics. These help you keep track of your systems in real-time to detect any problems. 

You’ll also want them to provide some historical logs too, if possible. This will make diagnosing problems easier when you have historical data information references. For example, network analytics will show issues like latency, data packet loss, and throughput. 

2. Application Metrics

Besides monitoring your network for performance, you’ll also need to monitor your applications. Ensure your SD-WAN provider has some type of application performance management dashboard to monitor your own applications. 

Many SD-WAN providers now offer metrics that are closer to application performance monitoring. For example, they can track server response times and transaction times. Application-layer visibility isn’t a must-have, but this ability will make troubleshooting issues a lot easier with the application monitoring insights. 

Providing application-level metrics can also save time in fixing a problem with your SaaS provider or application team. 

3. Security Capabilities 

Security is also a big concern you’ll need to address. It’s important to look for SD-WAN providers that prioritize security

An SD-WAN topology now connects the branch office directly with the public internet rather than funneling traffic back to the central office. That’s why security must be distributed to each branch office site. If you plan to use an SD-WAN to connect branches back to the main office, you’ll also want to search for an integrated next-generation, application-aware firewall. This firewall must have the following features for complete protection:

  • Anti-virus
  • Anti-malware
  • URL/content filtering
  • Data loss prevention
  • Segmentation
  • IDS/IPS
  • Sandboxing

Now, I’ll guide you through the questions you must ask an SD-WAN provider. 

Questions to Ask an SD-Wan Provider

When deciding on an SD-WAN provider, you must have answers to all your big questions. What are these questions though? Here are some of them.

How Does the Vendor Provide its Services?

You can get your SD-WAN in 3 main ways

  1. Physical devices: SD-WAN services come in an integrated box that’s typically a modified server. These servers feature a zero-touch deployment that’s perfect for plug-and-play connectivity. 
  1. Software licenses: Companies buy or license SD-WAN software to run on their own servers at the branch offices and/or data centers.
  1. SaaS: The SD-WAN technology provider delivers SD-WAN as a service. The supplier also owns and operates any devices or software at the branch. This is 100% on the supplier side. The provider handles pretty much 100% of the setup and configurations, but you give up control. Once you select a provider, it might also be harder to switch in the future. 

What about Secure Access Service Edge?

Each day, the industry evolves more towards network-as-a-service. Thus, it’s important to keep up with the latest trends. That way, you ensure you’re future-proofed as much as possible. Secure access service edge (SASE) puts more functionality directly in the cloud. It also enables secure access from all endpoints, including home offices. This is important as new working models exist like remote, in the office, and the hybrid mix. 

You might also want to ask your potential provider about AIOps or AI Operations. The AIOps is the automation of IT Technology and the reduction of human-made mistakes. Human error causes many of the networking errors we see now. As this segment grows, more SD-WAN providers are offering this as a service. This helps better maintain the networks. It also helps clients troubleshoot when the network faces an issue. 

Network Technical Needs

You’ll also want to consider asking the following questions when it comes to the network’s technical needs: 

  • What are the critical applications and functions at your branch locations?
  • Are your applications on-prem or in the cloud?
  • Which cloud-based applications require prioritization?
  • What’s your current branch security architecture? What changes will you need to make to adjust SD-WAN?
  • Do you require WAN optimization for specific branch applications?
  • What are your key security needs? What kind of data do you need to protect?
  • Do your branches have guest Wi-Fi at the branches?

The Bottom Line 

Buying into an SD-WAN isn’t an overnight decision. It’s not an easy one either. You’ll need to look into many details and facets of your existing network and see what’s the best way to recreate them through an SD-WAN. 

On top of that, you’ll also need to research and question your potential SD-WAN providers. Are they going to offer the right tech for your needs? This guide should be your starting point down the road to buying an SD-WAN network. 

Do you have more questions about choosing an SD-WAN provider? Check out the FAQ and Resources sections below. 

FAQ

Can I save money using an SD-WAN?

You can find cost savings with an SD-WAN in administration—especially network service and ongoing maintenance. Network executives don’t need to travel to remote locations for SD-WAN deployments. They can get more done back in the office by using centralized, policy-based management.

What is an SD-WAN?

A software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) uses software to define the network’s attributes. This means you simply need to ship and power up SD-WAN hardware to your sites. Once online, you can then configure the SD-WAN centrally. SD-WAN also uses zero-touch provisioning (ZTP) to make using the setup much easier. 

What is application monitoring?

Application monitoring is a way to follow the real-time data produced from your applications. It also helps you ensure someone’s keeping an eye on the performance of your applications. You can see real-time data and know right away if some unexpected behavior comes up. You can then act on it quickly before your users know anything happened at all. 

What is a good SD-WAN provider?

The Exinda SD-WAN is a great example of an SD-WAN provider. It can manage up to 12 different internet types of transport like MPLS, T1, DSL, cable, fiber, satellite 3G, 4G, and LTE. The Exinda can also change your traffic profile to easily adapt if any changes happen. It can also easily solve network problems and bypass internet service disruptions. 

Why are so many moving to SD-WAN?

One of the main reasons to go to an SD-WAN is the lack of hardware.  You can also easily control it from a centralized command dashboard. The SD-WAN offers it all, and many levels of engagement. You can also get a box that is zero-touch configured.  You can get your SD-WAN as a SaaS, kickback, and let the provider handle your networking needs. 

Resources

TechGenix: Article on MPLS vs. SD-WAN

Learn more about the differences between MPLS and SD-WAN networks.

TechGenix: Article on SD-WAN

Discover the benefits of adopting an SD-WAN network.

TechGenix: Guide to Addressing the Needs of Enterprises with SD-WAN Technology 

Learn more about the needs of large enterprises operating on SD-WANs.

TechGenix: Article on SD-WAN Features

Discover all the SD-WAN features you should use to start today.

TechGenix: Article on Top SD-WAN Vendors 

Learn more about SD-WAN vendors, and start thinking about how an SD-WAN can transform your network!

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