By Hein Witte, Specialised Sales Executive for Telecommunication Services at T-Systems South Africa
With business continuity at the top of most IT agendas, organisations have in recent months accelerated their digital transformation plans. This is in response to the ongoing pandemic and lockdown, with significant emphasis being placed on adopting cloud solutions and enabling remote workforces.
Yet, these initiatives can be derailed if an organisation does not have access to cost-effective and, more importantly, stable and secure connectivity. This challenge can easily be addressed by a Software-defined Wide Area Network (SD WAN) – the relatively new, innovative corporate-wide area networking architecture and infrastructure that is being deployed globally.
An alternative and more dynamic approach to designing and deploying enterprise WAN solutions, SD-WAN is an ideal connectivity choice for companies implementing infrastructure to support a distributed workforce. It is particularly ideal for cloud infrastructure and systems, as it offers higher performance, while reducing bandwidth costs by making use of commercially attractive Internet access.
However, an enterprise SD WAN implementation can be a costly and complex exercise, making it prohibitively expensive and unjustifiable for Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs). Despite this, companies in this market segment, that support a remote workforce, have the same requirement for quality, reliable and secure connectivity as large enterprises.
In many cases, employees who work from home have to use their residential Internet connectivity for customer communication and engagement, but these services can suffer from degradation in quality that often result in a disruption of the engagement.
At the same time, organisations are realising the importance of enabling their mobile workforces to have good quality conversations and video calls with customers, as this impacts on customer experience.
Hence, the ideal solution for the SMB market and markets that are embarking on a hybrid workplace approach is a scaled-down version of the full SD-WAN offering. A lite SD-WAN solution can deliver an enhanced quality connection, which is reliable and secure, bringing corporate quality connectivity to mobile and remote office working environments.
Like the enterprise SD-WAN solution, the SD-WAN Lite offering is an architecture that is intelligent enough to use multiple connectivity technologies to find the best paths for a connection. For example, if a user has a fibre-based Internet service at home, when they install scaled-down SD-WAN, it would not duplicate, but rather leverage off the current connection, and add an additional technology to it, such as LTE.
Aside from high quality and reliable connectivity, the SD-WAN Lite solution also delivers several other benefits. It incorporates a higher level of security than a normal network, which meets compliance and other regulatory requirements. The solution has embedded intelligence to build secure connectivity back to the corporate environment, as well as segregate work and personal Internet traffic.
While SD-WAN is a fully managed service, the SD-WAN Lite is priced at 25%, or less, of a full-blown SD-WAN solution and can be implemented on top of existing Internet-based services, meaning that little existing infrastructure is required to install the technology.
Retail and financial services would be the most suited verticals to leverage off the SD-WAN Lite solution, as they engage with customers remotely on a large scale. It enables functional or business process requirements such as sales and support engagements with customers. Furthermore, it is a robust solution, that also has self-healing capabilities.
With an increasing number of SMBs currently embarking on a hybrid workplace approach, where staff work from home for the majority of the work week, stable and cost-effective connectivity has never been more important.
SD-WAN Lite is perfectly suited to organisations in the SMB space that want to continue to transact and even expedite engagement with their customer base, but have to do so – at least in part – remotely or from a mobile office.