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A DIY SD-WAN Guide: 4 Steps to Get You Going
Are you looking to increase the performance of cloud-based applications? Or are you looking to increase network reliability or decrease network service costs? Then, SD-WAN solutions can be the perfect solution for your enterprise!
Recently, I helped a client to select an SD-WAN solution that they wanted to install themselves. Here were some of the benefits and what enterprises can expect from each one:
- Better performance for cloud-based applications – Depending on the SD-WAN solution and design that you choose, enterprises can take full advantage of cloud applications and maximize the performance. With the right design, you can get the most out of your UCaaS and CCaaS solutions.
- Increased reliability – By combining multiple vendors and multiple technologies (MPLS, ethernet, dedicated Internet, broadband, wireless, and even satellite), you WILL increase your network reliability.
- Cost savings – Well yes, sort of. It depends where you are starting and how much you are spending today. If your network is not optimized today, you may save a lot. If your network is already optimized today, you may not save as much. You also must consider the costs of network security and adding network redundancy. For SD-WAN to make sense, you need to value all the benefits, with cost savings being one of them.
- Performance/uptime – We were surprised at how many customer references told us that their SD-WAN network, once installed was “set it and forget it.” While there are many factors that go into the design (the SD-WAN solution itself, network services design, technology, and carriers, as well as network security solution), the vast majority of references had a similar theme. Keep in mind that we looked at top-tier providers only.
So, if these results sound appealing and you’re looking to do SD-WAN yourself, consider these below steps.
1. Decide on a Network Design
One of the first things to consider when planning a SD-WAN deployment is what type of network you want. Here are the two most common network designs:
- Traditional network – Many clients like the control and secure feeling of a private network with a centralized firewall that will be easier for them to manage the Internet, and therefore, the cloud-based applications. These clients can still realize the benefits of SD-WAN but may limit their cloud performance and network redundancy.
- Internet-based network – Providing multiple direct Internet connections from each site, sounds a little scary and tricky to manage, but with the right design and network security solution, a high-performing, highly redundant network can be a reality.
There is no right or wrong answer here, it’s all about choosing the right fit for your needs.
2. Select a Network Technology
There are many options – both private (MPLS, ethernet) and public (dedicated Internet, broadband, wireless, satellite). There are advantages and disadvantages of each, so deciding which technology matches your needs is important. Equally important is the site location and the availability of network services nearby.
3. Understand Your Broadband Options
When it comes to network service providers, there isn’t necessarily a ton of choice. When you’re outside the Metro areas, the service providers can be a bit more limited than you might expect. You might find an ILEC, an alternate carrier, and a broadband-pushing cable company nearby. But there aren’t always tons of broadband options out there in every market. To counteract this, you will likely need to consider multiple technologies (ethernet, broadband, wireless, for example).
4. Choose SD-WAN Providers, Partners (Don’t Forget Security!)
Before deciding on a solution, do your homework. There are many online ratings, and Gartner’s Magic Quadrant is always a good place to start if you need a few good vendors to consider. The manufacturer will likely have several vendor partners on their website to choose from. Talk to them, check their references, and ask them about each other’s solutions. Their solutions will soon begin to become clearer.
For security, same thing, do your homework and consider Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. Once you find the top manufacturers, check with manufacturer reps or the vendor’s website to find a well-suited vendor. Again, talk to them, check their references, and ask them about the other’s solutions. Lastly, if you can find a partner who can install BOTH the SD-WAN and firewall services, consider that as an option. They may be stronger in one area than the other, but the benefits of having one vendor install the entire solution might outweigh selecting the best partner of both the SD-WAN and firewall manufacturers.
Now, you’re ready to start implementing!