Digital transformation is vital for businesses of all sizes, from SMEs to global corporations. For companies, remaining competitive and relevant in today’s marketplace means becoming increasingly digital. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought renewed urgency in meeting digital transformation goals, forcing most organisations to speed up their efforts. In fact, according to a recent McKinsey Global Survey, companies have accelerated the digitisation of their operations by three to four years. In addition, the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolio has significantly increased by seven years. 

A recent report from BCG also found that decisions around digital technologies are increasingly embedded in the core of the business. Part of this includes establishing an agile, flexible and efficient business network that can handle modern business demands, security and 24/7 access to applications or data. The next generation of network infrastructures need to be deployed whilst ensuring that there isn’t a trade-off between security and resiliency, since they are all important requirements in today’s digital marketplace. 

Rise of SD-WAN

With 80% of employees wanting to work from home after the pandemic, enterprise connectivity is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but central to any digital workplace strategy. The tech-savvy workforce demands robust, stable and fast infrastructure that enables them to remain productive and efficient when working from home or the office. These workplaces are also becoming increasingly collaborative, with teams geographically distributed across the country or the globe. With that in mind, the business network must be able to provide remote and cross-border access as we move into our new normal.

However, the traditional centralised Wide Area Networking (WAN) model that once served their needs, is starting to break down. Organisations are increasingly re-examining SD-WAN to modernise their internal infrastructures and enhance their business. SD-WAN stands for Software Defined Wide Area Networking and is used to connect data centres and offices over large distances, allowing them to share data or applications with ease. 

Research from IDC confirmed that SD-WAN continues to be one of the most popular segments of the enterprise network market, with annual revenues set to grow by 30.8% to reach $5.25 billion. One of the key factors for its rise in popularity is that SD-WAN reduces costs, improves the user experience and strengthens connectivity to and from the cloud. 

Benefits of SD-WAN

SD-WAN brings modern businesses a number of advantages that empower today’s cloud environments. Firstly, it delivers improved user experience for employees and business leaders alike. This is because SD-WAN doesn’t require backhaul to a data centre, meaning offices and remote workers can connect more easily to the network. Not only does this translate to better productivity and performance, but it also provides lower latency and higher performing connectivity. 

What’s more, SD-WAN simplifies operations by leveraging automation in cloud connectivity, while offering centralised control through a flexible network management system or hub. This means it is significantly easier to onboard new users and remote offices, which is truly valuable with the introduction of flexible and hybrid working environments. Most companies now operate in multi-cloud environments and SD-WAN can support the connectivity or help navigate any challenges when businesses leverage the clouds of their choice.

Security considerations

However, as with any emerging and disruptive technology, SD-WAN can be vulnerable to security threats. By enabling employees to remotely access and connect to an organisation’s network, businesses can run the risk of IT sprawl and numerous endpoints that add a layer of complexity to network security. 

Standard SD-WAN offerings provide out-of-the-box security features, but these should not be used as a standalone solution to securing a company’s network. What’s missing for modern businesses is sophisticated security measures that prevent data loss or online threats. Furthermore, these security tools do not automatically integrate with the organisation’s existing security infrastructure. It’s critical for businesses that are deploying SD-WAN networks to understand that additional security features beyond baseline offerings are needed.  

Next generation networks

The future looks bright for SD-WAN, with Forrester’s Technology Adoption Profile stating that 90% percent of network managers are looking to evolve their WAN using a software-defined approach. This is largely due to the marketplace’s shift to hybrid working, meaning employees need to seamlessly access work applications in the office, at home or when commuting. To achieve this, businesses need consistent, secure and high speed connectivity, which is where SD-WAN comes into play. 

This emerging technology provides greater flexibility over the network and allows organisations to scale or future-proof themselves when leveraging emerging technologies. Whether it’s 5G, IoT devices or big data, SD-WAN can help businesses to better manage network traffic to ensure high-quality user experience across the enterprise. It’s also important for businesses to remember that with these new capabilities comes security considerations that they need to consider when deploying SD-WAN.

By Alan Hayward

Alan is the eSales & Marketing Manager at SEH Technology.

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