Business growth; it’s the aim for virtually all companies – but it’s often something that requires a fair amount of capital to achieve.

Most business decision makers are of the mindset that increased revenue leads to growth – but fewer take into consideration quite how much growth can be unlocked by saving money in key areas.

Since IT represents a significant spend for most companies, it’s worth taking a look at tech savings – and seeing if there’s a way to trim costs without compromising performance.

The good news is, SD WAN represents a way of trimming operational costs while enhancing network performance. Here, we’ll look at what the tech makes possible and how it can help your company grow.

What does SD WAN mean?

You’re probably already familiar with a ‘WAN’ – or Wide Area Network. In simple terms, it’s your business IT infrastructure, usually a central location that houses the bulk of your IT equipment and power, serving one or more ‘branch’ locations, each with their own dedicated secure connection.

Usually, this WAN will operate over a wide geographical area. Sometimes that area is one small town, in other cases, it’s the entire planet.

As well as having your IT equipment in one central location, it’s normal for the bulk of a company’s IT support team to be housed in this location too – after all, it’s important that they can maintain your key devices and systems.

So, that’s a WAN – but what’s an SD WAN? Well, it’s the same thing – but an SD WAN is ‘Software Defined’. This means that there’s a software overlay that’s used to control a wide range of WAN features – from the way that devices communicate with one-another, to how those devices are controlled.

What does an SD WAN system do?

SD WAN doesn’t actually add any physical features to your network. Instead, it’s a software ‘portal’ that allows your IT team to access a host of features. Provided your IT team have a secure connection, they’ll be able to access your SD WAN features, and this unlocks a host of functionality that would otherwise represent a lot of hard work.

Perhaps one of the most significant features for business is the way SD WAN makes devices talk to each other. Since an SD WAN system is designed to communicate with virtually all network devices, it effectively translates each working language or protocol so they can all mesh together and be controlled from one system. This has an interesting side-effect though; since different connection types use different protocols to communicate, unifying them all means the actual connection type becomes somewhat irrelevant.

From a business point of view, this is powerful.

For example. Let’s say you need to provision a new location as quickly as possible. Perhaps you’re going to be setting up a new branch office. In the past, you’d be somewhat tied to the fact that your WAN would rely on a secure, dedicated internet circuit to bring that location online. The problem is, dedicated circuits take time to install and configure – so your new location is likely to sit empty for 3-4 months until the local supplier can get a circuit into the premises.

This will often massively hinder operations – but has, for a long time, been a necessary evil when setting up new offices.

SD WAN changes this though. An SD WAN’s ability to unify your network’s language means that as long as you can get a connection into your building, the software can create a secure connection that works seamlessly with the rest of your infrastructure. From a growth point of view, this means you can act faster than ever before – and even set up offices with cellular connections, which means your provisioning timescales have been immediately cut from months – to hours.

Truly centralising your support

SD WAN doesn’t just benefit businesses by bringing new sites online quicker than before – there’s also a world of difference that can be made to the way you support your IT systems.

Traditionally, your IT team will be centralised – on hand to work on servers and mission critical systems at their location. While this is important, it’s also extremely inconvenient when a device that’s based elsewhere needs attention. Sure, you can set up a video call and have a non-IT member of staff fumble through the process – but this often doesn’t resolve the problem adequately. In many cases, there’s just no way around having IT support at each of your sites – or the inconvenience of having different managed IT support companies support at different sites.

With SD WAN, virtually every function within your WAN can be controlled remotely. If you want to restart and reconfigure your devices you can – and you can even manage connection settings that would usually require hands on the actual device.

From a business point of view, this is enormous. Not only can you make sure that your key IT people are next to your most mission critical systems and devices at all times, you can all rest easy knowing that they’re able to reach out and work on any part of your system should there be an issue.

In terms of growth, this essentially means freeing up a huge amount of operational spend by reducing your overall IT networking costs. IT teams do not come cheap – and even if you decide to outsource your provision to more cost-effective service providers, SD WAN means money into your business, instead of theirs. Of course, you may need the support of a managed service provider, like BrantTel, to install, configure, and maintain your SD WAN system – but again, this will then mean they can keep their eyes on your systems at all times, so you’re working with one specialist provider – instead of trying to mesh different providers with one central in-house IT team.

Ultimately, SD WAN unlocks operation cost and a huge amount of flexibility with provisioning and supporting additional business sites. In an ever-changing business world that demands agility, this could be the thing that gives your company the cutting edge.

Charles Bell, 26, based in Dyer, Indiana, is a student at Purdue University Calumet where he has received multiple academic honors. He is currently studying Information Systems and Computer Programming...

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