Many businesses are looking to modernize their WAN edge with SD-WAN. It can help them improve application performance and reliability while also lowering costs. But, before making this critical investment, it’s essential to understand the best practices for a successful implementation. It will help avoid any buyer’s remorse down the road.
Create a Plan
Like any large infrastructure project, mapping the process and creating a timeline is essential. Doing so helps avoid unexpected delays and ensures all involved parties know their responsibilities. It also allows IT teams to stay on track, especially if they balance SD-WAN implementation with other ongoing projects and customer demands. It’s essential to understand your organization’s current network strengths and weaknesses. It is particularly true if your organization has a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy and requires consistent security and performance across different platforms. An effective SD-WAN solution should support cloud on-ramp and off-ramp, simplifying connectivity while ensuring performance, regardless of your underlying infrastructure.
You should also identify mission-critical applications and assess how well they play with SD-WAN. Ideally, SD-WAN best practices will enable you to establish and monitor QoS metrics for these critical apps. Finally, you should determine whether your company wants to manage its own SD-WAN or if you want to opt for a managed deployment. If you choose a managed model, you must be comfortable with your IT team’s ability to handle day-to-day management and monitoring tasks.
Identify Your Requirements
Before a team starts looking at SD-WAN solutions, it should clearly understand its business model and measurable goals. It will help shape the questions it asks providers and give them a better idea of what features are essential. Some essential requirements that most companies have for an SD-WAN include traffic shaping, load balancing, and QoS policies. These will determine how much bandwidth is prioritized for specific applications and whether or not it’s shared across dedicated circuits, commodity Internet links, or both. Many solution vendors have built-in capabilities that help businesses set and enforce these expectations.
Other vital considerations include security and network visibility. A good solution should be able to provide an encrypted overlay network and support redundancy and failover. It should also be able to collect real-time data statistics and connect with all endpoints. Companies may want a zero-touch deployment feature that minimizes installation time at each branch and allows them to use existing customer-premise equipment. Others may prefer a managed-service model with “feet on the ground” to handle hardware issues and troubleshooting.
Identify Your Vendor
The right vendor can speed up how quickly you can achieve the networking capabilities your organization needs. It can also distinguish between a successful SD-WAN transition and one that isn’t. A good SD-WAN provider should deliver a comprehensive, holistic, and integrated solution that includes network resiliency, advanced application performance, access technology flexibility, centralized management, and advanced security. It should simplify cloud on-ramp, maintain high data services performance, and easily support hybrid or multi-cloud deployments.
It should also offer a scalable and flexible bandwidth that lets users flex their capacity as needed. It’s essential for organizations that operate across multiple sites. Additionally, it should be able to provide a robust monitoring framework that provides alerts and thresholds, along with the capability for third-party tools to unlock additional insights. This way, enterprises can identify and resolve potential issues more quickly. It can help to minimize downtime and maximize their investment in the technology. A pass-through setup may also allow organizations to maintain their existing WAN infrastructure.
Create a Timeline
While SD-WAN can significantly streamline WAN management, it also creates new operational considerations that may need to be considered with traditional networks. For example, if a business is prioritizing applications based on quality of service metrics, it must be prepared for the impact of those changes on end users. It’s essential to plan for potential risks and set measurable goals. It can help IT teams assess how the solution will play with mission-critical applications, determine budget and long-term costs, and identify security concerns. It’s also critical to have collaboration among multiple stakeholders, including networking and security teams.
Before beginning a full-scale deployment, it’s recommended that you run a proof of concept with up to 10 sites to observe, adjust, and optimize traffic performance. It would help to consider how you want to manage your SD-WAN, whether on a self-managed, co-managed, or Do-It-For-Me basis. Finally, you’ll need a clear plan for distributing hardware across all locations and a staging and configuration process. You’ll also need a secure area to store this hardware.
Test It Out
SD-WAN solutions can provide real-time visibility into network traffic and application performance to deliver an exceptional experience. They can also enable security with features like firewall logging and integration with SIEM platforms. Many organizations work with a managed service provider for their SD-WAN deployments. It can alleviate some of the internal issues that may arise during a project and help teams focus on ensuring a successful launch and ongoing maintenance. Using a managed service provider also allows leveraging their expertise throughout deployment. It helps ensure the SD-WAN solution is correctly configured and paired with legacy networks. It also means that changes to the web can be rolled out more rapidly and with fewer errors than on a device-by-device basis. Another advantage of collaborating with a managed service provider is their ability to help install the solution. It can reduce the time required to deploy a new office and ensure that cabling, hardware, and software are matched up correctly. It can be essential for organizations with offices in multiple locations worldwide to avoid downtime during a switchover.