The Pros and Cons of SD-WAN in Houston

If your Houston-based business needs a better network, you may want to look into SD-WAN.

SD-WAN is the Future

For many years, designing business networks meant finding a trade-off between speed, performance, security, and cost. A software-defined wide area network, or SD-WAN, lets you move data around your business without having to make these compromises. It’s driven by a fundamentally different approach to routing the data. Let’s break down the pros and cons of SD-WAN in Houston.

The Traditional Approach

A wide area network (WAN) is a network that isn’t tied to one location (like a local area network). It lets staff and computers at your Houston business securely communicate even if they aren’t all in the same building or all in Houston.

A key design feature of the traditional WAN model is becoming a significant shortcoming for many businesses. That’s particularly the case with MPLS (multiprotocol label switching), a technology that figures out the shortest route for data over a WAN.

With this model, all transferred data, regardless of its source or destination, needs to be “backhauled” to a central location for security inspection. That clogs up bandwidth and introduces latency (delayed responses), which can mean software applications work less usefully.

This approach exists because, with traditional WAN, the traffic management and security are built into the networking hardware itself.

Change is Necessary

While the shortcomings of WAN were once an irritation people had to live with, the changing world of business technology has made those shortcomings untenable for many. The increasing use of different connection methods, including mobile broadband, has complicated matters. Meanwhile, the boom in cloud-based applications has increased not just the amount of data businesses generate but the proportion of it that needs to be transferred.

The Difference with SD-WAN

The fundamental difference with SD-WAN is using software to separate functions such as security and control from the physical hardware of a network. That means you no longer need to have all data travel to a specific physical device. Instead, the software can inspect, secure, and route data in the most efficient way without unnecessary delay. This software can be based anywhere, including a cloud-based approach.

One potential drawback is that any existing hardware, such as routers, may need reconfiguring and regular firmware updates to avoid complications with the SD-WAN.

Basic Features

Not all SD-WAN implementations work the same, but these are some of the defining features that you’ll find in most setups:

Central Control Interface

“Central” in this sense means you can control the SD-WAN’s operation from one interface (which doesn’t require you to be in a specific physical location.) This lets you set and change rules that apply to all the hardware in your WAN.

Multiple Connection Types

An SD-WAN can bring together different connections — such as fixed-line broadband, local networking cables, and cellular data — usually with security measures such as a virtual private network. One drawback here is that things get more complicated if your network involves multiple internet providers, for example, if you have offices outside Houston in different regions or countries.

Dynamic Path Selection

This takes the basic concept of internet traffic — routing data over varying connection paths for greater efficiency — and adds in extra controls. This can include applying different rules for data from specific users or applications. For example, your SD-WAN could prioritize assigning video call data to a route with low latency or sending particularly sensitive data on the most-secured connection route.

Features to Look For

When you choose an SD-WAN or somebody to set it up and maintain it, look for some of the following points. These may affect how you balance the pros and cons of SD-WAN when deciding if it’s the right solution for you.

  • Can you make quick changes — for example, when you start using a new software application — without needing lengthy or complex reconfiguration?
  • Can the SD-WAN network automatically adjust and update itself to adapt to any network problems, such as physical damage to a cable or a device failure?
  • How much control do you have over security, particularly when it comes to the connections between your premises and online servers such as data centers or cloud-based applications?

Houston Support & Management

While you should now understand the pros and cons of SD-WAN, you may feel uncertain about whether you can make the move. It’s only fair to say that deploying and maintaining an SD-WAN is a significant technical task.

The good news is that you don’t have to do everything yourself. Network experts can help you with as much or as little of the process as you need, ranging from consulting on your needs to fully designing, installing, and maintaining an SD-WAN. Meriplex is an industry leader and SD-WAN specialist based in Houston, so we can offer an in-person perspective. Contact us today to get things started.