COVID Drives Home Importance of SD-WAN To Remote Workers

Over the past couple of decades, a growing number of enterprises continue to invest in technologies that ensure that employees have secure, reliable access to corporate networks to work from wherever they are, regardless of the quality of their internet connection or access device.

While there are many versions of this type of digital transformation available, it is not until the unprecedented public health emergency brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic that we have seen the need for a flexible and remote workforce become so crucial and widespread.

Among the most prominent technologies during this period is the use of the Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN). This virtualization architecture lets enterprises leverage different transport services, including broadband internet, LTE, and MPLS, to provide users with secure access to business applications.

COVID Drives Home Importance of SD-WAN To Remote Workers

Pre-COVID, SD-WAN Technology Made No Economic Sense

Traditionally, traveling employees and a handful of remote users would dial into their work network via VPN, which creates a tunnel to the resources they need behind a firewall.

According to a study by John Burke, principal research analyst, and CIO at Nemertes Research, only 40% of providers of managed SD-WAN had a remote-access solution tailored for home workers. What’s more, he notes that most enterprises that have SD-WAN deployed have it on their premises instead of purchasing a managed service. For work-from-home use, these businesses would also require a VPN.

When most workers could come to the office to work, the economics of having an SD-WAN implementation only made sense for branch offices with multiple users, but there was no ROI for individual users.

COVID-19 Has Changed the Economics of SD-WAN

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, IT departments now see SD-WAN as a viable option for high-priced, skilled workers like engineers or designers who require persistent access to an organization’s large, critical, or sensitive files. With SD-WAN, the network edge goes further than the branch office or the cloud, all the way to the employees’ homes.

When compared to a VPN, a typical SD-WAN appliance costs $1,000 or more. This was not cost-effective to implement for individual employees who, in the past, only worked from home occasionally. However, with high-priced employees working 40 hours or more from their homes each week, the economics of having SD-WAN rather than a VPN connection suddenly starts to make more sense.

Does Residential SD-WAN Make Sense for Your Business?

Knowing if you should extend your network’s edge to an employee’s residence depends on the following factors:

  • What work is the employee doing? Most work tasks, such as working with Office 365, do not need an SD-WAN. However, CAD and engineering assignments will benefit from the quality of an SD-WAN connection.
  • What is the cost of the employee? You can make a case for SD-WAN, where high-priced workers’ higher productivity justifies the high cost of implementation.
  • What does your existing infrastructure look like? If you already have a stable VPN-based work from home program, it makes sense to continue using it. However, if your infrastructure is struggling under the demands of new shelter-in-place regulations and a large number of WFH employees, consider SD-WAN.

Residential SD-WAN Implementation for Work-From-Home Employees

Compared to a VPN, residential SD-WAN offers more flexible security, making it better for persistent connections. Additionally, it has a clout traffic routing capability that lets applications like Salesforce or Office 365 connect directly to services rather than backhauling through a data center.

The coarse-grained approach that VPNs use to grant remote access means that they treat most users the same. VPNs will usually route all user traffic over a connection, which means that even non-work-related traffic runs through the corporate gateway to the internet.

However, SD-WAN offers IT departments a more refined approach to remote user access and security management. With SD-WAN, traffic either goes to the primary office or directly to the cloud. This depends on the parameters set up for the user and ensures the optimal use of corporate bandwidth.

Thanks to zero-touch provisioning, which is a feature of most SD-WAN gateways, IT can offer SD-WAN appliances directly to fellow employees for installation. When plugged in, devices can self-provision, connecting to the head office with little interaction required from the employee.

COVID-19 has forced all organizations into a rethink of their business continuity plans. While large numbers of employees are working from home to stay safe, innovative technologies such as SD-WAN that move the edge of corporate networks to employees’ homes ensure that companies continue to deliver their services uninterrupted.

Due to the flexibility of SD-WAN, staff can access collaboration applications and mission-critical business data with prioritized access on a secure network. This is particularly important with workers competing for bandwidth with other members of their families who are also at home streaming video and playing games.

To get started with implementing your SD-WAN, click here to get in touch with us or call us at (646) 859-3330.