Blog

SD-WANs The SMB Way

December 15, 2022
Industry Commentary

SD WAN technology is well understood in large enterprises and many medium-sized businesses. But small businesses have not yet caught on to their benefits, partly because of the complexity and cost – but also to a large extent because they don’t understand what SD-WAN it can bring to them.

What is SD-WAN?

A Software Defined Wide Area Network, or SD-WAN can mean many things to many people (principally which marketing person you are talking to!). But at its core is the ability to scale performance, increase reliability, and generally improve user experience. In its most general form, an SD-WAN allows an Managed Service Provider to “manage” the connectivity between multiple sites – either physical offices or cloud setups – without having to go out there and physically reconfigure routers or install new ISP connections.

Also, a “true” SD-WAN often includes a path optimization piece, that constantly monitors all the paths over the Internet backbone between every pair of sites, and adjusts traffic distribution to maximize quality. If one link in the chain goes down, for example, the software defined wide area network system can rejigger the traffic distribution on the fly to find the best QoS for the entire system, and not merely reroute the traffic around the failed link as in standard routing setups.

Needless to say, all this comes with an attendant level of cost and a steep learning curve. To create a “true” SD-WAN, you have to go around the country buying ‘nailed-up’ connections between various Points of Presence (PoPs), and then install policy-based routers that respond to commands from centralized monitoring and control NOCs.

Fortunately, small businesses don’t need all of the complexity and cost of a “true” SD-WAN to realize many benefits. How so? Read on.

What SD-WAN benefits do SMBs need?

SMBs rarely require ‘nailed-up’, QoS-controlled, dedicated connections between sites. Instead, they look for:

  • Reliable Internet connections
  • Best QoS achievable without dedicated links
  • High throughput without excessive cost
  • Simple management (preferably, no management!)

So what would be usable for an SMB would be a system that lets them inexpensively realize these benefits without spending an arm and a leg. Enter Uplevel Systems.

The Uplevel Approach

Uplevel Systems secure remote worker gateways support an “SMB-friendly” form of SD-WAN technology that is implemented as follows:

  1. Take two separate ISP connections (preferably from two different ISPs) and logically ‘bind’ them together to act as one.
  2. Perform detailed QoS measurements on both of the links, all the time, to determine the quality of each connection.
  3. Distribute traffic down these connections according to the measured QoS to assure the best possible user experience from the LAN to the Internet.
  4. Use a centralized ‘one-click’ site-to-site VPN setup to connect the various sites of the SMB together.

This is fairly advanced technology under the hood, marrying together real-time QoS measurements, policy-based routing, automatic tunnel management, etc. But it works, and it provides a number of benefits:

Benefits of Managed SD-WAN Providers

This is fairly advanced technology under the hood, marrying together real-time QoS measurements, policy-based routing, automatic tunnel management, etc. But it works, and it provides a number of benefits:

1. Cost-effective

Getting nailed-up MPLS trunks for your very own SD-WAN backbone is, to say the least, expensive. Enterprise-class SD-WAN providers have to pay these costs; so did you realize that with most SD-WAN services, you wind up paying by the megabit? It’s far cheaper to go down to your friendly neighborhood ISP and have them install a second ISP service for your customer.

2. Simple setup

Plug in the two WAN links, click a few buttons on the dashboard, and voila! It’s set up and running. Once it’s running, the system keeps it monitored, configured, and running.

3. Improved reliability

The “SD-WAN Lite” mode of an operation simply falls back to standard failover if one of the ISP links goes down. Of course, the customer might notice that the service is not quite as stellar as it was with two links, but at least it’s there!

4. Enhanced scalability

Adding a site? Just drop in a gateway and connect up the two ISP links, and the system automatically reconfigures to bring up and fold in the new office.

The Parting Message

SD-WAN is becoming popular, with more companies adopting the services and more SMBs needing the benefits of these services. A conscientious Managed service providers understands the requirements of small businesses and examines what solution can suit their needs well. 

Uplevel Systems helps such MSPs provide SMBs with powerful infrastructure credentials and an accomplished team of experts to drive their network needs. With the latest solutions from Uplevel Systems, your business can move off often efficient network management.