Some things are simply better together. Like Han Solo and Chewbacca. Or honey ham and Swiss cheese. Each of them is great on its own, but something special happens when you put them together. SD-WAN and UCaaS are one of those combinations that is greater than the sum of its parts, but companies typically don’t see them as a dynamic duo. Companies are typically either mulling over the idea of upgrading their outdated WAN to an SD-WAN … or they are thinking of upgrading their voice systems to a Unified-Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) solution. These are typically seen as two completely separate technology issues, but doing one without the other would be a missed opportunity for companies’ cloud strategies because of the way they enhance one another.
The benefits of doing these two implementations together are particularly dramatic for mid-sized companies because of the legacy technologies that they are usually upgrading from. Unlike large enterprises, which are typically pretty far down the path of cloud infrastructure investments, the 200,000 mid-sized companies in the U.S. are generally starting from much further behind:
- The underlying infrastructure they are using is often traditional WAN technology, which may quite literally be decades old if the company has a long history. Because it is technology that predates the Internet, let alone the cloud, a traditional WAN is highly problematic as a foundation for companies’ web-based apps, mobile computing and other cloud-related technologies. Simply put: performance is terrible, flexibility is non-existent, and maintenance is treacherous for the IT teams. Outdated WANs create problems that are very difficult to ignore, prompting companies to take a close look at a migration strategy for moving to a cloud-friendly SD-WAN.
- The voice systems that many mid-sized companies have are often equally outdated, since voice systems are typically at the bottom of the priority lists as companies with limited IT budgets weigh the most urgent systems to invest in. As a result, many companies’ voice systems pre-date the emergence of the cloud or simply utilize VOIP in a narrow way for cost savings without addressing their larger communications needs. Compared to the true cloud-based unified communications systems that large enterprises and small businesses use, mid-sized companies are often a decade or more behind, with voice systems that are a patchwork of technologies and fixes bolted together to try to get one more year out of the system, followed by hope that it will last just one more year, and one more year, and so on. This typically results in poor voice performance, lack of integration with other corporate systems, employees supplementing the system with rogue solutions that introduce security and compatibility problems, and many other issues.
Upgrading to an SD-WAN or making a UCaaS implementation each has major benefits. For example, a UCaaS implementation can instantly transform obsolete, costly-to-maintain, difficult-to-expand legacy voice and messaging systems into an integrated combination of web-based voice/messaging/video tools that enhance everything from uptime to customer experience to productivity. And an SD-WAN implementation reduces the complexity and downtime and optimizes the costs that so many mid-market companies experience with their outdated traditional WANs, which are poorly suited to support the diverse set of cloud applications that companies are running today. SD-WAN provides a dynamic, adaptable, intelligent foundation for managing all of that traffic in a way that gives each application what it needs to perform optimally while making cost-conscious decisions about how to utilize various grades of bandwidth.
SD-WAN and UCaaS each have a major positive impact on its own, but together they are much greater than the sum of their parts:
- By implementing an SD-WAN as a central element of a cloud strategy, a company has an “application-aware, cloud ready” network that can actively manage how bandwidth is sourced and utilized, routing traffic in ways that optimize the performance of every application.
- And the SD-WAN’s dynamic management of bandwidth ensures that the UCaaS gets prioritized so that employees have high-quality voice and video tools that are reliable for customer communications and other external and internal collaboration.
- With the SD-WAN as the foundation, the UCaaS can perform to the specifications it is designed for, while also allowing the company to manage broadband/network costs effectively by using higher-cost services only when needed to ensure application performance while utilizing lower-cost, commodity services whenever and wherever it can to save money.
- In return, the UCaaS implementation provides a clear blueprint for how the SD-WAN should be designed and managed, and the unified communications applications become Exhibit A for how the SD-WAN implementation is having a positive operational impact on the organization.
For mid-sized companies, this kind of dual implementation not only addresses two sources of daily operational frustration — poor performance of the network and an outdated voice system — but can also give much-needed clarity and direction to the company’s cloud strategy. Together, these implementations can serve as a centerpiece of a cloud strategy, delivering benefits that will be easy for the entire organization to see in ways ranging from integrated cloud-based voice tools to far faster network performance. And with these wins in hand, it may even be easier to build support for the next phases of the company’s cloud strategy.
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