Using a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) that uses a virtual overlay to abstract the process of connecting your employees at remote offices to your mission-critical cloud apps carries several benefits. For example, SD-WAN costs are typically a fraction of what a traditional wide area network (WAN) costs. Plus, SD-WAN networks provide increased security compared to standard internet access protocols, reduce lag and latency compared to traditional WAN architectures, and deployment is easier than with a hardware-based WAN.
However, as convenient and useful as SD-WAN architectures can be, it takes a lot of specialized knowledge to properly deploy and manage these networks. This is why many companies opt to use managed SD-WAN services to handle their SD-WAN deployments and to troubleshoot any issues that may arise.
The question is: “How can you find the right SD-WAN managed service provider to meet your wide area network needs?” It’s important to vet your SD-WAN service providers just as rigorously as you would any other vendor you would use for your business (if not more vigorously).
To help you find the right wide area network providers to provide managed SD-WAN services, here are a few tips:
Check the WAN Service Provider’s SLAs for Network Availability
A service level agreement, or SLA, is an established guarantee of certain minimum performance levels for specific services offered by the SD-WAN managed service provider. One of the most critical SLAs that you need to nail down is network availability.
In managed SD-WAN services, network availability is a measure of how much of the time you can expect your network to be accessible. For example, will the SD-WAN network have a 99.9% uptime, or a 95% uptime? The closer the network availability SLA is to 100%, the better.
While any WAN service provider will need to take parts of the network or the virtualization interface down for periodic maintenance eventually, they should be able to do so without overly disrupting your SD-WAN services for too long. This is often accomplished by using redundant systems to create enhanced resiliency—when the primary system is taken down for updates/maintenance, the backup system takes over the load so your employees can use the SD-WAN service uninterrupted.
Verify the Security of the Managed SD-WAN Service
Security is an ever-present concern for any business. So, when considering a wide area network provider’s services, ask the following:
- How secure is the SD-WAN service provider’s network?
- Does the wide area network provider have any experience in cybersecurity?
- What kind of security products does the WAN service provider integrate with their network?
These are all questions you need answers to if you’re going to get a clear picture of how secure the managed SD-WAN service is. So, take the time to grill a prospective SD-WAN service provider on their security experience and the measures they use—it could save you a lot of time and trouble later on!
Check for a Co-Managed SD-WAN Service Option
While one of the primary benefits of using managed SD-WAN services is that you don’t have to worry about managing everything yourself, it can pay to check if the provider has a co-managed service option. With a co-managed SD-WAN service, you get:
- To stay in the loop regarding your SD-WAN network;
- Extra flexibility to make changes to your network on the fly when you want to make them;
- A reduced workload for your in-house team so they can tackle other value-added tasks; and
- Opportunities to let the SD-WAN service provider coach your in-house team so they can eventually manage the network on their own.
If you’re looking to grow to the point where you can eventually bring all of your IT tasks in-house, that last point can be especially important—because it’s something you rarely get with a wholly-outsourced SD-WAN management service.
Ask How The WAN Provider Monitors Their Solution and Provides Alerts
How does the SD-WAN service provider monitor their network for you? If anything happens, such as a dip in performance or a sudden loss of network availability, how will they alert you to the problem?
It’s important to establish the service provider’s monitoring and alert capabilities prior to acquiring their services. One major concern is verifying that their alert system can be smoothly integrated into your own alerting workflow. Otherwise, the alerts they generate could be misfiled or accidentally ignored—leading to major problems later.
Finding an SD-WAN managed service provider who can smoothly integrate their alert system into your business processes can be crucial for staying informed about emergencies.
Check How Their Customer Support Process Works
When you contact your managed SD-WAN service provider’s technical support, do you get put through a series of call center staff members with little to no working knowledge of the SD-WAN solution, or do you get put in touch with senior-level engineering resources as quickly as possible?
Many services have white label SD-WAN technical support that’s outsourced to non-experts to help them cut costs. However, this often ends up wasting your time by making you interact with call center staff who don’t know how to fix your issue (and aren’t paid enough to care).
Using SD-WAN managed service providers who let you skip the “Level 1” tech support to directly access the experts can make a world of difference in how much time and stress it takes you to resolve any technical issues you may have with the network.
Need help managing an SD-WAN solution for your business? Reach out to the team at Compuquip for help and advice. We look forward to hearing from you!