What is SD-WAN? (Is it the Right Solution for Your Business?)


Having two Internet connections is a good first start.

At Integris, we advise each of our clients to have primary and secondary Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in place. The goal is to stay connected and have a backup circuit ready to go in the event one of your ISPs is having issues.

One popular approach is to pair a higher-end (more expensive) circuit with something more modest (and less expensive):

  • 1,000Mbps X 200Mbps AT&T Fiber (Committed bandwidth)
  • 300Mbps X 25Mbps Comcast Cable (Best Effort bandwidth)

If AT&T has an outage, Internet traffic gets redirected to Comcast – automatically or in very short order (minutes).

Maximizing application availability by strengthening network redundancy is the name of the game.

Learn More: Why You Need Two ISPs

However, there’s still a looming quality control issue. Circuits from AT&T, CenturyLink, Cogent, Comcast, Google Fiber, Windstream, Verizon, and others don’t have to officially “crash” to create conditions that cause client applications and business operations to fail or sputter along in an unacceptable fashion.

This is why a Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) solution is your next logical step.

What is SD-WAN?

I don’t know about you but calling anything a “backup” option makes it seem like the service is being wasted most of the time.

Because it only gets activated on an as-need basis. Good news: SD-WAN supercharges both of your ISPs so neither are ever sitting idle.

It’s an intelligent routing platform for navigating the most efficient paths across all backbones, clouds, and datacenters of the Internet. It reminds me of Waze due to the manner it selects the least congested “roads” for transport.

SD-WAN solves the problem of unusable performance levels with ISPs and redirects your traffic accordingly.

For example, if your conference call (with demanding investors) is choppy because AT&T is having buffering issues that cause latency and jitter with VoIP, SD-WAN will move the call within seconds over to Comcast (in real time).

In short, SD-WAN has your back but it’s far from just a backup. It’s your wing man, wing woman, or wing person with advanced ISP intuition. The technology knows which ISP is performing best and responds immediately.

Learn More: What Is SD-WAN

It’s available from all of the brand name ISPs and can involve very sophisticated enterprise level deployments with Cisco, Fortinet, Silver Peak, and VMware.

And now for a quick note to eliminate potential confusion: I am not referring to an older private networking technology that goes by a similar name, Software Defined Networking. That particular solution, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) is over fifteen years old.

Although often referred to as the “big brother” of SD-WAN, it was focused on connecting large enterprises with multiple locations (and branches) onto a single corporate network.

I’m also not talking about the SD-WAN port you might see on a Meraki Firewall. That’s a VPN setting and will not enable and negotiate intelligent Internet routing between different ISPs.

The SD-WAN I am gushing about is purpose-built for today’s cloud. It’s also reasonably priced and available to a much wider audience of small and midsize businesses.

Do you have the right SD-WAN partner?

While Integris could contract directly with all the major carriers for an SD-WAN solution, we have partnered with Big Leaf Networks for the following reasons:

  • An MSP-friendly business model that allows us to manage the service on behalf of our clients
  • 24/7/365 availability to Integris and by default, the businesses we serve
  • Unlike the large public companies who dominate the carrier space, they are nimble and responsive
  • They’re carrier agnostic which reduces your dependency on one ISP
  • The monthly fees don’t give our clients sticker shock (250Mbps for $299.00 per month)
  • It’s easy to provision with plug and play routers that get drop-shipped in a jiffy
  • Big Leaf has a wealth of reporting tools to demonstrate how they’re adding value

The following exhibits pertain to a Integris client. Data like this really builds confidence when answering the age-old question: “What have you done for me lately?”

For a deeper dive, please see the following video: How Big Leaf Works

What’s Next?

If your IT environment is similar or rapidly becoming more similar to a majority of today’s cloud-dependent businesses, it probably includes VoIP, SaaS applications, and a growing work from home footprint.

Big Leaf shines there as well. Learn More: Work From Home

The Integris team has decades of experience, and we look forward to helping you get the most out of your cloud journey.

Jed is a Solution Advisor at Integris who has specialized in MSP solution development, sales, and marketing communications since 2003.

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