Our team sat down with Steven Horgan, a Director of Product and our SD-WAN subject-matter expert here at NetFortris to answer key questions we're hearing from companies of various sizes and industries on the topic of SD-WAN.

Q: What is SD-WAN, and how is it different than traditional networking?

A: Traditional wide area networking (MPLS) utilizes equipment and last mile access that is both expensive to purchase and to maintain. Along with cost, MPLS is also geared towards enterprises that prefer closed-loop environments for housing their own business applications.  As a business grows, the cost and complexity continues to grow as well.  Every node in an MPLS network must work in unison with each other, however these devices are managed separately with their own operating system and inherent network functions.  All of these challenges can not only create additional hard costs for the business, but also exponential time and effort spent by the IT staff in charge of maintaining it. 

SD-WAN on the other hand can be utilized with any access type, allowing businesses to purchase low cost circuits, while adding SD-WAN as an application overlay.  This technology relies on a centralized management platform in the cloud, to control your network traffic and functions.  Unlike MPLS networks, SD-WAN profile-based policy changes can be done remotely and pushed automatically to all devices with a single click of a button.  What once may have taken hours or days for a small IT staff to do, can be handled by a single administrator in a matter of minutes.

SD-WAN is a cloud-based networking platform, so naturally this technology is geared towards cloud-based business applications.  Unlike MPLS which excels at on-premise applications, SD-WAN optimizes cloud application delivery by directing and prioritizing cloud-based traffic.


Q: How do I know if I need to switch to SD-WAN?

A: SD-WAN provides different and varying types of value that can benefit most businesses. To find out if your business could benefit from SD-WAN, ask yourself the questions below. If any of these answers are ‘yes’, then SD-WAN may be worth considering:

  • Does my company rely on many cloud applications? (CRM, collaboration, productivity, storage, documents, HR and finance)
  • Does my company have several branch locations with different types of connectivity and equipment at each site?
  • Has any of my branch or HQ locations have issues with network drops, or inconsistent network stability?
  • Has my company been considering network cost saving initiatives?
  • Do you lack visibility into how your company traffic is being utilized?
  • Has private circuit availability restricted your ability to open new branch locations in time?
  • Does my IT staff feel overloaded with network management functions?
  • Has my company been using the same private circuits for more than 3 years?
  • Does my company utilize tradition active/passive circuit backup?
  • Does my company use 3G/4G at any of my sites?


Q: Is it only for enterprise companies? How does it work for a mid-size business?

A: SD-WAN is a great fit for companies of many sizes. Mid-size businesses often require a level of access and control that private networking can provide, but cannot take on the high costs.  Today small businesses along with larger enterprises are taking on more and more cloud applications as a core element to their business operations.  This along with cost is driving many business types towards SD-WAN solutions.  SD-WAN allows businesses to Bring-Your-Own-Bandwidth while utilizing cloud-based SDN functions, in an environment and budget that is comfortable for them to operate in.


Q: Is it expensive?

A: SD-WAN provides private networking capabilities, granular traffic control, analytics and visibility at a significant cost savings compared to MPLS. The real details are in the costs per Mbps. A traditional MPLS circuit (T1/E1) can cost a business around $100-$300, meaning your cost per Mbps is in a similar price range ($75-$200/per Mbps). SD-WAN allows you to utilize cheaper broadband circuits and other access types, which can cost your company as low as a few dollars per Mbps.

The less obvious costs are in the maintenance of your MPLS network.  The larger your organization, the more branch locations you have, the greater the time and effort it takes for your IT staff to keep everything running.  When we can take a process that use to take hours, and trim it down to minutes, we see a great amount of labor costs cut down.


Q: What kind of downtime can I expect?

A: NetFortris Total Control WAN is policy based, meaning the equipment pulls all its configurations from the cloud the moment you plug it in and activate it. This process takes a matter of minutes, compared to other traditional, manual configurations that take much longer. Most companies can expect the entire end-to-end process to take 30 minutes or less per branch.

When talking about a new branch site that does not yet have connectivity, downtime can be much greater. The time it takes to get a MPLS circuit out to a new site can take months, which can interfere with a site launch date. Broadband circuits take a fraction of time to install, meaning your site is up and running quickly.

Click here for Part 2 of our SD-WAN Q&A with Steven! Or learn more about our SD-WAN product now.