In a world where crucial businesses processes need unmeasurable accessibility, something was bound to change. While software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) were first introduced in the early 2000s, these innovative systems took over a decade to take root and truly address network issues.
Let’s start with the basics. At its foundations, an SD-WAN is a software-defined approach to wide-area networking. For enterprises and companies with multiple network endpoints — this is a revolutionary step forward. What does this mean for network managers?
An SD-WAN allows for automated business policies, routing freedom, and the ability to monitor performance and usage for end-to-end visibility of the entire wide area network.
Network Management & SD-WAN: The Basics
Network Management Definition
Let’s get the boring information out of the way.
- The process of managing, operating and administering a data network through a network management system.
Today, we combine both hardware and software to collect and interpret data. Network management best practices leverage a centralized server to harness and analyze this data. Yes, this is an incredibly basic way to explain a very complex infrastructure. But it should help provide some framework for how an SD-WAN can improve your company’s network management processes.
What About SD-WAN?
Think of an SD-WAN as a virtual version of a more traditional WAN infrastructure. It allows a business to utilize existing transport services, such as MPLS, broadband, and LTE internet services, to connect users to company applications.
In its current state, SD-WAN leverages a centralized control function to direct traffic in a secure way across the WAN. SD-WAN checks all of the boxes with network management best practices as it both speeds up functionality while also lowering overall cost.
SD-WAN at a glance:
- Enables cloud-based enterprises
- Provides superior application quality of experience (QoEX)
- Empowers application-aware routing for faster service
Let’s Go Back in Time
Before fully understanding how an SD-WAN can simplify your company’s network management processes, we need to take a trip back in time.
Back in 2003, the world was a much simpler place. This was true only in general terms but also regarding network management. Companies that relied on remote offices relied on rudimentary software and applications to run operations. Most businesses needed email, a standard enterprise resource planning software (ERP), and a handful of custom applications.
In addition to these remote offices was a data center that housed a wide range of servers. To connect these two points, multiprotocol labeling switching (MPLS) offered a reliable and high-quality connection. The issue was the expense.
An MPLS connection was incredibly costly and required each office and data center to have individual routers that weren’t cheap.
As the years progressed, applications became more complex, and cloud-based software began to take hold — the amount of traffic a business relied on for everyday operations became incredibly taxing on an MPLS connection.
Sending cloud traffic that is destined for the internet back to headquarters doesn’t make much sense. By relying on this outdated method, companies suffered from:
- Added delay
- Degraded application performance
- Costly lease line bandwidth consumption
Where We’re at Today
Today, these MPLS connections are dealing with the same basic requirements of facilitating email, ERP systems, and custom applications. However, they are now overburdened with certain modernities.
From social media and SAAS programs to the countless cloud-based systems needed to compete in the current marketplace — the ways of yesteryear simply can’t keep up. The classic WAN structure that relies heavily on traditional routers was not designed for the cloud.
Now, companies need a better way to manage network processes that prevent backhauling cloud-destined traffic to and from data centers. SD-WAN systems offer:
- Improved business productivity
- Better user quality of experience
- Accelerated business initiatives
- Potential to lower costs
How SD-WAN Can Simplify Your Network Management Processes
Your users don’t care about where their apps are hosted. Whether it’s in a SAAS, data center, or the cloud — they simply expect optimal performance and fast speeds.
If you were to ask users whether their online performance is better at home versus the office — most answers would state that their home provides faster speeds and more reliable connections. That’s because when they are at home, they are accessing applications directly through the internet instead of dealing with countless traffic backups that exist in a modern business.
So, let’s answer the million-dollar question: How can an SD-WAN simplify your company’s network?
A software-defined wide area network with the right features gives companies the ability to securely utilize the internet as a way to reliable route for WAN transport, expand (and overtime even replace) MPLS services.
Internet speed, accessibility, and reliability is the catalyst for a high-performing business. It’s not rocket science. But, it doesn’t stop there. SD-WAN systems offer a solid bedrock for future innovations and changes within both cloud-based systems but also emerging technologies.
SD-WAN offers four unique benefits for businesses struggling to integrate existing applications with cloud services.
- Increased security by removing traffic vulnerabilities.
- Boosted performance by centralizing control functions.
- Lower costs by cutting down on hardware reliance and network management.
- Optimized cloud experience through automation and augmentation to organize tasks and allow for faster remote accessibility.
Take Charge of Your Company’s Network Management
As cloud-based systems continue their conquest, it’s become a necessity for businesses to make changes to their network management best practices.
For companies that rely on branch offices — an SD-WAN offers a way to lower traffic overhaul that could lead to slow speeds. This is because SD-WANs offer a way to customize the orchestration of channels and traffic. Not only will this make UX more consistent, but will also make the network far more reliable, even if you have existing MPLS connections.
Resource-intensive network administration such as installing, upgrading, and maintaining software for network performance can also be drastically reduced through SD-WAN systems.
Whether you’re looking to completely revamp your company’s network management process or want to slowly transition to an SD-WAN system, the choice is yours. At the end of the day, you’ll receive faster, more reliable performance for a fraction of the cost.
More and more, businesses are relying less on traditional office settings as they turn to remote work structures. Due to this shift to remote work, companies depend on mobile internet solutions to receive reliable broadband internet connections from anywhere.
Mobile internet solutions such as tethering and hotspots allow employees to tune into conference calls on the road and access important shared folders from different locations. Both solutions can provide fast internet access to enhance business operations. However, tethering and hotspots differ in how they secure an internet connection.
Between tethering and hotspots, are you curious to know which is the right choice for your business? Keep reading to explore the pros and cons of each mobile technology.
What Is Tethering?
Tethering is one way to obtain an internet connection through a mobile device. With tethering, you can use your existing data plan on your mobile phone to share an internet connection with another device, such as a laptop or tablet.
In order to share an internet connection with another device through tethering, you need to connect the two devices through mediums such as:
- A USB cable
Traditionally, tethering was accomplished by physically connecting two devices with a USB cable. However, most modern smartphones allow you to set up a private, secure Wi-Fi hub that you can connect to on another device. This Wi-Fi hub is commonly referred to as a “personal hotspot,” which is not to be confused with the mobile hotspot devices we’ll explore later.
Tethering Pros and Cons
Mobile tethering offers an excellent solution for getting quick work assignments done when out of the office. However, it is typically not compatible with consistent use during business travel. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of tethering for business operations.
One of the main positive benefits of tethering is convenience. When you connect other devices to a Wi-Fi hub on your mobile phone, the other devices share your cellular network’s data limits, speed, and reliability. Because of this, people know what to expect when they connect to a tethered network.
Since mobile tethering is based on an individual’s cellular data plan, many businesses opt for tethering if they don’t want to invest in dedicated mobile internet hardware for out-of-office operations.
Tethered connections achieved via a USB cable offer immense data security. Since the data is confined to the wires inside the USB cable, the connection is strong and typically not prone to interference.
If you want to create a personal Wi-Fi hotspot via tethering, the caveat is that most smartphones require an unlimited data plan to support personal hotspots. If your individual network plan has data limits each month, you may not be eligible to create tethered hotspots unless you upgrade your plan with your wireless service provider.
Not to mention, using your mobile phone to create a Wi-Fi hotspot requires a great deal of power, which in turn drains your phone’s battery at a fast pace. Additionally, some wireless service providers limit shared data, which could cause you to reach a data cap quickly when you share between devices.
What Is a Hotspot?
Dedicated mobile hotspots are different than personal hotspots that were mentioned above. While personal hotspots can be achieved through tethering, a mobile hotspot is a wireless router that connects to your service area’s cellular tower.
This wireless router provides multiple Wi-Fi-enabled devices with constant access to broadband internet. Unlike tethered personal hotspots created on smartphones, dedicated mobile hotspots provide high-speed LTE network coverage to up to 15 devices. Routers and modems are commonly used today because they are built to connect multiple devices to the internet simultaneously.
Mobile hotspots can be used in people’s homes, allowing each family member to connect all their devices to the same network. Additionally, mobile hotspots are often used in public spaces such as restaurants and coffee shops where customers can connect to the wireless network via a password.
Hotspot Pros and Cons
Just like with tethering, mobile hotspots offer advantages and disadvantages depending on their intended usage. Common pros and cons of mobile hotspots are:
Compared to tethering which drains battery life, many mobile hotspots run on large lithium-ion batteries that can support Wi-Fi for 24 hours on battery power alone. With a mobile hotspot, you can achieve a day’s work with battery power instead of only a few hours.
Additionally, most mobile hotspot devices offer impressive internet speeds. Since mobile hotspots are specifically designed to connect multiple devices to the internet, their antennas provide a better connection with faster speeds compared to internet connections created on a mobile phone. Depending on your network provider and individual mobile hotspot, you can see speeds of up to 50 megabits per second (Mbps).
Mobile hotspot devices also provide robust security features. Many mobile hotspots support virtual private networks (VPNs), which allow users to create a safe, private Wi-Fi network. In the case of multiple devices, mobile hotspots will enable you to:
- Customize what can be seen in guest networks
- Track how much data each connected device uses
- Adjust guest access credentials
Mobile hotspots don’t have too many drawbacks. The only potential disadvantages of mobile hotspots are paying for the physical device and having to set up an additional piece of hardware.
However, if you don’t mind paying for the mobile hotspot hardware and setting it up or carrying it around, mobile hotspots make for a fantastic solution for businesses.
Which Connection Is Best for Your Business?
Tethering and mobile hotspots both offer solutions for internet connectivity. While tethering uses cellular data on a mobile phone to provide internet access to other devices, a mobile hotspot connects multiple devices to the internet through a physical piece of hardware. When it comes to business operations, using a dedicated mobile hotspot is generally a more sustainable way to provide internet access to multiple devices.
If you’re looking for support or advice about which internet networks to use, reach out to Integrated Communications today. You can schedule a free network audit to determine the best telecommunications options for your business.
Numerous companies are changing the way they communicate internally each year. Businesses are seeking cost-effective and efficient solutions as technology continues to adapt. Most companies find success through unified communications as a service (UCaaS), and with all of the benefits UCaaS offers, it’s easy to understand why.
Are you interested in taking your business to the next level by streamlining internal communications? Read on to discover the top benefits of UCaaS that will enhance your business operations.
What is UCaaS?
As you read the term “UCaaS,” your mind may think of a similar acronym, “CCaaS” (Contact Center as a Service). The history of contact centers as a service is similar to unified communications as a service, but the two services are used for slightly different purposes. CCaaS handles customer communication through efficient call center services, live-chat help, and email communication.
The difference is that CCaaS deals with outbound customer communications, and UCaaS handles internal business communications. UCaaS offers helpful internal communication features such as:
- Call routing and forwarding
- Conference bridging
- Instant messaging
- Video conferencing
- Virtual receptionists
- Voicemail-to-email transcription
- Fax-to-email transcription
The most impressive characteristic of UCaaS is that it consolidates a company’s enterprise communication applications into a single cloud-based platform. UCaaS solutions are designed to support flexibility and interdepartmental collaboration through modern, streamlined workflows. Typically, a business’s IT team purchases UCaaS solutions to improve internal communications.
3 Impressive Benefits of UCaaS
So, UCaaS accommodates internal communications, but why should businesses switch to UCaaS from their current operations? Is there that much of a difference? The answer is yes; UCaaS offers a plethora of exciting benefits for businesses. Let’s dive into three of them.
1. Remote Work Support
Ever since March of 2020, remote work has become normalized and preferred by many companies. Many employees prefer working from home because it offers added flexibility and accessible accommodations for people with particular health needs. Some people appreciate the flexibility as they raise children, and others value not making long commutes. Whatever your reason for operating remotely, it’s here to stay.
However, with remote work comes communication challenges. Collaboration, tracking tasks, and interacting with co-workers become difficult to execute in a remote setting. Thankfully, UCaaS solves a lot of issues that past communication systems couldn’t remedy.
UCaaS operates in the cloud, meaning all of your company’s virtual communication can occur whenever and wherever. UCaaS pulls this off by delivering video calling, document sharing, virtual meetings, chat rooms, and voice calling all through a single platform.
Your employees can even set up one phone number so people can reach them in the workplace and out in the field. This allows your employees to collaborate whether they’re in the office, at home, or a mix of the two.
2. Improved Efficiency
Every business owner knows the consequences of too much downtime. So every company is searching for ways to work faster and more efficiently. With UCaaS, business operations excel because blackouts and hard drive crashes become a thing of the past. Your team never has to miss a beat because even if one communication channel goes down, you can smoothly switch to another format in the cloud.
With cloud-based communication through UCaaS, manual updates are not needed. This means your IT team no longer has to spend precious time tending to your communication system when they could be improving functionality elsewhere.
With UCaaS, all updates are automatic, and they’re delivered in small batches to avoid disruptions. Any time spent tinkering with internal communication issues can be better spent moving your business operations forward.
When you have a UCaaS platform, you have the flexibility to choose between multiple communication methods depending on what would be most efficient for your company. Additionally, UCaaS can work with your employee’s own devices such as computers, smartphones, and tablets. This allows employees to use whatever devices they’re most comfortable with, which can help their productivity levels.
3. Lower Costs
The only thing better than an efficient and flexible internal communication system is an affordable one. Switching to UCaaS from older communication systems can prove to be incredibly cost-effective because it saves you money on:
- IT labor
- Updates and maintenance
- Network-carrier service fees
When you purchase UCaaS, you don’t have to buy and set up large amounts of hardware. Instead, the provider hosts the equipment at their facility, and all access is secured through the cloud.
Since your IT team doesn’t have to set up a bulky system or find storage space, your business saves a considerable amount of money on IT labor costs. Not to mention, there are hardly any upfront costs associated with cloud-based services. Rather, the service provider covers the equipment costs, and you pay as you use the service. With UCaaS, you only pay for what you need, which saves you a significant amount of money.
We’re not done yet. With UCaaS, you don’t even have to worry about updates or maintenance. These details are covered by the service provider, so you never have to pay for time consuming system updates or frustrating repairs.
Say goodbye to costly network-carrier service fees because all you need to access UCaaS is an internet connection. With all the money you save from switching to UCaaS, your IT staff can focus on other important projects that directly impact your company’s growth and expansion.
Make the Switch to UCaaS Today
As you can tell, UCaaS offers many pivotal benefits for your business such as remote work support, efficiency, and affordability. Beyond these top 3 benefits, UCaaS is also flexible, easy to operate, and provides stringent security. So what are you waiting for? Say goodbye to your clunky, slow, and expensive communications systems and step into the future with UCaaS.
If you’re ready to take your business’s internal communications to the next level, reach out to Integrated Communications today. You can schedule a free network audit to discover the best telecommunications solutions for your company. For more tips and tricks on how to improve your business communications, check out the other articles on our blog.