SD-WAN Recommendations for the SMB

Key Considerations for Small and Medium-sized Businesses looking for SD-WAN

When your company is shopping for SD-WAN vendors, how many of them have asked “what is the business intent of the SD-WAN solution?” or something along those lines? CIOs and IT managers wouldn’t be looking at SD-WAN if it wasn’t intended to solve an issue with their business. However, rarely will SD-WAN vendors lead with the business intent question to start a conversation about finding the right solution. Most SD-WAN vendors are still stuck in the mode of selling on a list of product features and hardware specifications—likely because the SD-WAN industry is dominated by hardware manufacturers started by nerdy engineers.

SD-WAN Rankings helps CIOs and IT managers to select vendors based on solving business rather than technological issues. The question is: “What are you needing this SD-WAN solution to do for your business?” rather than “do you want a box that has forward error correction?”

If you are a CIO or IT manager at a small to midsized business (SMB), SD-WAN Rankings encourages you to consider these high-level options available based on your deployment scope and typical business intent:

SD-WAN is about Location, location, location

The connectivity needs for retail (e.g. dry cleaners, florists, etc.), restaurant (locally-owned but could include franchises with independent owners), and professional organizations (lawyers, realtors, etc.) obviously vary, but not too much. Generally, a CIO or IT manager at SMBs across all these industries are connecting and supporting employees who serve customers in a community or in several communities in a state. It’s often overlooked, but geographical location is important when it comes to SD-WAN connectivity.

Certain vendors’ SD-WAN deployments—usually the managed service providers and telecom carriers—deliver the best performance for on-net customers. This is because the SD-WAN hardware is “tuned” to perform best on the bandwidth provided by the managed service provider or carrier. Successful SMBs that deliver locally-focused services with employees drawn from the community are well served by this type of SD-WAN connectivity.

Speed and support

Most SMBs are cost-conscious when it comes to IT support. A good SD-WAN solution for SMB organizations should limit the need for 24/7 onsite IT and networking support. Depending on the industry, a co-managed SD-WAN solution could be an attractive option for SMBs that need tight control over customer data for regulatory reasons. The turnkey nature of a managed SD-WAN solution is most attractive to SMBs because the hardware-only setups place the support burden on the CIO and IT manager who are both already likely understaffed and overworked.

Managed SD-WAN service providers also are attractive to SMBs because they often bring their own bandwidth. Bundling managed bandwidth with SD-WAN is preferred for SMBs to reduce the overall deployment complexity. Hardware-only deployments of SD-WAN where the CIO and IT manager at an SMB buy appliances from VMware, Cisco, or Fortinet then procure the connection bandwidth between locations comes with the increased costs of 24/7 management. In more rural communities, the lack of bandwidth choice could raise costs even more and create technical issues for IT staff without the time and training required to do the job of a telecom engineer on top of their daily IT duties at the SMB.

SD-WAN Rankings Recommendations for SMBs

For the majority of SMBs in North America, a managed services provider for SD-WAN is the best bet. Depending on the locale, you should look to partner with top-tier providers such as CenturyLink, Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Spectrum in the USA and Bell Canada, Shaw, and Telus in Canada. Second-tier alternatives Aryaka, Cato Networks, and Masergy are good alternatives with limited name recognition but excel at delivering SD-WAN solutions based on your organization’s business intent. For those SMBs who prefer the 100% do it yourself approach of installing and managing SD-WAN appliances, Cisco Meraki and Versa offer top-tier experiences at an affordable price point.