Ask any IT professional, and they'll tell you that tending to the customer experience alone no longer cuts it. In a world where internal and external services have no boundaries, IT teams must both delight customers with touchless services while keeping employees securely connected to corporate resources, no matter where they are. Gartner calls this top trend for 2022 the “total experience,” and it has created a more challenging ground for IT executives to navigate for service delivery excellence.
Business models putting the user first demand more of IT— perfect digital experiences across working groups, cloud applications, networks, and devices, no matter the location. With the Covid-19 pandemic, research shows hybrid work continuing to grow, and business application accessibility and ease of use remain a challenge for IT leaders and their organizations to manage. Ask yourself:
- Do your users get the same voice and video conference application performance from the office, home, or remote locations? If you operate internationally, do your corporate apps, and cloud services perform consistently across different countries?
- With so many new tools added over the past 18 months, how much time is your team spending on application performance management and network troubleshooting?
- Are new business models making your IT operations more complex? Should you consolidate your hybrid work approach to simplify the number of vendors, dashboards, and policies?
Single biggest influencer of the user experience
The answers to these questions most often depend on which network service is supporting your user experience. For the past two decades, IT has largely relied on a legacy WAN architecture, which is ill-suited today for agile, cloud-powered operations supporting hybrid work and digital services. With more users accessing the corporate network via personal devices and broadband public internet, the user experience and enterprise security are both at stake. Let’s explore both.
Transitioning to internet connectivity can be risky in terms of the reliability of application performance and security. In fact, 50% of companies that use an all-public-internet approach complain that insufficient application performance is an issue, and 48% report that the cost savings of public internet connectivity don't justify the lower quality of service and poor user experience.
Greater reliance on the cloud and the public Internet for video conferencing and application hosting means enterprises require high throughput, rock-solid reliability, and consistent performance to ensure happy users. IT also needs intelligence about what’s happening across the network to actively promote better, more secure application performance.
With more remote employees working on personal devices, cybersecurity criminals have more entry points into the corporate network, which helps explain why there are more ransomware attacks than ever before. Deploying SD-WAN can help overcome connectivity and security challenges, as can pairing SD-WAN with unified communications applications.
Using SD-WAN to protect and secure the user experience
Prior to the pandemic, a work-from-home strategy was achieved simply by installing virtual private network (VPN) software on a corporate-owned laptop. With remote work so prolific, SD-WAN can advance this legacy technique with solutions designed specifically for the home office and employee-owned devices.
A software-defined infrastructure can leverage a home internet modem to extend a corporate WAN into employee homes and allow IT to see how every application is performing across endpoints, cloud services, and critical unified communications applications. By pairing unified communications (UC) and SD-WAN, IT leaders can:
- Prioritize application traffic at the network edge (the critical point of congestion) and gain app-by-app visibility into your network and embedded UC apps, as well as real-time control and dynamic redirection of packets. This application prioritization can boost available bandwidth by as much as 30% and reduce costs by as much as 40%.
- Quickly redirect traffic and make failovers effectively invisible to applications and users while saving your IT team a ton of troubleshooting time.
Today’s SD-WAN solutions move beyond VPNs with IPsec tunnels, and consolidated SASE (secure access service edge) platforms offer a single platform to manage the cybersecurity tools necessary for hybrid business models. These include:
- Endpoint security technologies and services to help protect laptops and devices from malware and monitor for ransomware threats. The ability to separate employee network activities from their family’s internet usage, allowing for network segmentation security.
- Deeper security visibility helping to identify shadow IT issues as well as identity-based WAN edge analytics that enable a Zero Trust approach to security
In the end, yesterday’s corporate network isn’t designed for today’s user experience requirements. With hybrid work here to stay, organizations need to boost employee experiences by ensuring performance, connectivity, security, and usability. SD-WAN enables organizations to raise the bar for predictable, reliable performance while avoiding the pitfalls of using the Internet unaided. It can prioritize voice and video traffic and enhance performance by mitigating packet loss, latency, and jitter. Plus, connectivity for UCaaS services is adequately protected from network outages with 24/7 monitoring and management services.
Michael Long is Director of Solutions Engineering at Masergy.