How cloud-based SD-WAN provides management flexibility

One of the bigger debates among tech-decision makers today is: should you take a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) approach to WAN management or outsource to a Managed Service Provider (MSP)? There are tradeoffs on both ends of the spectrum, as DIY increases complexity and an MSP limits your control and flexibility.

The problem with approaching WAN management from this perspective is that it treats management paradigms as mutually exclusive.

The good news is that the decision doesn’t have to be binary. With modern cloud-based SD-WAN providers enterprises can select a point on the management spectrum that is right for them. With this flexible approach to WAN management, enterprises can select a model that is optimized for their circumstances.

Here, we’ll dive into the different approaches to SD-WAN management, how to select the right model for your enterprise, and the specific benefits cloud-based SD-WAN providers offer.

Self-service WAN management

DIY or self-service WAN management maximizes control and flexibility for enterprises. Change management, troubleshooting, and provisioning all occur as rapidly and effectively as you can make them happen yourself. This means enterprises that take a DIY approach to WAN management don’t have to worry about MSP responsiveness slowing them down or adding costs. If a firewall rule needs to be modified, you can do it on the spot.

The problem is, with all the control comes all the complexity of WAN management. SD-WAN appliances, Next-generation Firewalls (NGFWs), and other network devices require a significant amount of work to set-up, patch, and monitor. For many enterprises, the in-house expertise to do so as efficiently as an MSP simply isn’t there.

Fully-managed WAN

Fully-managed WAN services from an MSP has the reverse set of pros and cons. MSPs abstract away complexity. There is no need for enterprises to hire or develop in-house WAN management expertise or dedicate resources to WAN maintenance. You have “one throat to choke” if something goes wrong and an SLA (service level agreement) to depend on.

The downside is you lose some agility and potentially increase your costs. Using the firewall rule example, as opposed to simply making the change yourself, you now need to make a change request and wait on the provider. From a cost perspective, MSPs are delivering the same functionality you could get with the DIY approach, but with a substantial markup.

Management advantages of cloud-based SD-WAN

DIY and fully-managed WAN management sit on opposite ends of a spectrum. For the largest of enterprises, DIY may be all upside. For the smallest of enterprises, an MSP may be just what they need. However, in most cases, enterprises fall in-between the extremes. Cloud-based SD-WAN offers these enterprises a balance that helps them leverage a management paradigm that is optimized for their needs.

For example, a cloud-based SD-WAN provider can provide fully-managed “hands-free” management, while still giving the enterprise the option to make changes themselves when they see fit. With this approach, enterprises can outsource the network and security management to the cloud-based SD-WAN provider’s team of experts. However, unlike the traditional MSP model, this doesn’t hamstring agility. If a spur of the moment change needs to happen, you can do it yourself. This “hands-free” management model is part of a larger managed services offering that also delivers:

  • Intelligent Last-Mile Management- The cloud-based SD-WAN provider monitors last-mile connections for blackouts or brownouts (performance degradation). In the event an issue occurs, the provider will work with the local Internet Service Provider to fix it.
  • Rapid Site Deployment– Locations that connect to a cloud-based SD-WAN provider’s network often use a “zero-touch” piece of hardware onsite to do so. With rapid site deployment, the provider remotely assists with the deployment of these devices.
  • Managed Threat Detection and Response (MDR)- The provider constantly monitors for malware within the WAN. By using intelligent algorithms and human experts to analyze behavior, the provider can rapidly detect breaches while also reducing false-positives. When an endpoint has been compromised, the provider helps guide enterprises through remediation.

Cloud-based SD-WAN allows enterprises to go the other direction as well. If you want to manage your WAN, you can. Doing so doesn’t mean you give up the ability to offload some complexity either. You can also split responsibilities with the cloud-based SD-WAN provider or a partner.

Cloud-based SD-WAN offers additional benefits that further enhance the flexibility and agility of modern enterprises as well. For example, even if you choose to manage the WAN yourself, cloud-based SD-WAN abstracts away the complexities of infrastructure maintenance. This is because with a cloud-based model, the provider maintains a cloud-native WAN infrastructure and takes care of patching, upgrades, and hardware/software maintenance.

Cloud-based SD-WAN delivers the best of both worlds for WAN management

As we have seen, both the fully managed and DIY approach to WAN management have upside. However, they also both have less than ideal tradeoffs for most enterprises. That’s because traditionally, fully-managed and DIY have been an either/or choice. Cloud-based SD-WAN changes that and delivers more flexibility and less complexity, without completely stripping enterprises of control.

The takeaway here is that cloud-based SD-WAN lets enterprises decide what position on the management spectrum works best for them. As a result, enterprises are empowered to find a mix of simplicity, agility, and control that makes the most sense for their WAN operations.

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