ROI Networks at a Glance

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What’s Next for Enterprise WAN

WANConsidering the increasing complexity in the realm of enterprise connectivity, WAN was a welcome solution when originally conceived. Multiple facilities across the globe were finally able to be linked together. While there was an appreciation from IT leaders for progress in networking, this fix has not been without its faults over the years and there has been a demand for refinement and additional technologies.

Familiar Issues

A number of common weaknesses are often observed in enterprises working with WAN. In addition to the extensive cost involved in managing such far-reaching networks, they may also have a tendency to be slow, suffer downtime, and lack the stability and flexibility desired by most organizations.

Questionable Alternatives

While some alternative connectivity and networking methods perform more effectively, certain factors eliminate them from consideration as an option. Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) networks, for instance, can speed up the WAN through better routing, but the price tag is substantial enough to cause tech leaders to underbuy bandwidth to conserve spending — effectively nullifying any advantage that could be gained.

Another solution is to create a VPN tunnel over common broadband connections. While this improves security and keeps costs lower, any application that could be compromised by lag may experience very spotty performance. In some cases, VPN is used jointly with a limited MPLS arrangement. Since the two cannot operate concurrently, not much usefulness is found in this solution either.

High Potential Possibilities

While other WAN management techniques have been tried and discarded, one that is quickly gaining the interest of technical leaders is Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN). Using SD-WAN, network managers can centrally provision, terminate, optimize, and flex all of the components on the system. Data follows the most efficient route and latency is nearly eliminated. It’s made orchestrating hundreds of access points and switches much simpler, saving IT hours of expensive labor. SD-WAN also leads to cost savings, as it can use cheaper connections like broadband much more efficiently than standard WAN.

Another distinct advantage of SD-WAN is that providers can often bear the burden of management for the company. In this model, the vendor handles everything from maintenance to troubleshooting to updating. This saves the organization labor costs and ensures that the right personnel are working on the right projects rather than being caught up in mundane or non-strategic tasks.

In this world of increasing cloud service options, an SD-WAN infrastructure makes integrating new cloud providers a much more rapid activity, even when multiple company locations are involved.

It’s critical for the future of an enterprise that the network grow and develop into a more manageable tool that easily accommodates growth and flexibility requirements. SD-WAN is one option with great potential to offer in this regard. For more information on WAN evolution and managed SD-WAN technologies, contact ROI Networks today.

The Black and White of SDN

September Blog # 4 (1)Over just a year, Software Defined Networking (SDN) went from barely known to celebrity status in the technical realm. Even though it has been around for quite some time, the concept of SDN is still somewhat nebulous to many. With so much misinformation and sketchy vendor marketing surrounding this tool, it may be difficult to know its true value. Here’s the truth about this powerful technology.

The Basics

SDN is a centralized manner of controlling all of the switches, devices, and components of a network. The purpose is to make deployment and configuration much more efficient, while also allowing the path of network traffic to be optimized.

For a solution to be qualified as SDN, a few criteria must be met.

  • It is designed to replace an MPLS arrangement, so must be able to do that.
  • Some type of UI or management portal must be included for network administrators to efficiently manage all of the connected components via one mechanism.
  • The system should be able to automatically reroute traffic and connections to a secondary path. Having this failover keeps traffic running optimally and avoids outages.

Any vendor solution that cannot meet these three requirements should be omitted from consideration.

Critical Features

A software defined network is all about optimizing performance, including connectivity. Often, multiple types of Internet connections are used by companies so that they can switch over to a secondary in the event of an outage. Not only is the SDN capable of doing this, but it can also switch between connections when lag or inadequate performance are detected. This facilitates stability and ensures that communications remain high quality.

Alerts are another great part of an SDN arrangement. Should an outage be detected, an alert is sent so that it’s addressed immediately and network stability is preserved. Using the SDN portal, trouble is accurately pinpointed and can be resolved efficiently.

The Benefits

SDN is applicable to a wide variety of industries. Implementing SDN improves a number of factors on a company network:

  • Reduce trouble tickets – Since this technology automates outage-handling and traffic optimization, users no longer experience lag or downtime.
  • Cost effective – This is a less expensive solution than MPLS, for example. In addition, systems are more stable so Internet connections may often be altered to save money.
  • Flexible – An SDN-qualified solution can be network agnostic, permit user customizations, and easily accommodate new hardware devices.
  • On the rise – More providers coming on to the scene means competitive pricing and feature-rich packages.
  • Improved productivity – Network administrators are able to focus on more important tasks since the network now automatically handles performance improvements.

Software defined networking is becoming increasingly popular. For more information about implementing SDN, contact ROI Networks today.

5 Key Steps to Enterprise Wireless Network Security

ROI June blog 2

Wireless Internet connectivity has changed everything about the way the business world works, and with a growing number of employees using wireless connections to maintain peak productivity, security has emerged as a major issue. In the past, it was difficult to implement effective security protocols over wireless networks. Fortunately, that is no longer the case.

The arrival of multigig wireless has proven to be a game-changer. Multigig wireless is a powerful solution that allows businesses to merge data, video, and voice features together while reducing cable infrastructure. It also cuts costs and comes with advanced security features. These security features can be incorporated right into existing wireless hardware, allowing users to control guest network access, manage connected devices, and implement individualized security policies.
Build a Secure Multigig Wireless Network

Before building a multigig wireless network, it’s important to plan and evaluate. With that in mind, here are five key elements to consider:

  • Look at existing hardware and infrastructure. Businesses need adequate bandwidth to support multigig wireless networking, and carrying out an application performance analysis is a crucial starting point. This allows enterprises to evaluate how much bandwidth each mission-critical application needs, and shows companies where they’ll need to upgrade to realize their performance expectations.
  • Merge security and networking capabilities. Network access control (NAC) features bring security and networking together, allowing for user validation, device and application management, and guess access protocols. Taking a careful look at current security and networking capabilities helps enterprises see where they currently stand and build for the future.
  • Plan a centralized management strategy. Implementing a centralized management strategy eliminates the need to individually manage multiple access points, creating a safer and more reliable network for all connected users.
  • Include social media in the security plan. With social media marketing and customer service initiatives having become the norm, it is no longer feasible for businesses to limit or eliminate employee access to these sites. However, social media integration requires additional security planning, especially in regards to bandwidth and user accessibility.
  • Leave room to grow. In the future, voice and video requirements are expected to grow. It’s crucial to leave enough bandwidth to ramp up in the years ahead and allow the enterprise to incorporate these capabilities into the network.

While network performance used to come at the cost of enhanced security, this is no longer the case. Multigig wireless offers an effective and affordable solution to businesses seeking to implement their own security policies while benefiting from the speed and reliability of a next-generation network.

The technology experts at ROI Networks help businesses make a smooth and successful transition to multigig wireless. To learn more, please visit ROI Networks today.

SD-WAN Networks: Implementation Challenges and Key Capabilities that Improve Orchestration

ROI May blog 1Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) is positioned as an excellent solution for businesses in need of overhauling legacy networks encumbered with outdated architecture that requires manual upgrading. SD-WAN offers benefits that include:

  • Centralized storage and management of network configurations
  • On-the-go device reprogramming capabilities
  • Simplified administration and reduced hardware infrastructure needs

Advantages

One of the key byproducts of these benefits is that they free up critical resources that can be deployed elsewhere to improve optimization. For small and medium sized businesses (SMBs), SD-WAN strategies also deliver the many benefits of high-end network architecture without the need to maintain an in-house team of network engineers.

Originating in data centers, software-defined networking (SDN) technologies have matured into SD-WAN models that offer advanced capabilities including customized security, enhanced compliance requirements, the app-based routing of network traffic, and the optimization of existing infrastructure capabilities. However, it’s crucial to implement a sound management strategy to realize these benefits. This begins with choosing the right vendor model for the enterprise’s specific needs.

Three Types of SD-WAN Vendors

Currently, vendors can be grouped into three main types:

  • Those that provide controller-centered solutions that support the automatic discovery and configuration of connected devices
  • Overlay models that bridge connected devices across multiple networks through IP virtualization
  • Change-control models that harness existing hardware to automate and control the SD-WAN network and the infrastructure that powers it

While overlay models are popular because they are relatively easy to get up and running, they pose troubleshooting limitations. The controller-centered approach is an excellent option if standardization is a key element of the network environment, while the change-control strategy is usually recommended in cases where a high degree of customization is desirable.
Transition Challenges

It’s difficult to fully avoid mistakes when transitioning to an SD-WAN network. An elaborate verification and validation process poses a major challenge, particularly when manual approaches to configuration are being used. In these cases, even extensive testing can come up short in predicting how the network will perform under heavy demand.

Another issue is that customization needs change constantly, meaning that analytical transition strategies are not the best option for businesses. Enterprises need automation levels with flexible capabilities, particularly when it comes to issues like managing the underlying infrastructure, identifying system dependencies, and predicting the results of configuration changes.
Orchestrating the SD-WAN Network

One of the key benefits of SD-WANs is that they create logical IT network configurations. However, they should also be designed to include the following capabilities to ensure reliable and desirable performance standards:

  • The inclusion of built-in network architectures that support provisioning at the initial stage
  • Carefully controlled manual access
  • “Network awareness” that accurately anticipates the effects of configuration changes
  • Dependent architecture that facilitates multiple simultaneous changes
  • The ability to automatically monitor the configurations of all connected devices
  • Verification processes that clearly show when changes are successful, and automatically revert the system to an earlier state when they are not

Implementing an SD-WAN is a major undertaking that requires careful planning and foresight, but paying close attention to the system’s performance needs during the design stage can minimize transition challenges. As SD-WAN models continue to evolve, they will show an improved ability to include new features and devices in the standardized environment, which will, in turn, position them well to make continued inroads in the IT world.

For more information on how SD-WAN is beneficial to businesses, contact us today.

Collaboration in the Cloud Drives Business Growth

ROI April blog 3The cloud has paved the way for collaboration opportunities never before known in the age of snail mail and traditional telephony. It has provided more effective collaboration in board rooms, cubicles, and remote workplaces, allowing businesses to keep pace with the growing mobility trend.

Cloud Options

The cloud offers various models that businesses can choose from depending on their specific needs. Private, public, and hybrid clouds can be mixed and matched to achieve a platform that suits unique requirements.

A private cloud typically sits in a private network, making it the most secure of all the cloud types. It is, however, the most expensive because it requires enterprises to purchase and maintain their own data center infrastructure.

A public cloud is housed in a third party location and clients pay their providers for hosting and other related functions. While it may be the cheapest model, it does not provide the same level of security that a private cloud does.

A hybrid environment uses a mix of private cloud and public cloud. An enterprise can use the private cloud to host critical data and workloads but can use the public cloud for workloads that are less critical.

​Moving to the Cloud

Companies looking to build a cloud-based collaboration strategy need to partner with telecom agents that have the expertise and right carrier connections. More importantly, IT executives should choose a solution that can add value to their business and enable their organization to:

Increase network resiliency Cloud collaboration services lessen the burden on IT administrators of supporting the network themselves while reducing the risk of network downtime. Providers have heavily invested in their own network infrastructure to ensure that their clients’ networks have the capability to respond, adjust, and adapt to any situation.

Benefit from robust security Cloud service providers are under increasing pressure to make their solutions more secure in compliance with regulatory requirements. They want their security offerings to be a differentiator that helps gain the trust and loyalty of their clients. As such, a cloud environment is more secure than the on-premise security system of an individual organization with a limited security budget.

Enjoy manageability Collaboration allows for faster application deployment and simpler network management. With servers off-premise and out of sight, IT staff is relieved of the complexity of maintaining the system. Providers take care of rolling out regular software updates, backups, intrusion detection, and other relevant reports. Employees who used to wear multiple hats can now perform streamlined jobs in dashboard style.

Create and harmonize new features into the system – Open private cloud solutions allow the integration of new features into the collaboration platform. Enterprises can make use of open application program interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) to develop their own applications. This feature eliminates the cost of buying new services and the need for reconfiguration while enhancing employee and customer satisfaction.

Minimize the cost of legacy hardware Existing infrastructure may contain outdated hardware and legacy systems that are expensive to maintain. An open collaboration platform allows companies to reduce legacy system usage and gradually move the organization forward to cheaper, cloud-enabled collaborative solutions.

The cloud helps drive innovation, growth, and business transformation. For businesses looking to explore the benefits of collaboration in the cloud, contact us for a no-commitment consultation.