Today's Top WAN Issues and How to Solve Them - Part 1
The top pain points associated with Internet-based WANs
June 14, 2021

Jay Botelho
LiveAction

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Enterprise wide-area networks (WANs) have undergone an incredible transformation over the past several years. More often than not, they're hybrid, offering multiple connection paths between WANs. This provides many benefits but also makes them more challenging to manage than ever before. Managed WAN services, such as MPLS, continue to play a significant role in enterprise networks, but the Internet has become a feasible WAN connectivity option that is typically less costly than MPLS and is actually essential in the case of direct cloud connectivity.

As a result, many enterprises adopt custom hybrid networks or full-blown SD-WAN implementations, combining managed WAN services and Internet to address various business requirements. A whopping 98% of enterprises are currently engaged in SD-WAN deployments. Nearly 40% (37%) of enterprises have fully implemented SD-WAN implementations in 2021, compared to just 28% two years ago. However, by their very nature, hybrid enterprise networks are complex and difficult to visualize, troubleshoot and optimize.

So, based on fascinating insights from new EMA research, let's examine today's top WAN challenges and what you need to know to address them.

In Part 1 of this series, we'll explore the top pain points associated with Internet-based WANs specifically:

1. Managing Multiple ISP Relationships

Nearly one-third of organizations struggle with the complexity of juggling multiple ISP relationships to procure and manage connectivity. In which scenario is each ISP most effective? Is splitting traffic between them the right move? If so, what's the best way to determine the allocation? These are just some of the questions that undoubtedly come up. Beyond that, you must also manage SLAs, monitor for outages or slowdowns, reroute traffic as needed and more.

For example, let's say you split traffic between two ISPs — on for web traffic and the other for all web-hosted productivity apps (email, Salesforce, etc.). This works well until one ISP goes down, in which case you'd need to reroute all traffic to the other. That's when traffic prioritization issues cascade into poor connectivity that'll degrade user experiences and hurt your business. These types of circumstances are why you must be capable of properly visualizing, classifying and prioritizing traffic across all ISPs at all times.

2. Security Risks

Roughly 30% of IT professionals see security risks as a top ongoing challenge when it comes to their Internet-based WAN. You have little control over security once traffic hits the public Internet, and are often forced to rely on users to follow security best practices. As more users are working remotely, access from the public Internet and connections from it to your hosted services and applications are more exposed to security threats.

This path can allow adversaries to avoid most of the security controls IT departments often rely upon, such as firewall rules, IDS/IPS, etc., making corporate data protection subject to individual employees' security practices (or lack thereof). Employees may lack high-quality IDS/IPS on their home networks, making them more vulnerable to phishing attempts and various malware attacks. In most cases, the lack of close IT control puts corporate data directly in jeopardy.

3. Overall Application Performance

Maintaining application performance is a top issue for 28% of organizations this year. You can't effectively manage application performance without traffic prioritization, which is virtually impossible to enforce once traffic hits the public Internet. With a hub/spoke architecture, you can contract for a big pipe, and average a large number of users across that pipe to ensure consistent performance and a reasonable cost per user. But as we drive towards more and more remote users and locations, it is more difficult to manage all of these remote Internet connections, and guarantee performance.

For example, imagine a video production studio that needs to transfer massive, 100GB+ files regularly. Even when the employees are working at the office, and assuming a 1Gbps Internet connection, transferring a 100GB file could consume the network for over 13 minutes. We also know most remote offices and home networks have 100 — 300Mbps Internet connections, so it's easy to see how a single large transfer could bottleneck a poorly managed network. As networks become more complex and distributed, performance management can be incredibly troublesome and even out of your control in certain circumstances.

4. Inconsistent Quality Across Multiple ISPs

Nearly one in four organizations see inconsistent quality across multiple ISPs as a significant challenge for their business. This is because each ISP uses its own technologies and rolls out updates at its own speed. And IPSs don't treat all areas equally; they're focused on servicing the broadest population possible with minimum investment. This can lead to underserved geographies and poor quality for organizations operating within them.

In a given city, ISPs may provide more bandwidth to business parks than residential areas and the maximum bandwidth available to you may depend on the zip code in which you and your employees operate. The maximum available connection speeds and the demand in the particular neighborhood can both limit bandwidth. As users, and therefore the network, become increasingly distributed, controlling user experiences will become extremely challenging.

Read Start with Part 2 of this series, in which we'll outline today's most high-profile SD-WAN deployment challenges, as well as best practices you can use to identify, evaluate and overcome the various issues associated with modern WANs.

Go to: Today's Top WAN Issues and How to Solve Them - Part 2

Jay Botelho is Director of Engineering at LiveAction
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