Software-Defined WAN: Can You Finally Get Reliable Business Voice Over the Internet?

A consistently smooth Internet connection for consistently high-quality Internet voice calls would be a dream come true for many companies. But the public Internet is bumpy. There’s traffic, congestion, broken this, delayed that. Mostly you don’t notice unless you’re talking on the phone.

Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) technology may solve all that without having to move to a private network. Here’s how our frog team will put it to the test:

For companies with multiple offices or a distributed workforce, managing one or more on-premises phone systems can be expensive and time-consuming. Pure cloud-based voice platforms have struggled with Internet reliability and congestion problems.

SD-WAN could be the solution. It’s an emerging technology that detects public Internet problems and optimizes your Internet route as you’re using it. It’s like the Waze app that optimizes your driving route as you’re traveling. You need multiple Internet connections for it to work so the software can continually and seamlessly optimize your route.

You also need proof that it really works for voice!

So we’re sending a couple of SD-WAN solutions to our Solutions Task Force. If they do work, they can save our clients a lot of money. On the other hand, if they’re not mature enough or if their value propositions don’t play out, then we can confidently advise clients to stick with a tried-and-true, premise-based phone system for now. We’ll test again in a year or two.

The Solutions Task Force will test the SD-WAN solutions to find out:

  • How do you set it up? Do you just install it or is there a lot of set-up work involved? What does it take to get up and running on different kinds of networks?
  • Is it secure? Can we find any security gaps? Is the encryption successful? How does it compare to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in real life?
  • Does it do what it says it will do? What happens when we simulate Internet congestion? Other Internet problems? Are the sensors as good as they’re supposed to be? How effective is it for sensitive processes?
  • How do the calls sound? Do they sound the same as (or different from) landline calls? Or like Skype on a good day?
  • Can we break it? What happens when we try?
  • If it’s not working, how easy is it to fix? Can we figure it out from the troubleshooting materials we’ve been provided?
  • How good is the support? When we call with questions, how knowledgeable and helpful are the people on the other end of the phone? How fast do they fix things? Are they nice?

When we’re done with the testing, we give each solution a grade. It’s not easy to earn a good grade from Leapfrog! As a managed IT provider, a lower quality solution will create a weak link in the otherwise optimized IT chain. So if our frogs give it a good grade, you can count on it to work.

Private networks
There is another way to get superb voice over IP — buy it, along with a completely private network. Some Internet providers have been spending millions (even billions) to create private networks for businesses that will pay for them. The providers build and maintain the infrastructure, which is not cheap.

Net Neutrality
Most small and medium-sized businesses can’t afford to go private — they need to stay on the public Internet. But just because net neutrality means you can’t buy a faster lane, it doesn’t mean you can’t find one!

Check back to find out what our Solutions Task Force thinks of the current offerings. You can also sign up for FrogTalk to get the results in an upcoming newsletter.

You may also be interested in: