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02.28.2020 / Technology

Top Considerations for Evaluating Managed Network Solutions

Today, businesses have several connectivity options for designing their networks. In years past, there were limited, and often costly, options for managing data and Wide Area Network (WAN) connectivity. Now, thanks to emerging technologies and a growing market of managed service providers, businesses can select from several connectivity methods such as Private Line, Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS), Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) and Optical Wave Services (OWS).

In this blog, we’ll explore how businesses are using different network technologies to support business requirements.

SD-Wan, Connectivity, managed network

Selecting the right connectivity method for your network

The best connectivity method for one network may not be the optimal choice for another, which is why it’s important to diagnose your business’ network requirements before selecting a specific network service. John Summersett, Rocket Fiber’s VP of Business Development, advises to first examine key areas such as how the network is currently used, the use case that the business is looking to achieve, the volume of data that the business sends and receives, inbound versus outbound network usage, trading partners and overall resiliency performance expectations.  All of these of course drive costs and overall value.

A basic application we might see could be a small branch or home office using SD-WAN technology for back-up/failover connectivity, where two network services are selected from a list of available Private Line, MPLS, Broadband or Cellular Data. In this scenario, two of the chosen networks are contracted for a location and then utilize SD-WAN technology to allow for failover between the redundant network in the event of an outage. Now, to take this one step further, some SD-WAN solutions may allow for more specific routing of traffic based on the user profile (“the Who”), a specific application or domain (“the What”) and a set of routing rules prescribed by the network administrator that best emulate their intent. This could be for prioritizing specific applications and related traffic over other applications to ensure mission-critical applications are getting the maximum bandwidth and performance at the expense of less critical applications, such as general internet.

For the better part of the last decade, MPLS has been a go-to for managed network services, but these days many businesses are making the transition to SD-WAN technology that incorporates more edge intelligence to allow for cheaper transport, even broadband in some use cases. Let’s examine the most common methods.

Private Line

Private Line utilizes a dedicated network that can safely transmit a large amount of data at lightning-fast speeds, making it perfect for businesses that need to send sensitive information securely. For businesses that require high security and low latency, Private Line is considered the superhighway of managed network services. High security and low latency, however, does come at a cost. For businesses with network requirements that permit the transmission of data publicly over the internet, deploying solutions like SD-WAN, MPLS, or wave services – alone or in combination – are often considered.

MPLS

For businesses operating in multiple office locations, MPLS is often viewed as a cheaper alternative to Private Line for building Wide Area Networks and allows for classifying traffic types or categories for specific priority assignments.  This mitigates delays associated with using extended, single-use networks. The switching function of MPLS allows ingress and egress data to be transmitted through several pathways once it reaches the MPLS cloud, thereby creating more resiliency and aiding to avoid transmission delays from inbound and outbound data passing through the same network over a static path. Once in the MPLS cloud, the traffic can take several paths as prescribed to more resiliency of services.

SD-WAN

“SD-WAN is a technology category that moves more intelligence to the edge of the network and allows for application-aware logic to determine how and when traffic is routed. Ideally, these policies match closely with the overall business drivers and applications to ensure that mission-critical applications are always a priority in bandwidth-constrained scenarios,” says Summersett. With user friendly interfaces (UIs), the software abstraction layer makes administration of SD-WAN easier to manage and monitor by the end user administrators along with their supporting Managed Service Provider. Networks can become increasingly agile as SD-WAN is capable of recognizing traffic patterns and policing the traffic that passes through its primary and secondary networks. For example, SD-WAN may prioritize or otherwise police email messages depending on traffic patterns, bandwidth available and priorities of the user-defined network. If corporate communications appear to be a high priority compared to uploading a file to Dropbox for example, SD-WAN will prioritize the corporate VDI or communications based on its programmed logic.

Recently SD-WAN has become somewhat of a buzzword and is trending in the connectivity space, as businesses are choosing to utilize this technology to manage the flow of data. The overall SD-WAN experience and performance still relies on the “Underlay Network” or Network WAN selected to support it.  Given the growing number of solutions on the SD-WAN market, many businesses can be overwhelmed by the volume of options and feature sets, so much so we think it is fair to say product development in the SD-WAN space has outpaced adoption. It’s important to have a trusted advisor help navigate the differences to find the best fit with the best roadmap for the business needs along with developing the least disruptive migration plan.

Optical Wave Services

Beyond MPLS and SD-WAN, Optical Wave Services are similar to Private Line and offer additional network options for businesses that require higher performance. These services remain in the optical domain, which results in less electrical processing leading to faster signals for transporting business data. While these used to be expensive to procure and implement, Rocket Fiber has been able to successfully deploy cost effective solutions ranging from 10 Gbps to 100 Gbps speeds. Rocket Fiber’s Wave Services, for example, increase the data capacity of fiber cable by tuning it to different frequencies and create additional economies of scale without any impact to performance. One possible disadvantage of this model is it is typically not as cost effective for circuit speeds below 1 Gbps.

Rocket Fiber will design a network that meets your business needs

Although it can be easy to get caught up in buzzwords regarding managed network services, Summersett says that different network types are ‘genres of transportation,’ meaning each has its benefits and drawbacks, but ultimately, they’re all capable of getting data to its destination. “The goal instead,” says Summersett, “is always to try to eliminate unnecessary processing while optimizing costs and ultimately value to the business.”

“Part of the message for us as a service provider in the connectivity space is that we understand the nuances and differences of each method so we’re able to tailor network solutions,” says Summersett. “Whether it’s MPLS, traditional networking, or internet, Rocket Fiber’s goal is to find solutions that fit each business’s unique use cases.”

To learn more about Rocket Fiber’s business services, click here.

Rocket Fiber is a Michigan-based company that delivers multi-gigabit internet and connectivity solutions for businesses and residences. The company’s core mission is to transform the way clients create, collaborate and communicate. Rocket Fiber’s portfolio of services includes managed network services, data and cloud, voice and dedicated internet, all of which are backed by award winning, white-glove client service and a state-of-the-art 24/7/365 Network Operations Center.

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