Networks are becoming more complex due to cloud technology and a flood of additional endpoints to secure, and more enterprises are turning to software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN). This approach to network management provides a virtual overlay for the physical network infrastructure that allows more visibility and control for configuration and troubleshooting.

SD-WAN also provides much-needed management capabilities, such as the ability to segment network traffic according to user or application type to optimize connectivity costs. Critical data transmissions can be routed to multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) lines while non-critical transmissions are sent through the public internet, making it more realistic for your enterprise to handle the volume of data moving through your network.

While these benefits cause many enterprises to implement SD-WAN, some encounter challenges they didn’t anticipate. The growing market for SD-WAN means that your choice of provider is critical. Not all are equal, and you may end up with more network headaches with the wrong provider. Before choosing an SD-WAN provider, ask the following questions:

What choices do I have when it comes to access services? If the telco requires you to use its access services, it may limit your ability to access competitive pricing, and the time to deploy may be longer than ideal. Even if there are faster or more affordable access service options, the provider may not be able to include them as part of their managed services.

How long will network changes take? Your service provider may require you to submit a “ticket” when you want a network change, and depending on where you are in line, this could take some time. Check with your potential provider to see if there’s an option for you to make simple network changes in-house, rather than waiting for one of their technicians.

What are the barriers to service evolution? SD-WAN is a fast-evolving technology, and if your provider doesn’t own the core technology, they may not be able to deliver the new features and updates that your network needs demand. From routers to network security tools, you need to know how agile your provider is in giving you access to the necessary features for your network.

Explain the value I’m receiving from your services. In many cases, a telco is passing the cost of not owning technology on to you, the enterprise. Telcos must license products from vendors and then resell it to you, and they also must train their staff to use a variety of products and be able to troubleshoot across a disjointed set of technologies. Be sure that you understand the implications of how their business model impacts your costs.

The alternative solution: Some enterprises are avoiding these potential pitfalls by partnering with a software-defined carrier (SDC). These providers are able to work with any access service from any access provider, and they also own their own technology and can evolve it to fit your exact network needs and deliver it as a cloud service. Finally, a converged platform with unified management removes the complexity often found with SD-WAN.

If you’d like learn more about the potential problems of partnering with the wrong SD-WAN provider, contact us at Clarksys.