Our blogs will help you cut through the jargon, the sales pitches and the complexities to make sense of SD-WAN.
Four key tasks you can complete that will help you choose the right Network Managed Service Provider.
We all know there is no shortage of carriers and Managed Service Providers on the market. All of whom are willing and eager to do business, offering you the service that you want. How do you ensure that the one you choose is ‘the best partner’ for your organisation?
Having worked in the Managed Services Provider space, both procuring and selling, here are four simple tasks you can complete that will help you pick the network MSP that’s right for you.
1. Set your objectives
Before you start your search for a Network MSP, you need to have a clear scope of what you’re looking to achieve.
In the majority of cases, you will have an existing provider who has historically failed to deliver, you think is too expensive or they haven’t adapted their services to your business needs. With the advent of SD-WAN, Network MSPs definitely need to think differently.
There will always be problems; price, resource, service or internal skills gap that you need addressing. You may also think that the direction of travel for your business applications now means you want to leverage new technologies to facilitate digital transformation, or simply relieve the burden on your technical team.
Also, be sure to set clear objectives, whether through a formal RFP process or something a little more lightweight, you’ll need to benchmark success. These will form your brief, which you can then share with prospective MSPs.
2. Simple due diligence?
I know for a fact that not all MSPs are created equal and going thorough good due diligence allows you to quickly qualify prospective Network MSPs in or out.
Create a list of questions that covers a range of outcomes, across both technical and service operations, including: their ability to understand your brief, referenceability, processes and technical evolution. You can then assess their responses and shortlist those you are confident in.
3. Know the Delivering Team
As you’ll be working closely with the new network MSP, as well as placing a huge amount of faith in them, you should take the time to get to know them. Good MSPs work in partnership, bad ones rarely speak to you after they have you as a client. I cannot stress how important it is to understand the people capability, who the key stakeholders are and where your service will be run from. Finally understand how their company has evolved and what their roadmap is for adjacent and complimentary services and how they are improving KPIs and SLAs.
4. Make sure your strategy fits with an Agile provider
What your business needs from technology and your IT infrastructure will change over the course of your contract and it is therefore critical that your Network MSP can evolve with you.
There are countless Network MSPs that have a strategy to sell you more MPLS or high bandwidth circuits, however in most use cases this is not needed with the drive to digital transformation. SD-WAN capability is now critical to future organisation network strategy, so make sure the network MSP has a roadmap for this that is aligned to your technology roadmap. Only then can you be confident that your network is in safe hands for the years ahead.
LET'S GET GOING
OK, so here’s the first of our blogs on SD-WAN, which is pretty much all we focus on. And rightly so. SD-WAN has fast become one of the most exciting technologies to hit the WAN market in a very long time.
You many have noticed that there’s no shortage of SD-WAN vendors out there. And no shortage of experts who have emerged from the woodwork to tell you how you should deploy it. The two always seem to go hand in hand, haven’t you noticed?
The big picture, not a big pitch
Well, you’ll find that this series of blogs is different. We aren’t telling you what you should be doing RIGHT NOW. Instead, we’ll share our views on the current SD-WAN market and, more importantly, where our own customers are in their current thinking when it comes to SD-WAN deployments.
We’ll throw in some insight into technology and overviews of features of course. But our main goal here is quite simply to help you make better decisions when it comes to adopting a new generation of technology - and where it might work for you.
Let’s put things in context
Rather than go for the jugular and start with the usual What is SD-WAN? we want to take a step back and gain some context. So over the course of these blogs, we’ll begin by helping you to understand what your business - yes, your business - needs and how you go about getting it.
Making sense of it all
You see, SD-WAN is such fast-moving opportunity that it can mean very different things for different people depending on who is trying to sell you their wares. That’s why we will also try and decipher the messaging from vendors, carriers, analysts and industry bodies to support your research on SD-WAN and who you really should be working with to make it work for you.
Tell us what you think
Finally for now, it’s always good to get feedback on these blogs. We’re new to it, so please do feel free to share your views over social media (but please… be nice). And if you ever want a quick chat about your SD-WAN strategy, we’ll…feel free to get in touch about that too.
Where are you coming from?
We’re always interested to know why customers are looking at SD-WAN and motivates their initial research. As you might expect, there are all kinds of reasons, but in our experience there are three in particular that stand out.
1 Carrier exhaustion
OK, so this is our in-house term but you get the idea. Customers get frustrated with their current connectivity supplier. The service (or lack of). The price they are paying. Feeling trapped in a long term contract that limits their ability to react to new business demands. Or the whole lot at once. Well, SD-WAN changes all that and I’ll soon be writing a separate blog on what to expect when you tell your current supplier you are considering It. We’ve already been involved in many of these discussions and what we’ve learned will hopefully help to inform and speed up your decision-making.
2 Cost savings
It’s true that SD-WAN can offer significant savings if you can shift away from the expense of existing connectivity to more cost-effective circuits. Internet circuits with an SD-WAN overlay will normally work out cheaper. But (and there’s always a but) I’ve yet to meet a customer aiming to simply replace their WAN with a like for like network on a pure cost basis. Businesses also want more bandwidth, greater resilience, higher security and increased agility. And when you start to build that all in, the financial savings may not be as clear cut as many SD-WAN players would like you to think.
3 Cloud readiness
As organisations continue to move to the cloud, dated legacy network architecture is starting to fight back. If a vendor has already tried to sell you the benefits of a big fat on-ramp directly from your network into the hosting DC, you’ll know what I’m talking about. But this isn’t cheap and nor does it offer the agility you need. It could even mean you are being lured into a ‘cloud-locked’ scenario. Stay alert. Be aware. Because there is a better way to build an agile WAN to drive and support cloud transformation.
If of these reasons resonate with you, well, you aren’t alone. Give the team here at Aequos a call or drop us an email and we’ll be happy to offer the bespoke advice and support you need to start making the most of what SD-WAN has to offer.
'Good enough' SD-WAN
SD-WAN is probably one of the hottest topics in IT right now and, as we’ve already seen, it means that every vendor wants a piece of the action.
It’s not your job to keep up to speed with every vendor position and technology play out there – that’s what analysts are for, right? I’d definitely recommend that you read up on their views if that’s your thing, but in most cases you probably don’t need to.
Where are you now?
A more practical way of narrowing down the starting point for your research is to audit the equipment you have installed ready for WAN connectivity. Your current WiFi vendor. And, while you’re at it, your security vendor to. Because they’re all jostling for position in the great SD-WAN game.
Can you save cash with existing vendor platforms?
Just in case you didn’t know, SD-WAN is a book-ended solution. That means you need an SD-WAN end-point at every location and, as things stand, that needs to be provided by same vendor. Why? Because we haven’t yet reached the point where any consistent, industry-wide standards exist. So if you can re-use existing vendor platforms to deploy your next-gen SD-WAN then happy days. You’re already on the road to saving money.
Although there is a pretty big ‘but’
Whether you settle on using existing WiFi, WANOp, routers or firewalls, your existing hardware will probably need to be upgraded. In many cases, it may even have to be replaced or complemented by hardware able to support the new features. That can represent a pretty significant chunk of money as we all know. And since this is a production network, it isn’t without a hefty chunk of risk too.
Is ‘good enough’ good enough for you?
You need to decide if the features a vendor offers match your requirements. After all, not every solution will offer the same level of SD-WAN capability. Be aware too that late entrants to the space are playing catch up and can restrict themselves (and you) to some really limiting features sets. I can’t emphasise enough that it’s really worth doing some research on this to make sure you’re getting what’s right for you rather than just all right for now.
The short cut to success
Staying well informed will help you avoid making a compromise about the future of your network. Or you if you’re busy focusing on your core business, why not take the short cut? Aequos has got a pretty good handle on the whole SD-WAN landscape and we’ll happily guide you where you need to go.
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