Today networks are critical to the operation and innovation of business organizations, workforce productivity is built on the expectation of nonstop access to communications and resources. The primary role of the WAN is to interconnect primary site and remote-site LANs. As networks become more complex in order to meet the needs of any device, any connection type, and any location, networks incur an enhanced risk of downtime caused by poor design, complex configurations, increased maintenance, or hardware and software faults. At the same time, organizations seek ways to simplify operations, reduce costs, and improve their return on investment by exploiting their investments as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Here are some best practices for designing your business wide area network connectivity:
Expanded Bandwidth at remote sites
With increasing mobile traffic from employee devices, an organization must plan for expanded WAN bandwidth at remote sites and larger router platforms to accommodate the higher capacity links. Fiber has become much more plentiful in many areas and with that has come much lower pricing. A 10 person office that used to get by on 10mb MPLS connections can now enjoy 100mb or more for the same cost. In areas where carrier fiber is not cost effective hybrid networks can be the best way to go by introducing some Software Defined WAN locations encrypting over inexpensive Internet connections that can be tied back to the HQ MPLS network. Remember your employees are carrying around 10mb connections in their pocket with cell phones so its inevitable that you'll need higher capacity WAN links to satisfy the demands of users and applications.
Standardize as much as Possible
Try to use the same equipment in all locations as much as possible. For example, if you need multiple switches, try to use the same model everywhere so that maintenance becomes easier, and there’s only one type of switch to learn and keep track of. Same thing with routers, if you mirror the same configuration and design everywhere its easier to trouble shoot, upgrade etc. It simplifies the entire configuration and maintenance process, and makes things easier when something goes wrong. Plus, with standardized equipment, it’s easier to keep a few spares on hand for quick replacement, if needed.
Invest in network monitoring
Monitoring allows you to assess trouble areas, determine when you’ll need additional capacity and when to upgrade your system. You'll want to deploy wireless access points and routers with monitoring tools built in so you can determine how many devices are accessing the network and what resources they are using. That way you can identify if there are any cases of unauthorized access, know the status of equipment and connectivity which is especially useful if you have network redundancies. If something fails, without management, you may not notice until the redundancies fail, too, and then your whole network could go down at once. With monitoring and management, you can see problems as they happen and fix them right away.
Redundancy and Survivability
Cellular connectivity enables the use of Internet WAN, without requiring any wired infrastructure or circuits and provides a flexible, high-speed, high-bandwidth option. There are several 4G LTE technologies that are supported. Its not pretty or super fast but wireless cellular backup is inexpensive and keeps mission critical systems online in the event of an un-forseen outage to the primary fiber circuit.
If you have the budget for SD WAN you can run both MPLS and Internet into the same endpoint with failover and load balancing between the circuits. This is an ideal set up because mission critical traffic can be pushed across the private MPLS while lesser traffic can be pushed across encrypted internet connectivity.
Protect and optimize application performance
Move to an application policy-based model that maximizes usage and improves the application experience, through services that provide greater visibility, granular control and maximum optimization. Path control and load balancing based on business directed policies at the application level will greatly simplify the administration of application performance. For example, a path control policy may set the MPLS network as preferred path for voice applications for guaranteed SLAs and high reliability and load balance other traffic across the network to maximize usage. Most users perceive the network as a transport utility mechanism to shift data from point A to point B as fast as it can. Many sum this up as just “speeds and feeds.” While it is true that IP networks forward traffic on a best-effort basis by default, this type of routing works well only for applications that adapt gracefully to variations in latency, jitter, and loss. However, networks are multi-service by design and support real-time voice and video as well as data traffic. The difference is that real-time applications require packets to be delivered within specified loss, delay, and jitter parameters. In reality, the network affects all traffic flows and must be aware of end-user requirements and services being offered. Even with unlimited bandwidth, time-sensitive applications are affected by jitter, delay, and packet loss. QoS enables a multitude of user services and applications to coexist on the same network.
Enable secure, scalable and resilient infrastructure
Make sure your WAN design elevates security at the branch office edge. MPLS for example is private connectivity and centralized Internet connectivity happens at the HQ where IT can monitor and secure it. If MPLS is not a cost effective option then deploy a hybrid design using SD WAN with firewall capabilities at the edge. Provide infrastructure that can quickly expand with the business an ensure 99.99 percent reliability across connections.
Enterprise WAN architectures require proven solutions that scale to all remote-site sizes over any transport. With rich application and security services on a single platform, IT should be able to scale to hundreds of sites. Deploy solutions that allow IT to maintain granular control, from the remote site, to the data center, and out to the public cloud.