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Even over a single, crummy Internet connection, SD-WAN survives


SD-WAN is one of the best technologies to catch fire in the last couple of years and if you are a little fuzzy on it, here’s an opportunity to learn another tidbit about this wonderful, disruptive technology.

Despite the acronym “WAN” (Wide Area Network), in its name, SD-WAN is not solely for companies with multiple sites. It is just as useful to a company with 1 site as it is to a company with 100 sites. Contrary to popular opinion, it is also nearly just as useful for a company with a single Internet connection as it is for a company with multiple Internet connections.  A good, cloud-enabled SD-WAN solution, layered onto a single, shaky Internet connection, will transform a normally choppy VoIP call, into a thing of beauty. You may even find yourself  wanting to take a call from a salesperson, just to hear their voice!

On-the-fly application prioritization

When you order SD-WAN, you are shipped a bare-bones, plug-n-play router and you are given a login to an online control panel with a GUI interface, where you can configure and monitor your SD-WAN service.

One of the first things you do within your control panel, is identify the different applications on your network and group them into different levels of priority (i.e. VoIP vs. email vs. Internet browsing). The high priority applications get to go first, while the others need to wait.

The best thing about SD-WAN is at any given moment, it is detecting the application flow and throttling non-priority traffic appropriately. This alone will help your VoIP call quality, since calls are no longer competing for bandwidth , for example, with training video or  listening to hits on itunes.

Forward error correction

Another common feature SD-WAN solutions offer is called Forward Error Correction (i.e. channel coding), which essentially duplicates your phone call’s data packets, giving every packet of every phone call, 2 chances to succeed. That’s a very layman way of explaining it but you get the point.

Even better, the SD-WAN solution will sense if you have enough bandwidth on your circuit to perform forward error correction and if not, will throttle non-priority applications or quit running FEC, all-together. Forward error correction drastically reduces packet errors and packet loss ( things that make VoIP phone calls drop or sound terrible). Some cloud-enabled SD-WAN providers will not only perform this on-site but also within their cloud gateways.

Dynamic jitter buffering

Some SD-WAN solutions offer a feature called “jitter buffering.” It sounds complicated but all it means is that the SD-WAN service is reducing the nasty jitter on your voice calls by collecting the data packets (that comprise your phone call in this example), storing them, then sending them out in evenly spaced intervals. Add the word “dynamic” to this feature and it means the SD-WAN solution detects the need for jitter buffering on-the-fly, and applies it, as-needed.

Like Forward Error Correction, some cloud-enabled SD-WAN providers offer this on-site, as well as at the cloud-gateway-level. Or, SD-WAN will probably make your VoIP phone system work, even if you have one location, with a poor Internet connection.


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