From education to utilities and retail to logistics, the rise of digital transformation is massively impacting how organisations operate. Most (87 per cent) of business leaders say that digital transformation is a competitive opportunity, so it is vital that organisations, of all sizes, can access the technology needed to compete on a level playing field in their industry.
Digital transformation for SMEs
For SMEs looking to increase their agility and ensure security, software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) has a lot to offer, with analysts citing it as a crucial technology as part of the digital transformation process. According to an IDC study, two thirds of UK SMEs are using technology to improve their business to keep up with digital transformation, and it is essential that the channel works to provide the technology that will allow them to keep pace with larger competitors.
Yet, despite the clear benefits of SD-WAN, up until now it has proved difficult for SMEs to take advantage of this new technology due to the initial costs and lack of scalability from enterprise grade services to accommodate a smaller business model. However, this is no longer the case, there is now an opportunity for the channel to bring the technology to SMEs without the usual lag that smaller businesses experience when it comes to technology.
As resellers direct their SME customers through the process of digital transformation, they must take advantage of the emerging networking vendors that have been successful in combining scalability with an affordable cost when it comes to SD-WAN. Many SMEs run on multiple sites, in multiple locations, and experience many of the same challenges as the big players.
The technology to address the problems this structure creates must be easy to implement into their existing networking infrastructures. Requirements for network management by in-house IT managers to enhance their user experiences whilst at work and the secure data transfer between offices over a private network, are not exclusive needs of larger enterprises.
SD-WAN for SMEs
It’s hard to see why an SME IT Manager wouldn’t want to take advantage of the centralised network management that’s easy to use, streamlines inefficiencies and improve operations that SD-WAN offers.
According to Gartner, ‘SD-WAN is a new and transformational way to architect, deploy and operate corporate WANs, as it provides a dramatically simplified way of deploying and managing remote branch office connectivity in a cost-effective manner.’
Analysts and vendors alike have stated the numerous benefits SD-WAN has. The technology takes WAN networks, which have traditionally been expensive, time consuming and problematic to manage, and uses virtualisation to enable such centralised, simple to use network management to exist .
IT Managers want to be in complete control of vital network functions. Traditional WAN services are not only more complex but the trouble shooting process is completely out of the hands of the IT managers. They must wait for the service provider to address any issues that arise and risk significant down time while this happens. By adopting new SME-friendly SD-WAN solutions the IT manager is put in the driving seat.
In the past, IT Managers have been wary of adopting traditional WAN solutions, as they want to be in complete control of fundamental network operations. Previous WAN services did not allow for this as not only are they far more complex but also traditional WAN services don’t allow for in-house troubleshooting procedures, meaning if problems occur, the IT manager must deal with a considerable amount of downtime whilst they work with their WAN provider to rectify issues. However, IT Managers can now take back control of their infrastructure by adopting new SME-friendly SD-WAN systems.
Along with control, SMEs can benefit from the simplicity of SD-WAN. Specifically designed SD-WAN solutions for SMEs are designed to be simple to maintain, quick to deploy and offer flexible functionality. It gives SMEs the benefits of on site and immediate network management; a fully scalable solution to suit the SME as it grows; a secure private network; and, built in resilience to their Internet service. This not only provides the tools they need to compete in an increasingly digital age, but is fully scalable as their business grows protecting their investment.
The next question is how do SMEs implement this all now that it is accessible to them?
The changing role of the channel
The Digital Transformation strategy of many companies is defined by the channel and the role of the reseller has evolved to make them strategic consultants to many of the businesses they work with. This makes it absolutely essential for resellers to stay on top of the latest technology available to them and their customers. SD-WAN technology that is able to work for smaller businesses has emerged far more quickly than the industry initially anticipated meaning resellers must be quick to act when showing their customers how the solution can benefit their business
The role of the channel has developed drastically over the last decade as it is now required to provide strategic guidance to businesses whilst understanding the IT necessities of organisations working an ever-growing variety of sectors. The reality is that for many businesses, particularly those without a heritage in using IT infrastructure, the resellers they work with play a huge part in defining how their business will operate in the digital age.
The channel needs to ensure that they are implementing the latest innovative technologies into the Digital Transformation strategies for companies. This will guarantee that they are not only giving SMEs the best tools possible to develop their business, but to take full advantage of the levelling nature of technology and develop into businesses truly capable of disrupting the industries in which they operate
Nick Sacke is head of IoT and products at Comms365