The rapid shift to remote work caused by COVID-19 has had no shortage of unexpected side effects. And even as businesses begin to re-open, there is one major challenge they’ll need to address: how to handle increased strain on network bandwidth without sacrificing the quality of voice communications.
After all, pundits predict remote work isn’t going anywhere, but rather, that more and more work environments will include a combination of in-house and off-site personnel. As network usage increases to support these more complex environments, businesses will need to account for the increased data usage caused by video conferencing, collaboration tools, and similar realities of remote work — all of which can put a serious damper on call quality if left unchecked.
As more applications compete for available bandwidth, it’s not uncommon for voice conversations to become garbled, delayed, or dropped altogether. However, with the effective use of a voice-focused SD-WAN application as deployed by a trusted cloud service provider, businesses can dramatically improve voice quality across the entire organization. This has been a proven strategy for several years, but is now becoming even more important as voice, data and now video applications compete for network availability.
What is SD-WAN?
SD-WAN, or software-defined wide area networks, prioritizes the transmission of a specific data stream over another when bandwidth is constrained, such as emphasizing voice traffic over other forms of data usage. This ensures that network resources are consumed in the most efficient manner, ensuring that all team members can utilize all business communications services appropriately. An effective, voice-focused SD-WAN solution can:
Reduce latency, distortion, echo, and other nuisances
Prioritize voice traffic to accommodate the additional requirements of hybrid work environments
As you can imagine, with remote work on the rise and likely to be part of our lives long-term, SD-WAN is a particularly valuable part of the “new normal.”
The Value of Voice-based SD-WAN
In a voice-centric SD-WAN configuration, voice traffic is assigned higher priority than data communication. This certainly improves the quality and reliability of voice transmissions while having a minimal impact on data and voice-centric applications. In fact, experts note that most business networks have more than ample bandwidth to accommodate all business requirements — as long as that traffic is properly balanced and prioritized.
The quality of voice can be hindered by network issues in the form of packet loss, jitter, and delay, which results in distortion, tininess, and even dropped calls. This is noticeable to users, and disruptive to business. On the other hand, latency is often far less perceptible in the case of data networks.
For example, highly congested network traffic may only cause a one second difference in the time it takes for a web page to load, or receive an email, which is nearly imperceptible to the user. However, a similar level of latency on a voice call could lead to compromised intelligibility or a dropped call, and with it, angry and frustrated customers and staff. Any delay in — or worse, disruption — to a voice call can have a substantial impact to the bottom line, but minor delays in data communication are imperceptible to the user. This is the value of a voice-first SD-WAN solutions.
How Channel Partners Can Capitalize On the SD-WAN Opportunity
Voice-centric SD-WAN offerings better serve the needs of businesses, while building ongoing revenues for MSPs. Savvy partners should suggest these types of SD-WAN solutions to support congested networks as businesses retool their communications services to meet evolving internal and customer needs. As businesses begin to ramp back up, they will naturally turn to their trusted IT advisors to help manage these transitions with nimble and cost-effective solutions like SD WAN. Through tools like these, communication improves, staff and customers become more satisfied, and businesses can enjoy far greater productivity and efficiency.
For cloud service providers looking to address the most pressing needs of their customers, SD-WAN should be an integral part of your cloud communications portfolio. And if you haven’t made the leap yet to offering cloud communications, now is the time to start — customers are actively looking for ways to stay connected and engaged to their remote employees, and Unified Communications technology can help them do that now, and in the future.
To learn more about how to get started, download our detailed infographic, Evaluating Three Ways to Offer Cloud Communications to Your Customers. In it, we cover the benefits and drawbacks to offering cloud communications through three of the most common channels: an agent program, building your own solution, and partnering with a private-label provider.