The internet network for the 21st century


As the internet and cloud-based solutions increasingly power commerce, many Michigan companies face a big challenge. They have 20th-century networks for 21st-century businesses.

Take, for instance, a local credit union that recently looked to expand its digital banking services. Equipped with only its legacy multi-protocol label switching network (MPLS) — commonly found among businesses that need to connect multiple locations with one another — the credit union struggled with routine yet critical tasks at its sites across the state.

Simple network updates and maintenance over-stretched their bandwidth capabilities, which created performance issues that were unsustainable as it incorporated more digital offerings.

But there was a solution: a new kind of network that seamlessly supports multi-property businesses by blending incumbent MPLS networks with high-speed links to the internet. Through SD-WAN (software-defined networking technology), it encrypts and protects data as it travels to different business sites, also known as wide-area-network connections, whether they’re five or 5,000 miles away.

This modern approach positions businesses to thrive in today’s digital age. When the credit union integrated SD-WAN into its internet service, network bandwidth and application capabilities increased at all locations. Additionally, the company realized greater network visibility and control from anywhere. Perhaps most importantly, it helped customers by speeding transaction times and streamlining the account opening process.

Like the credit union, other businesses can experience similar benefits in network accessibility, speed and protection if they incorporate SD-WAN into their internet.

Optimized internet, no matter the location

IT managers long have struggled with managing multiple branch offices. When a new office or retail store needed access to an internal network, it was commonly done by routing that connection to a data center, which is expensive and time-consuming.

Since it’s cloud-based, SD-WAN instead reduces the need for costly equipment, shortens provision times, can be implemented incrementally and adds a virtual control layer on top of an organization’s network infrastructure. This enables centralized management of critical network functions through any device and allows for better management of traffic across a network.

Put another way, SD-WAN-deploying businesses can connect a branch office to the same cloud applications used by headquarters, which gives employees at the branch location the same quick access to productivity tools, capacity and network performance as those at corporate.

Now that same branch is empowered to deliver on and exceed customer expectations. For a retailer, that means blending the best of online and in-store shopping to compete with the likes of Amazon. A medical office can prioritize specific files. For example, images being sent to a radiologist offsite can take precedence on the network, saving time for both the doctor and patient and creating a better, more efficient experience for all. And for restaurants, mobile apps help patrons order ahead and skip the dinner rush.

Increased efficiency through network management

Software-driven networks are the foundation for growth. They provide not only visibility and control across the organization, but more significantly, the ability to prioritize traffic and applications. Because not all network traffic is of equal importance, IT can create policies for prioritizing bandwidth. In other words, Office 365 > YouTube.

And such changes can be made across an entire network, no matter the location, all at once. These features improve network reliability and application performance for all connected devices and applications across all sites.

More security, fewer headaches

SD-WAN also helps companies looking to enhance security of their IT systems and combat cyberattacks. The technology can come with built-in security features, such as firewalls, intrusion prevention and URL filtering. Confidential files also can be protected by segmenting and isolating traffic. This way, if one part of the network or an office is compromised, the entire system is not affected, and the data remains safe.

As we build the networks of the future, it’s important to remember that it’s about much more than simply offering connectivity to the masses. It’s about delivering new capabilities that transform digital experiences for the better and enable people to focus on what they care about most. For businesses, that’s their customers. And SD-WAN allows them to do just that.

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Brad Gramlin, who resides in and works out of the Grand Rapids area, is director of enterprise sales for Comcast Business’ Heartland Region, which includes Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky. Gramlin is responsible for inspiring and coaching a team of technology experts who help bandwidth-hungry businesses, schools and governments find and implement the right technology solutions. He has worked for Comcast Business for nearly 10 years.