Demand for managed software defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) solutions is experiencing explosive growth as businesses grapple with new connectivity and security challenges. SD-WAN plays an essential role in facilitating cloud migrations and hybrid working models at a time of growing cybersecurity threats.

That’s according to Hettie Botha, business unit manager: connectivity and voice at Nashua Kopano, who says that SD-WAN improves network performance and fortifies security, serving as a key enabler for digital transformation strategies in medium-sized and large organisations.

“We have seen a sharp increase in adoption of fixed-wireless and fibre to ensure seamless network performance across distributed sites,” says Botha. “Whether organisations opt for a single WAN link or a mix of connectivity services to ensure redundancy, they need bulletproof security across their connections.”

Many South African companies have adopted SD-WAN to monitor and balance network traffic across multiple links in real time, optimise bandwidth utilisation and thereby improve network performance. The next step forward is to put managed solutions in place to strengthen security, says Botha.

Market research from BMIT forecasts that SD-WAN will penetrate 51% of all South African VPN-enabled business sites by 2027, up from 24% in 2022. The market researcher says that most large companies are likely to adopt a fully managed service and that security will increasingly be integrated into managed SD-WAN.

Says Botha: “Companies should look for a managed SD-WAN solution that incorporates robust security into its design to provide peace of mind in a connected world. Features such as DNS-based content filtering and Border Gateway Protocol blackhole feeds protect against emerging threats and safeguard sensitive data.

“An ideal managed solution will offer a unified approach to network management with single-pane-of-glass dashboards and service level agreement (SLA) reporting. This simplifies the task of monitoring network health and performance, empowering admins to address security and performance issues proactively.”

According to Botha, some of the key SD-WAN features to look for from a security point of view include:

* WAN failover to keep networks operational during unexpected disruptions.

* BGP blackhole feed, which mitigates emerging threats by aggregating data from multiple sources.

* DNS-based content filtering to block malicious websites and enable precise control over web access.

* Secure network management, providing controlled access for administrators while ensuring data protection and compliance.

* A centralised view of network health and alerts for simplified management.

* Daily configuration backups to ensure network settings are secure and easy to restore in case of unforeseen events.

* Scheduled performance reports for measurement of branch uptime against predefined targets for improved reliability.

* Customisable notification policies that deliver timely alerts via platforms like WhatsApp for seamless communication.

Says Botha: “Managed SD-WAN is a cost-effective alternative to traditional WAN deployments, helping businesses to reduce networking costs with no compromise to performance, reliability, or security. Such a solution ensures business continuity even in the face of unexpected disruptions.”