Guest Column | July 16, 2021

How Retail IT Leaders Can Demonstrate The Business Case For SD-WAN

By John Tait, TNS Payments Market

Network SD-WAN

As humans, we make a lot of decisions, large and small, every single day. Each one is the result of careful calculations our brains make, both consciously and unconsciously, to determine risks and rewards, based on the data we’re given. So if we’re trying to persuade others to decide in our favor, giving them the right information — particularly the facts that align with their own needs — can go a long way toward winning them over.

In a retail business, IT and operations leaders use this strategy to help the C-suite see the business case for allocating budget toward new hardware or software. Not all roles within the C-suite require a deep understanding of IT infrastructure, which makes it important to present the right benefits during these kinds of conversations and show how investments in technology make business sense.

For example, the benefits of software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN) that excite IT professionals — a modernized IT environment, more streamlined network management, and improved application performance, for example — aren’t necessarily the key points to highlight to a CEO or CFO.

So if IT leaders are trying to demonstrate the business case for investing in SD-WAN, what should they say?

Here are four benefits to highlight:

SD-WAN Offers A Lower Total Cost Of Ownership (TCO) Than Legacy IT Infrastructure. Legacy solutions such as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) are effective and secure for some applications, but they were not designed for the cloud era. In many cases, when an MPLS network has to access cloud apps, traffic from branches must be backhauled to the cloud from a headquarters or data center. This slows network speeds and strains bandwidth and upgrading or retrofitting an MPLS network to handle the cloud would be cost-prohibitive and time-consuming.

On the other hand, SD-WAN can reduce costs by providing dynamic, multi-point connectivity using distributed, private data traffic exchange and control points via standard internet connections. The technology secures direct access to the cloud and internet while also providing local access for employees, whether they’re accessing network-based or cloud services. Plus, SD-WAN providers that combine payments services and network connectivity offer a two-in-one solution. Some SD-WAN solutions also allow a business to shift the costs of security, compliance, and vendor management onto the service provider.

SD-WAN creates business agility. The past year has revealed the value of agility and flexibility as businesses of all kinds made pandemic-related pivots to accommodate new customer needs. While, of course, everyone is hoping we won’t experience another pandemic any time soon, there are plenty of other external circumstances for which businesses need to be prepared: changing market conditions, ever-evolving customer preferences, competition and disruption, and so on.

SD-WAN’s inherent flexibility helps businesses stay agile enough to quickly adapt as circumstances change. It can be deployed using any number of different connectivity types and legacy infrastructures while orchestrating these various elements to ensure reliability.

It’s also scalable; once the initial implementation is deployed, new sites can be connected and brought online relatively quickly. This gives retailers the flexibility to test new sites as pop-ups or short-term rentals to gauge foot traffic and business volume — without signing long-term leases that might not pay off.

SD-WAN helps organizations use existing resources more effectively. SD-WAN offers centralized control and automated management functions, which can reduce the amount of heavy lifting IT teams need to do to deploy and maintain the network. This sounds on the surface like it mainly benefits the IT department, but it’s also good for an entire business.

Here’s why: If IT doesn’t have to focus so much time and attention on network management, they’re free to work on functions more relevant to a retailer’s business, such as website/eCommerce platform maintenance, or managing customer data platforms. Allowing IT to focus instead on value-added work like this can yield cost savings in the form of greater productivity, but it also could result in more stable revenue, or even increased sales.

A managed-services SD-WAN solution takes this a step further; all implementation and management are outsourced to a third party, which can improve service delivery and quality of services while taking the work of network management off a retailer’s internal IT team completely.

SD-WAN’s security features reduce business risk. With retail consistently ranking as one of the sectors most vulnerable to cyberattacks, a secure network doesn’t just protect data; it also protects a business. A retail business that gets hacked faces the loss of reputation and customer trust, both of which can result in lost revenue; a business may also be subject to regulatory fines or even lawsuits.

Because SD-WAN uses IPSec tunneling, the connectivity layer (broadband, LTE, etc.) is only for transport; data on the network travels from site to site, or from device to device, fully encrypted. Some SD-WAN solutions offer secure connectivity through features such as antivirus protection with anti-malware and spyware; URL filtering and TLS packet inspection; dynamic policy management; and regular firmware updates. Choosing an SD-WAN that offers such security protocols can help retailers save money that they might otherwise spend on ancillary network security measures — while also reducing the risk of cyberattacks.

SD-WAN Makes Business Sense

These are just four of the benefits that IT leaders can highlight to C-suite executives to help them understand the overall benefits of a more modernized networking infrastructure for a retail business. In the digital era, better technology always results in a better business — and with a secure SD-WAN solution providing a technology foundation, a retail operation will be positioned for growth and innovation.

About The Author

John Tait is Global Managing Director of TNS’ Payments Market business. He is responsible for identifying and driving growth across the Americas, Europe, and Asia Pacific regions, and is focused on meeting the unique requirements of TNS’ customers.