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What To Look For in a Managed SD-WAN Service Provider

Today’s IT teams are overwhelmed. They have to navigate complex, multi-cloud environments, launch and scale digital transformation efforts, and connect hybrid workforces. As a result, IT leaders increasingly turn to software-defined wide area networks or SD-WAN as a solution. SD-WAN solutions offer improved productivity, route traffic efficiently for increased application effectiveness, connect branch offices, and boost network security.

That said, there are a lot of options for SD-WAN solutions on the market. Some teams are even choosing to build and manage their solutions in-house. However, deploying and managing your own solution can be risky.

At the same time, working with a partner who doesn’t understand your business or have the skills to meet your needs is equally risky. That’s why it’s important to find an SD-WAN managed services provider (MSP) that will meet all of your needs – not just some.

This blog will highlight the six things to look for when choosing a managed SD-WAN service provider.

Reputation

Regardless of the service offered, reputation matters. You’re searching for a partner who can design, build, and run a network solution on your behalf. Working with a managed SD-WAN service provider means you can access their network expertise.

You should look for a provider with a breadth of experience in various customer environments. Find an SD-WAN partner who provides tailored solutions, always-on support, and a partnership that lasts beyond installation. Ask about their Net Promoter Scores (NPS) – happy customers indicate good design and an effectively managed SD-WAN solution. With a reliable partner at your side, you’ll have more time to innovate and solve problems specific to your business.

Breadth of services

Finding a vendor that specializes in SD-WAN solutions is great. However, finding a managed services provider that offers other integrated and additional technology solutions is important, too. Do they offer a single SD-WAN solution or do they offer other solutions to serve your business needs? Aside from SD-WAN, ask what other secure connectivity and technology solutions they offer or manage.

Consider security features like firewalls, secure access service edge (SASE), Zero Trust remote access solutions, and DDoS Protection. Networking equipment, private cloud on-ramp, wireless, and broadband access, and a Tier-1 broadband Internet network backbone are other solutions to ask about.

Apart from other service offerings, consider the managed service provider’s ability to procure, configure, install, and own day two remediation of hardware. By offering this, your provider relieves the burden of managing your end-to-end service design and procurement.

From a service perspective, figure out what their approach is to monitoring and managing multi-vendor solutions. Also, ask your provider about their supplier relationships:

  • Do they have volume buying power? 
  • Do they leverage to get equipment and services faster than you? 
  • Do they have better access to 2nd line support or perhaps shared spare inventory?

The answers to these questions will help you understand the services your provider can offer your business.

Security

Security must be a top priority for your SD-WAN provider. SD-WAN equipment usually has layers of security built in, but check with your provider to make sure. The provider should also offer additional solutions not inherent to the SD-WAN service for added protection. Examples include managed firewalls, SASE, and Zero Trust services.

So, what do these additional security services provide? Zero Trust access controls and policy-based, centralized security models protect SD-WAN solutions. Zero Trust security models allow IT teams to control application access for users regardless of location via policy-based security.

Additionally, SASE becomes even more relevant as companies host more applications in the Cloud. In more basic terms, SASE is an SD-WAN deployment paired with holistic security features, called SSE. SASE leverages distributed, cloud-native firewalls to secure your data and systems against outside threats. It also enforces access policies and compliance by intercepting all sessions en route.

Aside from offering extra security services, consider how your SD-WAN partner handles end-to-end change management processes. Adherence to practices such as IT Infrastructure Library or ITIL helps minimize risk and service disruption.

Design & Deployment Skills

You want your end-to-end SD-WAN solution to be up and running quickly and painlessly and your provider to match your pace. But first, you need to establish how much work you have to do in the design process. Your provider should consider your needs without having to be an expert on device configuration.

Determine how your managed service provider would work with you. You want a partner to help optimally configure systems for the desired outcomes, not hand you forms to fill out. Learn how your provider handles end-to-end project management and their process for scaling deployments with minimal errors. Ask questions like:

  • How many sites can you install in a day?
  • How do you install that many sites in a day?
  • What automation systems do you use?
  • How do you scale configuration?
  • How many people do you need to deploy your solution?

This is how you determine whether you are tying yourself to a rock or a liferaft.

You want a partner who can design better than your staff. They should be able to deploy quickly, without errors, with minimal supervision, and working at your pace. This will free up your staff to focus on what only they can do to make the network transition painless.

Performance & Management

Network performance goes hand in hand with employee productivity, the ability to innovate, and the end-user experience. Your managed SD-WAN service provider should enable throughput improvements and configure the end-to-end solution for optimal network and application performance. Most SD-WAN technologies include application-aware routing. Your end-users should get a quality application experience with a properly designed network and fully configured equipment.

It’s also important to figure out what level of management you want to provide. A good provider will be flexible, offering customers full control and co-management options. They may also offer training to bring your team up to speed with the new technology.  

Deployment and initial configuration determine day-one performance, but how you or your provider manages the services determines end-user satisfaction. Determine what technologies your managed service partner is using to effectively manage multi-vendor solutions.

Ask whether they use AI for speedy route cause analysis and automation for remote remediation.

  • Do they understand the difference between true observability and monitoring? 
  • How do they use that for network health and maintenance? 
  • What fraction of faults do they fix before a ticket is raised? 
  • How do they work with carrier ticketing and integrate with vendor ticketing systems?

Above all, ask about their Net Promoter Score (NPS). This shows how their overall network performance and management delight their customers.

Visibility & Transparency

Having visibility into the network services is a critical component of an IT manager’s job. Whether you co-manage or your provider manages the solution, you should have a view of your network performance.

Good managed service providers offer a customer portal, allowing visibility into the performance of all your network’s managed elements, including network infrastructure. This portal should display both current and historical information, alongside open and historical ticket status.

This enables you to instantly answer any questions from your executive team about issues and status. It also allows you to conduct your own performance analysis, including your managed services provider’s performance. Today’s world is about real-time dashboards, not end-of-month reviews.

Be wary of flashy equipment vendor portals that provide visibility into only a small piece of your network health. Good managed SD-WAN providers quickly provide a holistic, real-time view of network performance.

SD-WAN, Managed by Zayo

Managed Edge Networking enables a future-proof solution. A management partner ensures a new change and future needs won’t hinder your day-to-day business. Zayo uses professional services, automation, and AIOps to design, build, and run multi-vendor edge to core to cloud managed SD-WAN and SASE solutions that our customers love.

Zayo’s managed edge capabilities include: 

  • 15+edge technology vendors and a full range of ancillary equipment for an edge to core to cloud solution
  • Optional security solutions to deploy SASE enable remote working and Cloud-based Security
  • Low latency, global cloud access to every major CSP leveraging our own private Tier-1 IP network 
  • White glove design by professionals who support your team every step of the way
  • Fast, scalable, error-free deployment enabled by automation platforms for logistics and equipment configuration
  • Full or co-management options for customers to maintain optimal network control 
  • Edge-to-everywhere management using AIOps and automation for proactive fault remediation
  • 20+ years of engineering expertise in managed network service experience 
  • AI-driven customer-focused monitoring and management portal that works cross-vendor and cross-platform for all managed elements, access services, ticketing events, and performance, plus optional ITSM integration
  • Always-on support from our network operations center
  • Direct symmetrical connections to our Tier-1 IP global network 
  • Vendor-agnostic advisory for tailored solutions aiding each unique transformation
  • Third-party wireline and wireless access aggregation options

Explore Zayo’s Managed Edge Services portfolio. 

Transform your network experience

Zayo’s SD-WAN combines world-class network connectivity and best-in-breed edge devices into a fully managed solution, which we deploy quickly at scale and manage end-to-end.

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