SD-WAN has quickly become one of the most popular solutions for a variety of network issues that have plagued modern industries over the past few years and, as it is adopted by more and more industries around the world, everyone from manufacturers to healthcare and financial professionals can enhance their networking operations.
The retail industry is a great example of how SD-WAN can be used to maximize network optimization efforts as well as stay up to date with the latest technological offerings in the field of software-defined networking (SDN).
So, how do software-defined wide-area networks benefit the retail industry? In this article we’ll be looking at how SD-WAN benefits retailers with our list of eight SD-WAN benefits for retail.
Before we take a look at how SD-WAN can help to improve retail operations, let’s first try and understand some of the networking challenges faced by retailers.
Networking Challenges in Retail
The use of networks to manage retail operations and back office functions and systems has continued to grow as quickly as ever, and with software-defined networking enhancing commercial and industrial networks around the world, it looks very much set to continue to do so.
Cloud applications are another challenge that retailers are currently looking to address as traditional legacy networks are just no longer capable of dealing with such bandwidth-intensive traffic from so many different store locations simultaneously.
VoiP services, eCommerce, video surveillance, and point-of-sale systems are but a few of applications retailers need to be able to run but, with legacy systems, won’t be able to.
Multiprotocol Label Switching, once seen as SD-WANs biggest competitor, has now been shown to be incapable of running services such as those listed above to the degree in which most retail enterprises would need.
Retailers are now looking to SD-WAN to provide the flexibility, connectivity, efficiency and security that their current systems lack.
The Benefits of SD-WAN for Retail
Now that we understand some of the challenges being faced by retailers when it comes to their networks, let’s take a look at eight of the biggest benefits that SD-WAN can bring to the retail industry.
In order to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of the retail industry, companies and enterprises need to know that their wide-area network is flexible enough to flex and shift as and when the business requires.
Network virtualization is enabling businesses and organizations to build and maintain increasingly flexible network architectures, and with the implementation of SD-WAN solutions, retailers are able to streamline the addition or subtraction of extra cloud or internet services.
This allows them to trial new services or expand them into different locations without the hassle that would come with doing so with legacy systems.
As previously mentioned, one of the biggest challenges facing the retail industry is managing the multiple types of connections needed to ensure service levels and network operations stay optimal.
By utilizing multiple Broadband, MPLS and LTE combined in one failsafe network, companies can ensure that adequate service levels can always be provided.
In the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, network devices and applications come in all shapes and sizes and are capable of a variety of different functions and applications.
However, many legacy devices are slowly becoming incompatible with newer technologies and maintaining them can sometimes create an issue within itself. SD-WAN implementation reduces the footprint of on-premises hardware which decreases the maintenance costs and downtime.
Also upgrading the services to newer versions will be easier when it’s just software as no truck-rolls will be required. By enabling the easy addition of future applications and services through software, rather than hardware, retailers can save on time and maintenance.
4-Improved Bandwidth Efficiency
With bandwidth-intensive applications such as digital signage and video surveillance, companies need to be able to use the bandwidth available to them as smartly as possible..
A WAN solution that is capable of both leveraging and reallocating bandwidth resources as and when they need to be would be of great benefit to any retail network.
By prioritizing bandwidth intensive retail workloads such as video conferencing, online training, running VoIP, or setting up and maintaining an e-commerce site, an SD-WAN can help to improve the bandwidth efficiency of retail networks.
With more and more advanced and cutting-edge technologies becoming available every year, retailers need a simple and effective methods for integrating these technologies to enhance their operations and services.
In today’s day and age, disjointed and disconnected services that are difficult for employees to learn or understand will always set retailers at a disadvantage. SD-WAN provides the common network interface in which cloud and mobile applications can access data in real-time.
This can also allow access for any authorized, internet or network connected device to allow for further flexibility and accessibility.
Network complexity is an increasingly common issue as more and more businesses and enterprises are utilizing both cloud-based and mobile applications, and this in turn has raised complexity within retail and other industrial networks.
In years gone by, opening a new store meant needing to build and configure a network from scratch, however, this is no longer the case.
With SD-WAN, all devices and hardware, traffic, and other connections are managed through a centralized controller, reducing the need for thousands of distributed connections for each individual branch or store and significantly reducing onsite network complexity for retailers.
In the retail industry, where an absolutely enormous amount of sensitive, financial, and personal data and traffic travels across and network and is collected and stored on a daily basis, securing this data and traffic is of critical importance.
With many legacy WANs coming without basic security features built in, they cannot be relied upon to adequately protect a network.
Using SD-WANs as opposed to traditional networking architectures can help to assure retailers that their business networks are being protected by standard SD-WAN security features such as encryption and tunneling which can also work alongside additional security features retailers may choose to implement.
With traditional legacy systems, many are ill-equipped to provide modern services in their standard hardware forms.
With a centralized and virtualized networking solution, retailers can reduce the costs associated with purchasing and installing additional hardware to support their applications and requirements.
They do this by removing, or virtualizing, various different aspects and components that make up a wide-area network. This then means that these aspects of the network can be dealt with through software, rather than physical hardware that needs to be maintained, powered, and occasionally repaired.