Are SD-WAN and UCaaS As Close to Future-Proof As It Gets?

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When cloud computing first burst onto the scene, not many people realized we were making a leap in computer technology as big as the invention of the internet itself. In fact, whether or not you cringe when you hear someone say that we’re living in the “digital age,” the emergence of cloud computing is what might have finally made that a reality.

Today, more and more businesses are moving their computing processes to cloud servers, and the natural market reaction has been to produce many new technologies to iterate on that trend.

UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service), for example, is one of the needle-movers for building a truly scalable and cost-efficient cloud computing infrastructure for businesses.

Similarly, SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Networking) is another new technology that came with it. This is the networking method that makes UCaaS strategies viable.

Though alternatives are available, SD-WAN and UCaaS combine to make a future-proof network setup that can bring your business as close to cost-optimized cloud-based supremacy as currently possible.

How UCaaS Works

UCaaS is a powerful unifier, as the name suggests. Meanwhile, the term “cloud services” is a pretty large umbrella that encapsulates a wide variety of business applications used for running a modern enterprise. Fortunately, UCaaS is a way to keep track of them all within one network.

For example, it’s becoming increasingly common for modern businesses to replace their landlines with VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol services. This allows them to take and receive calls using an internet connection instead of a phone line, which makes it faster, clearer, and more cost-efficient than conventional business phone plans.

At the same time, businesses are also using enterprise messaging, team collaboration programs, video conferencing suites, and other data-dependent software applications to bring their companies into the 21st century—which includes juggling increased collaboration demands, remote work options, and cloud-based computing solutions.

In order to get these applications talking to each other so they can become one unified solution rather than ten discordant programs, businesses utilize APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces. When it comes to cloud-based APIs, UCaaS is the go-to solution because it combines video, audio, messaging, team networking, and other functions into one solution delivered over a cloud-based network.

Graph from Nextiva showing the growth in billions of the estimated global UCaaS market size.

How SD-WAN Fits In

UCaaS is a powerful tool, but it doesn’t work on its own because the real-time chatter between multiple communication platforms can put a serious load on any business’s network. If it’s too much to handle, you’ll experience all the issues of low-bandwidth internet communications, including lagging, jittering, and straight-up dropped connections.

This is where the need for something that can optimize UCaaS’s network for businesses arises—and that’s exactly what SD-WAN is for.

Think of your business communications like a busy city street. The applications you add, such as those with video conferencing or team networking features, are like additional lanes of traffic. Now imagine that your available bandwidth is the width or number of lanes on the road, and that outages are like car accidents. It’s not hard to guess what would happen if you have a ton of applications and one of them experiences a major hiccup.

SD-WAN is like the ultimate traffic guard, directing traffic where to go and when to move to keep things from congesting. To ensure high-quality communications, SD-WAN looks at everything coming out and going in and assigns priority to messages—all while monitoring for other, more general problems on the side.

Specifically, the technical terms of latency, jitter, and packet loss describe different ways in which data-based communications can become unstable. They usually result from connectivity issues on either end of the network or from issues in how the data is packaged and transported to the other end. SD-WAN looks for these common issues and fixes them on the fly. The result of combining SD-WAN with UCaaS architecture is that your messages go through smoothly, and communication is almost always high-quality.

Before SD-WAN and UCaaS were working together, these technologies were hard to manage and even harder to scale. In other words, due to unoptimized data communication, it was hard to deliver on the promise of a cost-efficient communication revolution. At the same time, communication security was also an issue since message transmissions could still be identified by outside programs fairly easily.

Fast-forwarding to today, the SD-WAN and UCaaS combo makes cloud communication viable and, perhaps more importantly, scalable. Businesses can now reap the benefits of efficient communication with built-in problem-solving mechanisms that keep everything running smoothly.

That said, most people have only just begun to understand the full potential of these systems in making cloud computing the future for business communication—and there are more than just a few upsides.

Benefits of SD-WAN and UCaaS

Simply put, the implementation of SD-WAN and UCaaS working together can help businesses scale up their communication networks with cost-efficient alternatives to past systems. The key benefits are as follows:

1. App optimization

Apps, apps, apps. The name of the game in modern communication infrastructure updates is adding more apps. However, simply adding apps doesn’t necessarily mean they will all function flawlessly—especially when the network is poorly optimized for the additional load. This results in the dreaded lag and jitter that can test our patience.

SD-WAN connections allow UCaaS solutions to work on uninterrupted links, which optimizes the performance of vital communication apps. The real-world result is that your conference calls will be clearer and never drop again.

2. Better visibility

SD-WAN and UCaaS systems help a business maintain communication visibility. In this context, that means being able to spot a network issue like packet loss and correct it in real time. Once again, UCaaS does the driving while SD-WAN makes sure messages get to the right place at the right time.

With both systems together, businesses can see their communication advantages and shortcomings in plain terms—which usually means fixable terms. Likewise, this also comes with big implications for communication security, since the system can spot and respond to threats as soon as they pop up.

For instance, SD-WAN has cloud-based safeguards like firewalls and secure access services that oversee both endpoints—and this doesn’t change depending on the location of the communication or the device used because it’s all unified.

3. Lower costs

IT network expansion isn’t cheap, and adding apps that increase the load doesn’t make it any cheaper. Since SD-WAN is your network monitor that guides your UCaaS solutions along the right routes for high performance, your IT department can handle a larger capacity at a lower cost.

This benefit is amplified by how the two methods combine the apps and security measures into a unified network. As such, the usability and scalability of this solution go way beyond what used to be possible with standalone systems managed separately.

4. Increased scalability

With UCaaS and SD-WAN working together, you’ll be able to decrease the number of lines you need to manage remote locations. You can do this by giving your IT departments the power to control the entire communication infrastructure through a single interface.

This is the difference between your technicians having to go to every location to update and fix installations separately and managing everything from a single dashboard. Thus, instead of waiting days for your employees to run around making a simple software update, SD-WAN and UCaaS can unify everything in minutes.

This also means that adding locations and apps to the network is just as easy. With the old systems, you had to go to those physical locations to set everything up. Now, all you need is a remote workforce working from a central hub to refine your system instead.

Keep in mind that it’s just as easy to scale down whenever you want, too.

5. More efficient routing

Where QoS (Quality of Service) is concerned, SD-WAN and UCaaS offer tangible benefits like real-time communication traffic control, tunnel bonding, and voice packet duplication to stay ahead of any issues. Bonus points if you already know what those three terms mean.

To keep it simple, all you really need to know here is that the quality of connectivity sits on a sliding scale—it changes depending on things like the number of applications you’re running, the quality of network service at each endpoint, and the devices being used.

Remember, no single app or solution is a guarantor of high-quality communication.

How To Deploy SD-WAN and UCaaS

If SD-WAN and UCaaS aren’t deployed efficiently, you’ll probably lose out on many of the benefits.

To ease the process of getting started, many UCaaS service providers bundle their own version of SD-WAN with it. Buying one integrated solution can be a great way to manage everything from one hub, though the cost isn’t always preferable to picking and choosing each service separately.

In other cases, a carrier might partner with an SD-WAN provider to offer a two-pronged service package. You can even outsource the management of your network to an entire service team that can handle everything for you. Of course, you’ll be dealing with two providers under one network solution this way, but as long as the services are optimized, it can all work very well.

This still leaves us with a burning question: What exactly do SD-WAN and UCaaS need to be optimized for? Well, there’s no universal answer for that, but if you’re looking to find out if it makes sense for your business, there are a few steps to consider.

1. Assess your connectivity goals

Depending on your staffing strategies, communication needs, regional network difficulties, and IT situation, you’re going to have different connectivity goals than the business across the street. It sounds obvious, but you should figure out what gaps these systems can fill in your architecture before shopping for the provider that can deliver them.

2. Choose the right service model

Your business might want to purchase and configure the equipment required to run SD-WAN and UCaaS services on its own, especially if you pay for a comprehensive IT department. This DIY solution usually turns out to be the cheapest, but it does require that you have a team that deeply understands these types of technology.

Alternatively, you could find a service that can guarantee UCaaS and SD-WAN installation and performance. This route will usually be more expensive than the DIY model, but the advantage is that you’ll have a single point of contact with all the technical support you’ll need—which greatly simplifies the troubleshooting and billing process.

3. Think about the long-term capabilities you will need

Regional differences, personal plans for scaling company architecture, and even industry shifts can impact what capabilities you’ll want to get out of your unified communication network. The more you can assess your distant future needs, the better equipped you’ll be to install and manage a system that will serve you for a long time.


There are many options out there, but the SD-WAN + UCaaS combo is the most future-proof system businesses can use for optimizing their communications.

It’s the one that will move your business further down the communication highway while your competitors are having fits of road rage in a 20-car pileup.

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