We have smart cars, refrigerators, and toilets, and you’d be hard-pressed to name someone without a smartphone, thanks to Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN). SD-WAN gives your network a ‘brain,’ opening the way for unprecedented efficiency and tighter security.
This makes it perfect for state and local government agencies, which are charged with efficiently using the public’s funds while boosting security. Here are some of the prime benefits and applications of SD-WAN for government agencies.
Challenges Faced by State and Local Government Agencies
Government agencies often have to deal with limited bandwidth that simply can’t meet ever-changing needs. Network congestion exacerbates the challenge as many people flood the same network, trying to videoconference, work on web apps, and send important, time-sensitive files.
With a traditional wide area network (WAN) solution, enabling a system that’s flexible enough to handle changing network demands is very expensive. In many cases, it’s best to overpay for more bandwidth than you need to ensure you have the throughput for any situation.
But these costs pile up, month after month, competing for space in already tight budgets.
In addition to the operational difficulties of traditional WAN, government agencies also have to contend with the security concerns and vulnerabilities it can introduce.
For instance, with a traditional WAN solution, you often have to work with static configurations that remain the same for several months or even years. If you wanted to change how your network processed traffic, you’d have to do it manually, which can take a lot of time. Static network configurations can be easy targets for hackers.
For instance, suppose you have a traditional WAN setup that includes a firewall positioned between an important government department and the rest of the internet. No matter how much traffic goes through that point, your traditional WAN handles it the same way.
With that setup, all a hacker has to do is overwhelm your firewall with a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, giving it too many requests to process. They could, in effect, hijack the firewall, leaving critical assets unprotected.
With an SD-WAN solution, you can program the network to allow only a certain amount of traffic through that part of your network1. This protects both your firewall and the assets it’s safeguarding.
The Impact of SD-WAN
SD-WAN gives you unprecedented, centralized network management and control. In a way, SD-WAN is a lot like a traffic management system in a large, complex city. Let’s say the city has a traffic guru who controls who and what goes where and how. If there’s an accident on the interstate, the traffic guru makes sure ambulances have easy access to the streets leading up to the scene and a clear path back to the hospital.
During lunchtime, the guru makes sure that food deliveries reach office buildings. As the day ends, commuters get priority access to the streets that lead out to the suburbs where they live.
SD-WAN is like that traffic guru, and the streets are your network. It makes your network more reliable while also boosting its performance. If multiple departments have to join a large video conference from different offices, SD-WAN can ensure they have the bandwidth. If there’s an app your agency needs to always stay up, SD-WAN can prioritize that network traffic over less important activities like watching YouTube videos.
How SD-WAN Saves Government Agencies Money
Since SD-WAN optimizes how your network handles traffic, many government agencies can save significant cash on internet service. Instead of going for the maximum you’d need, you can opt for a less expensive plan. If an app needs a lot of bandwidth, your SD-WAN can ensure it gets it. In this way, you can get the most out of your internet service, as well as your in-house intranet bandwidth—without having to spend more.
How SD-WAN Improves Security and Encryption
As mentioned earlier, you can use SD-WAN to detect malicious network behavior2. For instance, if a hacker were to try to steal government data, your SD-WAN system could detect that activity. As a large volume of data tries to leave your system on its way to a hacker’s server, you can use your SD-WAN’s programming to see and stop the attack.
A traditional WAN setup may use older encryption algorithms that hackers have already found ways to circumvent. But with SD-WAN, you get the latest and most effective encryption. This makes it easier to keep sensitive data safe from those who’d try to intercept it.
Tools for Implementing SD-WAN
SD-WAN benefits from tools such as cloud-based management platforms that enable agility and control over how your network behaves. With a cloud-based management system, you can check and change your network parameters and performance from anywhere. You also have access to powerful, cloud-based computational power that ensures the speed and agility of your SD-WAN.
As a result, you get real-time analytics, automated provisioning, and strategic policy enforcement. For a government agency, this can make the difference between a broad, embarrassing incident and smooth, consistent operations.
For instance, suppose you incorporate your power grid’s operation into your SD-WAN. Here’s how you benefit from analytics, provisioning, and policy enforcement:
- You can analyze how the power grid’s software is receiving and sending data, making sure there are no hang-ups.
- Your SD-WAN can automatically provide more bandwidth to the power grid’s system if bandwidth starts to run low, ensuring the software continues serving customers and finding efficient ways to manage the grid.
- You can set up and enforce policies so those who use workstations running the power grid’s software don’t waste bandwidth on unnecessary sites, social media, or other distractions.
In combination, these features ensure you provide energy to the public and continue to enable an efficient system without hitting bandwidth limits.
Implementing an SD-WAN Strategy
To implement an SD-Wan strategy, you should:
- Assess your present network infrastructure. Figure out how much bandwidth you need, where, and why.
- Identify your goals regarding how to get the most from your network. This involves making sure you have what you need for your current operations, as well as predicting your future needs and how SD-WAN can make it possible.
- Figure out which SD-WAN provider is best for your needs
- Set up a step-by-step implementation system. It’s best to segment your implementation into stages, from in-house testing to public-facing beta testing to full-scale deployment.
- Train your IT teams on how to use and manage your system
- Monitor the system’s performance as time goes on and make any necessary adjustments to boost performance and safety.
Trends and Predictions
SD-WAN is going to get more and more sophisticated, especially with the introduction of AI-based tools. This will enable your SD-WAN to teach itself the best ways to maximize network performance and safety.
Internet of Things (IoT) devices will likely benefit from SD-WAN as well. It can provide IoT devices with the bandwidth they need to respond to user requests, send important data, and enable real-time, data-based decisions.
Security will continue to be a primary concern, especially because if a hacker gets inside an SD-WAN system, they could inflict considerable damage. For example, they could set up backdoors for certain kinds of attacks or hold the entire network hostage.
For this reason, it’s best to choose an SD-WAN provider that understands how to stop the latest attacks and can advise you regarding how best to secure your system.
How SD-WAN Integrates with Other Technologies
SD-WAN can boost the performance of virtually any network-connected technology. For example, suppose a government agency had an application it used to track the spread of an outbreak in real-time. The system collects real-time infection data from hospitals and clinics across the city.
If the number of case reports suddenly spikes as the outbreak intensifies, the agency’s SD-WAN can make sure the app has the bandwidth it needs to deliver data without any interruptions.
In some instances, you may have a legacy network that you want to keep in place. For example, you could have an intranet that’s been working well for many years, enabling connection and collaboration between multiple stakeholders and departments. SD-WAN can treat that intranet as its own entity, ensuring it has the bandwidth it needs to operate smoothly, even when there are spikes in network traffic.
The State Department Uses SD-WAN to Connect Disparate Offices
The State Department needed to connect its offices in the continental U.S., Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Canada. A traditional WAN network wouldn’t enable sufficient flexibility, so the State Department decided to deploy SD-WAN3.
As a result, the department was able to connect all of its offices, regardless of location, ensuring they had the bandwidth they needed to perform critical duties.
San Jose Uses SD-WAN to Optimize Its Fleet and Transit System
The City of San Jose, California, has a large fleet of transit vehicles that operates within a complicated, distributed network of streets, storage facilities, garages, bus and train stops, and stations. To ensure every vehicle and device had the throughput it needed, city officials opted for an SD-WAN solution4.
This involves connecting many IoT devices to the network, giving them the ability to communicate with each other, key personnel, and operations centers. The system also enabled mobile vehicles to provide Wi-Fi connectivity to travelers and staff. In addition, the system made consistent GPS monitoring possible across the city’s fleet.
Step Into the Future of Government Networking with SD-WAN
With an SD-WAN solution, you can exercise granular control over how your network behaves. It also gives you stronger encryption and a less static network, which makes it harder for attackers to find vulnerabilities.
Now is the best time for agencies to consider SD-WAN because it empowers your digital infrastructure, giving it the agility it needs to serve the public and provide the connectivity your systems depend on. You can also leverage an SD-WAN system as the backbone of a hyper-connected infrastructure that integrates data from multiple departments.
Question: What are the primary benefits of SD-WAN for State and Local Government Agencies?
Answer: SD-WAN offers state and local government agencies stronger, more flexible network performance, cost savings, more robust security, and centralized network management.
Question: How does SD-WAN address common challenges in State and Local Government Agencies?
Answer: Traditional WAN solutions often come with challenges like limited bandwidth, network congestion, high costs, and security vulnerabilities. SD-WAN addresses these by offering scalable solutions that adapt to varying network demands. This gives you consistent connectivity you can depend on. SD-WAN’s encryption and security protocols also safeguard data, making it ideal for government agencies that have to handle sensitive information.
Question: Are there cost implications for implementing SD-WAN in State and Local Government Agencies?
Answer: SD-WAN costs money, but the benefits often outweigh the price tag. You can save money on your monthly internet service, for example, and enjoy more efficient performance for your apps.
Question: How does SD-WAN integrate with existing systems or technologies in State and Local Government Agencies?
Answer: SD-WAN’s flexibility allows for easy integration with cloud solutions, IoT devices, and other technologies. This makes it possible to use a holistic approach to an organization’s tech strategy without the need for major overhauls.
Question: What are the future trends or predictions related to SD-WAN for State and Local Government Agencies?
Answer: The future of SD-WAN in government agencies looks promising, with trends pointing toward AI-driven SD-WAN solutions for enhanced network management, more emphasis on security protocols, and the potential integration of 5G technologies for even faster and more reliable connectivity.
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