The Four Elements that Build a Better SD-WAN for Retail
Building a better branch network for retailers is not necessarily rocket science. At least, it doesn’t have to be. The formula for building a better branch for these highly distributed businesses is rather simple. When you think about it, it is more like alchemy than chemistry. Like air, earth, fire and water, it does not take more than four elements to define the ideal branch network. On the plus side, four elements are easier to remember than the 118 elements on the periodic table!
So, make these four elements the core of your simple formula to deliver a better branch network for your retail clients. Unlike alchemy, though, you actually can produce gold out of these four SD-WAN elements (if you know what I mean).
Most of the time, your clients are struggling with IT sprawl at branches: multiple hardware appliances that are often expensive, complex to operate and under-utilized because they are packed with features that are not needed by these types of businesses. Constant calls to the help desk, frequent truck rolls to service hardware on-premise, and other woes derived from the lack of IT staff at these small branches are the norm and painful reality.
To transform your client’s network into an agile operation, it is key to reduce complexity, to be able to deploy and service rapidly, to be able to see, analyze, segment, and shape traffic easily from anywhere at any time. Deploying a small, but simple and powerful universal on-premise equipment (uCPE) at all branches and pairing them with a multi-tenanted cloud-based orchestrator and a service gateway will enable you to accomplish that.
Cost-efficiency is one of the main outcomes of network agility: You will help your client lower CapEx and OpEx, while your business delivers the managed services, support and talent, to operate the network efficiently.
Being always-on is a critical business requirement for your clients, not just to be able to transact with the payment processors, but also to protect the brand’s reputation by preserving positive in-store customer experience.
Network resilience and high availability are achieved when implementing an intelligent cellular failover solution and by doing VPN right. The promise of 5G will further enhance the link quality of the cellular failover, and, in some use cases, it could become the main link replacing cable and DSL as the transports.
When helping your clients build a resilient network of interconnected branches, all with “backup internet,” you will be protecting their brand’s reputation by delivering an uninterrupted in-store omnichannel experience. Showing you care about their customer will earn your client’s loyalty and advocacy.
A comprehensive SD-WAN solution for retail must have security in its DNA. Client networks may be agile and resilient, but if they are not secure … You get the point. A negative media hit or dent in reputation typically results in lower future sales, or worse, forcing the business to close.
Many small to midsize retail chains may believe they are not the typical target for cyber attacks and consider an endpoint security solution plus a stateful firewall enough protection for their branch network. They may focus mostly on rapid service delivery and failover connectivity. The reality is that a flat network (switch and firewall) will hamper both agility and resilience–for example, a blackout or brownout slowing down zero-day vulnerability patches or affecting CCTV connectivity.
Many SD-WAN vendors claim to offer a secure point-of-sale (POS) solution, but the reality is that they fail to cater to the retail vertical with right-sized and right-priced solutions because their core product development strategy focuses on solving for large enterprises. As a result, their solutions are as difficult to sell as they are to operate. You would fare better by partnering with vendors that run their own SOC-as-a-Service and that tailor their product development toward solutions that are easier to sell to this segment and are simpler to manage. For example, Netsurion BranchSDO was developed with security in its DNA just for that niche: highly distributed small to midsize branches, POS systems, kiosks and mobile retail branches.