UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) is seeing adoption rise at rapid rates. Valued at $8.23 billion USD in 2015, the UCaaS market is projected to grow to $79.3 billion USD in 2024. Driving this growth are the numerous benefits UCaaS offers SMBs and enterprises alike, with affordable costs and flexibility being two of the biggest advantages over legacy solutions.
However, effectively implementing UCaaS across a WAN requires a WAN connectivity solution that is able to meet the unique demands of this cloud-based collaboration platform. UCaaS is particularly sensitive to latency and packet loss, and can also create significant performance issues. Given that many important business functions are carried out using telecommunications, video conferencing, and messaging that takes place over UCaaS, properly supporting it with a robust and reliable WAN is a must.
In this piece, we’ll discuss UCaaS performance in more detail and explain why SDWaaS (SD-WAN as a Service) is an ideal connectivity solution to support UCaaS.
SDWaaS minimizes latency and improves UCaaS performance
If you have every been on a choppy, hard to decipher VoIP call, you can relate to the idea that “network issues” can wreak havoc on voice and videoconferencing data. If “network issues” become too much of a problem, calls and meetings come to a standstill, productivity wanes, and collaboration becomes a real challenge. Often, the root cause of these “network issues” is in fact network latency. Simply put, the data isn’t getting from point A to point B fast enough, and call and video quality degrade.
MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching), apart from being expensive from a bandwidth perspective, is ill-equipped to solve this problem for enterprises because UCaaS solutions are hosted in the cloud, and MPLS simply isn’t a good fit for large amounts of Internet-bound traffic. This is because MPLS often requires Internet-bound traffic to be backhauled through a corporate datacenter before being sent on to its destination. This creates the well-known “trombone routing” problem and adds additional hops, and therefore additional latency, to UCaaS data.
While SD-WAN in general may seem like a sound solution to work around the inherent MPLS challenges, depending on public Internet-bandwidth alone is a risky proposition. Internet bandwidth latency varies significantly and simply isn’t reliable enough to depend on day in and day out if you want to optimize your telecommunications and collaboration experiences.
SDWaaS, being cloud based and offering a reliable private global backbone, offers businesses the best of both worlds. There is no inefficient backhauling with SDWaaS and the global backbone, which supported by Tier-1 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and backed by an SLA, helps ensure day-to-day reliability.
SDWaaS enhances last-mile performance and overcomes congestion
Another “network issue” that can negatively impact UCaaS performance is network congestion. Network congestion can lead to oversubscribed public Internet links and packet loss. This is particularly true in the “last mile” between an ISP and end-user. With a standard Internet connection, you are more or less at the mercy of the quality of the connection between the ISP and the end destination. In times of peak traffic, this may mean your UCaaS connectivity suffers.
Fortunately with SDWaaS businesses can overcome network congestion challenges and issues with packet loss in the last mile by using traffic shaping features like QoS (Quality of Service) to prioritize UCaaS traffic and ensure adequate bandwidth is allocated to the data that is most sensitive to packet loss.
SDWaaS provides robust and resilient WAN connectivity
While packet loss and latency can be hard to overcome, network blackouts are an even bigger issue. If UCaaS traffic cannot make it its destination due to a complete outage, no collaboration can occur. Similarly, brownouts, or degradations in performance that are not complete blackouts, can cause effectively the same problem. What makes brownouts even more tricky is that many traditional monitoring tools may not detect they become serious enough to create complete service outages.
SDWaaS helps mitigate the threat of blackouts and brownouts thanks to its self-healing and failover features. Not only can SDWaaS monitor and react to blackouts, it can also respond to brownouts. High-availability (HA) features are easy to enable using SDWaaS and multiple links can be configured in an active/active, active/active/passive, or active/passive modes for redundancy.
What this means in practice is SDWaaS failover in the event of a blackout or brownout can often occur rapidly enough to save a UCaaS-based call.
SDWaaS secures the WAN and minimizes risk
Once an organization adopts UCaaS, it quickly becomes a vital part of day-to-day operations. UCaaS features like video calling, instant messaging, teleconferences, and desktop sharing are ubiquitous in modern business. An inherent side-effect of how UCaaS works is that it inherently expands the attack surface on a network.
This means that keeping the entire network, and UCaaS services in particular, safe from threats is a priority. With SDWaaS, maintaining a secure WAN is simple and scalable. As SDWaaS comes with advanced security features “baked-in”, it is able to help secure UCaaS along with the rest of the WAN traffic on a network while minimizing dependence on costly and complex security appliances.
This is because SDWaaS offers integrated security features that include threat detection, Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), Next-gen firewall (NGFW), and network forensics to help harden the WAN. As a result, communications across SDWaaS infrastructure have a built-in layer of defense that helps improve security and keep UCaaS operational.
SDWaaS is the ideal WAN connectivity solution for UCaaS
As we have seen, SDWaaS is uniquely capable of offering the flexibility, reliability, performance, and security required to enable enterprises to get the most out of UCaaS. Organizations that adopt SDWaaS for WAN connectivity are better positioned than those with legacy WAN solutions like MPLS to provide their users with optimized telecommunications and collaboration experiences.