SD-WAN for K-12: Better Cost Control and Remote-Site Management

August 31, 2017


This month, we’ve been talking to Steve Evans, Teneo’s VP of Solutions Engineering, about how SD-WAN can benefit K-12 schools.

To begin with, we identified some of the challenges facing K-12 IT teams:

  • Multiple sites to manage with small IT teams
  • Poor bandwidth availability in classrooms
  • Heavier data usage in the form of real-time HD video and online assessments as part of the curriculum
  • Students’ using tablets/iPads to do their work
  • A higher consumption of social apps that act as bandwidth hogs
  • Restricted budgets

Oh yes, we had to mention those budgets! So how can SD-WAN help make your funds go further?

The SD-WAN approach helps you rethink expensive bandwidth upgrades across scattered schools. You can use inexpensive links for lower-priority traffic and you can cut back on extra hardware costs like routers. Steve explains, “SD-WAN is very applicable to K-12 for 3 reasons: cost, cost, and finally cost. I obviously jest as K-12 network administrators will be very interested in many of the features of an SD-WAN solution. But I start with cost because as we know, K-12 is usually challenged with low budgets. SD-WAN hardware is cheaper than its Cisco cousins, making it an attractive replacement, as a starter, for expensive Cisco routers.”

SD-WAN also makes everything much easier to configure and deploy from a central location, without needing to make site visits. With dynamic routing, you can build an agile network that responds to high volumes of traffic and prioritize the most important apps that need the most bandwidth at any given time.

Steve adds, “K-12 usually suffers from a shortage of staff to manage the network. When I worked in K-12 in a previous role, there were 2 of us to manage 60 buildings, over 20,000 hosts, 120+ network circuits, and several thousand switches and access-points. Since we couldn’t possibility manage all of that ourselves, a large amount of money was spent on contractors. SD-WAN would have greatly simplified management and saved us a ton of money with router configuration, which was always done by a CCIE-level resource.”

SD-WAN brings softer cost benefits too, such as time saved for K-12 staff – not just the IT team – and improved service for key applications like online, state mandated testing.

Steve tells us, “For some school divisions, they get bandwidth for free as part of a deal with local service providers. But even if the bandwidth is free, those circuits often come last when the service provider has outages, thus making fluid adjustments by SD-WAN very desirable. SD-WAN also has the promise of tracking poor performance or SLA’s to use when negotiating with service providers or getting credits. Oftentimes, however, bandwidth isn’t free, in which case, being able to securely use commodity Internet would be a game changer for K-12 as compared to paying large fees for dedicated circuits.”

If SD-WAN’s got you thinking, find out how Teneo can help with our SD-WAN services.

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