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Corporate WANs and their network providers not meeting new business needs

Global connectivity firm warns that network providers are letting down firms, with security and service flexibility cited as key issues

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated clearly the vital part that the public internet and cloud-based services have played in underpinning dispersed companies’ corporate WAN (wide area network) landscapes, and reliable connectivity is seen as critical to business performance, but a study from global connectivity provider Telia Carrier warns that today’s enterprises may be connected, but also may be uninformed.

The research, Enterprise network insights 2020: transforming the corporate WAN, was conducted in four of the world’s biggest markets – the US, the UK, Germany and France – and aimed to provide insights into the evolution of the corporate WAN and cloud adoption from the top of business.

The study was carried out online in July-August 2020 by Savanta on behalf of Telia Carrier, with 414 respondents in the US, the UK, Germany and France. Participants came from a range of industries, including manufacturing/engineering, automotive, pharmaceuticals, banking, financial services, business services, information services and consultancy. All worked for enterprises of more than 3,000 people with the vast majority (85%) holding leadership roles, such as at C-suite level, and more than half (56%) managing network development strategy.

The study noted that digital technology and the cloud have transformed the way businesses are run and connect with their employees, suppliers, partners and customers across sites and geographies. With 90% of the survey’s respondents confirming that their enterprises rely on the public internet for some or all of their WAN services, 48% said the impact of a corporate WAN outage exceeding 24 hours would be catastrophic.

Yet the study also revealed that corporate WANs are failing to deliver on businesses’ priorities, with 55% of respondents citing security as the biggest pain point, 43% service flexibility, 36% supplier performance and 35% network congestion.

Looking at why the corporate WANs were in such a condition, Telia Carrier said this was not just because WAN technology is still evolving and suppliers need to improve their customer experience, but also because the WAN ecosystem has not been fully understood. Knowledge gaps about the internet and its various tiers have made decision-making difficult, it added.

For example, only half of survey respondents (US 57%, France 56%, UK 49%, Germany 37%) rated their understanding of how the internet backbone works as very good or excellent, but almost two-thirds regarded public internet connectivity as a commodity that doesn’t vary much between suppliers (France 74%, Germany 62%, US 62%, UK 49%).

Telia Carrier said the research also illustrated that the network providers of the future have to put the needs of the customer at the centre of everything they do. Bandwidth (40%), service flexibility (36%) and customer support (29%) were enterprises’ top three priorities when deciding on a local network partner or ISP (internet service provider) to connect to their preferred cloud service providers.

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Sustainability was also a key criterion when shortlisting suppliers or choosing between candidates, and enterprises are prepared to pay a premium for it. More than one-third of all respondents (38%) said they now only shortlist suppliers with a strong commitment to sustainability – in France, this number rose to 55%.

Of those who do not include sustainability in their initial selection criteria, 42% overall said that helped them choose between the final candidates. This broke down to 46% in the US, 45% in both the UK and Germany, and 28% in France.

Only one-fifth overall said they choose suppliers solely on the basis of price and performance. Importantly, said Telia, the vast majority (95%) are willing to pay a premium of 5% or more for a sustainable supplier. Countrywide, 49% of respondents in Germany, 48% in the UK, 42% in the US and 37% in France confirmed their commitment to pay between 10% and 15% more.

The survey also found strong demand for new tools and technologies to improve workflows and increase transparency. For example, 90% would like their network partners to adopt more machine-to-machine workflows and automation to enhance their services, and 68% said they already use application programming interfaces (APIs) to achieve real-time visibility of their network performance or control of their network infrastructure.

Telia Carrier chief evangelist Mattias Fridström said: “Network development strategies, unfortunately, appear to be missing the backbone piece of the puzzle. This means that tier one suppliers, such as telcos and carriers, are often overlooked when it comes to choosing a method to build their WANs and connect to the cloud.

“If organisations really want to create the networks that transform their businesses, while controlling costs and reducing their carbon footprint, their leaders may need to review their strategies for the next three to five years. Network providers can be strategic partners in the growth and development of enterprises – if they are aligned with enterprises’ needs.”

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