Did Your Network Stack Up on Black Friday and Beyond? — Part 2

Retail Software-Defined Networking

Retail Networking Best Practices for Peak Buying Times

Following the holiday retail season, discussions of company performance and improvements for the future will often center on technology, and for CIOs, that means evaluating the performance of the network that keeps those technologies connected. Part One of this series discussed four best-practice technologies: SD-Perimeter, SD-WAN, Parallel Networks, and LTE Failover.

This second and final installment covers three more best-practice technologies that allow retailers to securely harness the agility of the cloud. Combined, the technologies described in Parts One and Two can allow retailers to transition to a network with an Elastic EdgeTM in 2018. An Elastic Edge moves, contracts, and expands to meet constantly evolving business needs, provides pervasive network connectivity, and accommodates the increased traffic generated at the Network’s Edge. 

Three Best Practice Technologies for Retailers

Cloud Management

A cornerstone to achieving an agile, scalable network, cloud-delivered network management software allows companies to greatly reduce expenditures required to keep the network up and running. Cloud-delivered network management systems are crucial to companies with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of locations because they allow companies to add more locations and more technologies to the network without incurring a proportionate increase in expenditures dedicated to management.

Cloud-delivered network management systems can help IT teams to deploy, manage, and troubleshoot networks from a remote central location. Retailers can achieve zero-touch deployment at new locations; someone must simply plug in the router while all configuration and updates can be deployed remotely. Following deployment, cloud management allows for real-time monitoring of device status while proactive alerts help optimize network uptime and deal with issues as soon as they begin—not when they’re noticed by on-site staff.

Truck rolls to locations for troubleshooting and routine updates become incredibly expensive, and thanks to cloud management, are now an unnecessary expense.  

Content Filtering: Security for Internet Traffic

Given the widespread adoption of cloud applications, the majority of traffic at the Network’s Edge today is headed to the Internet. Companies need to achieve the same level of control—and confidence—in securing this traffic, without impacting the end-user’s experience.

Legacy, hardware-based security solutions are simply not a scalable approach to securing direct-to-Internet traffic. In addition to the cost of installing additional hardware at every retail location, on-premises security requires on-premises management and updates—a costly prospect. These solutions typically all require their own discrete management tools (many of which rely heavily on command-line interfaces) and consequently, both time and expertise are required to manage each location on the network.

In contrast, cloud-delivered security solutions allow IT teams to set and manage security policies in the cloud and deliver these policies uniformly to each retail location, user, or device without the need for on-site management. Traffic at the Network’s Edge can go directly to the Internet, instead of being routed back through security solutions housed at the company data center, allowing retail employees to work more efficiently and assist customers more quickly. 

Day-1 Networks for Pop-Up, Store-within-a-Store & Kiosks

Retailers use store-within-a-store strategies and kiosks for a number of reasons: they offer the opportunity to gain exposure to new audiences, help with line-busting, and support efforts to create a frictionless buying experience. Provisioning the connectivity for pop-up locations and kiosks can be expensive; further, retailers are subject to the timelines of Internet Service Providers.

With LTE connectivity, retailers can deploy new locations or kiosks immediately. Retailers can either eliminate the need to provision wired connectivity or transition the LTE link to act as failover following the installation of wired primary service. With LTE connectivity and Cradlepoint’s Day-1 Internet solutions, there’s simply no need to delay the opening of a new location or kiosk due to an Internet Service Provider. 

Transitioning to an Elastic Edge in 2018 and Beyond

Changing demands in the retail industry require a new approach to networking. Companies that excel in 2018 and beyond will adopt solutions that scale, that reduce complexity, and that offer the ability to “consume-as-a-service” rather than requiring a “build-your-own” approach. Most importantly, the retailers that adjust to the need for a network that expands, contracts, and changes with business needs will find cost savings while enhancing the customer experience.