Simon Cranford, CIO
“Companies are increasingly looking to digitalise their business processes and modernise networks to support new IT projects and move applications to the cloud”, begins Simon Cranford, CIO at SAS Global Communications.
This has triggered several transitions in tandem: increased cloud traffic, the use of Internet alongside private networks, SD-WAN adoption and consequent security changes. Together, these developments have far-reaching consequences for the WAN. “More importantly, businesses find it challenging to get these transformations right”, says Cranford, “If these changes are not designed carefully alongside the WAN, IT projects may come to a grinding halt.”
The Horsham-based company, SAS Global Communications, is filling gaps in the mid-sized and enterprise market with specialised managed services for WAN, Internet, cloud access, hosted voice, security and managed IT. SAS designs bespoke hybrid networks, increasingly with SD-WAN. The company uses end-to-end digital processes and a single portal to run and monitor the entire infrastructure. Their single-minded aim is the improvement of performance, reliability and customer experience.
“We help customers transform their networks,” says Cranford. “And we strive relentlessly to deliver on the promises we make—deploying the network quickly and driving the overall experience.” No wonder the boutique-but-global firm achieves a Net Promoter Score consistently over 70.
Tackling Complexity in SD-WAN and Cloud Adoption
SD-WAN presents a simple interface and automates many functions, but that doesn’t make the network simpler. “There’s still the underlay to deal with—the networks and circuits that underpin SD-WAN,” explains Cranford. “That part of the WAN has not gone away! There are often multiple circuits at each site, which complicates delivery, project management and ongoing monitoring. SD WAN introduces new complexities such as dynamic path allocation while adding Internet circuits and cloud access requires a new design and security regime. So, you still need network skills to design, roll-out, optimise and troubleshoot the network.”
For many businesses, these complexities make a DIY rollout unpalatable, which is why SAS is witnessing more businesses seeking help. “A Managed SD-WAN service helps you to deploy SD-WAN and Cloud access without a large IT team,” explains Cranford. “It takes the effort and risk out of moving to SD-WAN, freeing customers to focus on their wider IT objectives while leveraging the benefits.”
With SAS solving their operational challenges, clients can offload tasks such as designing and troubleshooting the network, managing procurement, provisioning and field support and running a WAN helpdesk. This frees them from investing in skilled experts, field engineers and helpdesk staff.
A Winning Formula
One of the key strengths of SAS is the consultation it offers to its clients in their transformation. Cranford also points to a hybrid networking pedigree well-suited to the multi-circuit, multi-carrier world of SD WAN. “We are independent of the carriers and vendors; we act for the client,” he says. “So, we can address the issues which even carriers may fail to notice. This proactive approach has helped our clients gain enhanced agility, responsiveness, improved performance, accurate billing and simple business execution.”
Cisco Meraki is emerging as the platform of choice for mid-market companies. They love the combination of features, performance, manageability, and reasonable cost
SAS is proud of award-winning, industry-leading features, such as two-day circuit delivery with multi-SIM 4G and whole-application-path monitoring that tackles 95 percent of issues proactively. Other services include hosted voice, with calling from within Microsoft Teams, and a comprehensive cloud access platform.
Cranford stresses that although they operate in the WAN arena, they never lose sight of fact that the WAN underpins wider goals for their clients. SAS ensures that every client’s applications run well over the WAN.
Transformation in Action
Working alongside Keith Darling, Group CTO, Cranford’s core responsibility is to oversee the transformation of clients’ networks, enable new projects, improve performance and reduce cost. He sees SAS as a trailblazer in the mid-market, with a number of large projects under way across multiple sectors.
“Although we are vendor-agnostic, the current trends suggest that Cisco Meraki is emerging as the platform of choice for midmarket companies. These firms love the combination of features, performance, manageability, and reasonable cost. “
For instance, one of its clients, a large housebuilder with hundreds of sites, wanted to improve the process of setting up networking and IT at each site. “The client has been able to embrace a whole new way of deploying and managing new installations using SAS services, Meraki SD-WAN and 4G technologies,” says Cranford.
Another example is that of a private equity client seeking a global transformation of its traditional Cisco infrastructure. Meraki SD-WAN now offers them a flexible and secure architecture to take advantage of cheaper Internet connectivity, with tight SLA’s for voice and video traffic and the ability to transition to a SaaS model.
A major vehicle manufacturing company, in another instance, is undertaking a UK-wide transformation of over 100 sites. “We are rolling out a managed Meraki SD-WAN network that includes WAN, LAN, WLAN, security and voice,” says Cranford. “This is giving them a best of breed network that delivers an enhanced user experience for staff and guests at branch sites, and a platform for further application developments.”
A Bright Future
SAS wins by helping customers win. The company innovates continuously whilst maintaining reliability, security and cost-effectiveness. However, its primary focus is to delight customers with a personalised service. “Carrier partners see us as a boutique Systems Integrator due to the bespoke nature of our solutions, but one that can scale to support thousands of global sites,” says Cranford.
Having recently won an IT Europa Solution of the Year award for its end-to-end digital platform and network monitoring, SAS is now rolling out the latest version of its integrated customer portal. The new functionality lets clients place and track orders electronically in the same portal that they use to manage tickets, inventory and online invoicing.
“As customers move toward multi-circuit, multi-carrier hybrid SD-WAN networks, this is going to differentiate us increasingly from single carrier networks and services without an integrated portal,” concludes Cranford.