by Scott Jack Content Contributor, E-N Computers 7+ years experience in healthcare IT and tech support.
When you have multiple locations, an SD-WAN solution can provide your business with better network connectivity, flexibility, and security. We use Cisco Meraki products to bring these benefits to small and medium businesses without breaking the bank. To learn more about what SD-WAN is and why we use Meraki products, read our article “What Is SD-WAN?”
If you’re already familiar with the concept of SD-WAN, then you want to know how much it might cost you. To answer that question, let’s look at factors that affect the cost and some hardware pricing.
The total cost of an SD-WAN deployment will depend on:
how many locations you have; how many employees you have at each branch; your primary and backup internet services; whether you need an LTE cellular gateway for wireless WAN; and whether you equip remote workers with a hardware gateway.
A quick note about pricing: When we talk about Meraki prices, the list price is for hardware. You’ll also need to add a 3-year or 5-year license to have access to Meraki cloud-based management tools and security updates. E-N Computers is able to lower pricing on Meraki equipment and licenses, which saves our clients 25% to 30% on what you see below. For the sake of simplicity, we’re rounding to the nearest $100 in this article.
How many network-connected devices — servers, desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, VoIP phones — and how many branch locations you have will affect your costs. If you use Azure or AWS cloud infrastructure, there will be costs to integrate it with your network. How do devices and branches affect cost?
Each branch you have needs a firewall to protect your network and prioritize outgoing traffic. Firewalls are sized by the number of devices connecting to them. Here are a the most common choices for small and medium businesses.
Office Size (users)
Cloud Virtual Appliances
If you are a large organization that uses cloud infrastructure like Azure or AWS, you can connect it to your multi-site network much like you would a physical location. A Meraki virtual appliance (vMX) allows you to extend your SD-WAN in this manner. Much like support for a hardware appliance, you can license a virtual appliance in 3-year or 5-year durations. They are sized by the number of concurrent connections they support.
Virtual Appliance Pricing
Concurrent VPN tunnels
You can use a combination of best-effort connections — like DSL, cable, fiber, and satellite — and dedicated leased lines. “Best effort” connections do not have a contractual uptime guarantee and often share lines with other businesses in your area. In contrast, dedicated lines are all yours and come with a service level agreement (SLA). The cost of the connection will depend on its type, bandwidth, service level agreement (SLA), and how many static IP addresses you receive.
In many cases, having two best effort connections will provide enough redundancy to keep you online. Local options include Comcast Business, Segra, and Verizon FiOS.
Comcast Business gigabit internet costs about $300 to $350 per month. Because Comcast’s network uses copper cabling and is not fully fiber-based, it can’t provide quite the same performance as its fully fiber-optic competitors. Some Comcast plans have asymmetrical speeds, meaning your upload speed is significantly lower than your download speed. This can pose a problem if many employees rely on online services, especially ones like videoconferencing, VoIP, or large file transfers.
Segra and Verizon FiOS offer gigabit internet on a fully fiber-optic network for about $300 per month with symmetrical upload and download speeds. Their networks are newer and not as ubiquitous as traditional ISPs. But if they are available to your business, they make an excellent choice.
For the main office, you may want a dedicated line. These connections are much more expensive: you can easily spend $800 to $1,500 per month for a 100 Mbps symmetrical connection. The reason for the higher cost is because they are more reliable and typically guarantee 99.9+% uptime.
Wireless Wide Area Network (WWAN) Devices
When terrestrial internet options are poor or you need a backup internet connection, you can use an LTE cellular gateway to stay connected. It converts the same LTE cellular signal used by smartphones to a wired Ethernet connection that you can use on your internal network. This makes it useful as either a primary or backup connection. The Meraki MG41 accepts two SIM cards so that you can use two separate LTE networks for redundancy.
WWAN Device Pricing
MG41 (double LTE for HQ/large office
If you are concerned about limiting the impact of an internet failure, there are a few ways to do so. These include attaching a cellular modem to your network, load balancing your traffic over two similar connections, and having a warm spare firewall at your main office.
Cellular failover. We can attach a cellular modem to your network and configure it to be your internet connection for critical services when your wired connection is out. Cellular plans for this will run $50 to $100 per month.
Load balancing. We can configure your network to split traffic over two similar connections, such as Comcast Business and Verizon FiOS. By balancing the load across two ISPs, you reduce the risk of overloading them and degraded performance.
Warm spare firewall. You can configure a second firewall that matches your primary firewall to be a warm spare. It will be connected to your network and configured to automatically take over if the primary fails. A warm spare does not need its own license, so the main cost is the list (hardware) price.
For remote workers that need to connect to your internal network, you can use Meraki’s client VPN or Z3 telecommuter gateway. Client VPN is a configuration on your laptops and mobile devices that creates a secure connection to your company network. There is no additional license or hardware cost for it. Meraki Z3, on the other hand, is a small hardware device that acts like an extension of your office network, making it particularly useful for people who work from home most or all of the time. See the hardware and licensing prices for it in the table below.
Remote Connectivity Pricing
Do You Need SD-WAN?
Depending on how your systems and services are set up, you may not need SD-WAN. For example, if you primarily use web-based software or each site has a local server for the services it needs, you probably don’t need a “true” SD-WAN. Instead, we recommend focusing on setting up failover internet and a reliable firewall at each site.
However, if your sites need to access data and systems stored at a central office, SD-WAN may be a good choice. For clients that decide to implement SD-WAN, we encourage planning an all-Meraki network. The result will be a highly automated, performant, and secure network that keeps your business online and productive.
In review, the total cost of your multi-site network will depend on:
how many locations you have
how many employees you have at each branch
the type and quantity of your internet services
whether you need an LTE cellular gateway for wireless WAN
whether you equip remote workers with a hardware gateway
At E-N Computers, we assist our clients to align technology with their business goals. We can help you determine whether a multi-site network should be part of your business-IT strategy. To get an idea of how well your IT is meeting the needs of your business, take our free IT Maturity Self-Evaluation. In addition to receiving action items to improve your IT maturity, you’ll have the opportunity to book a free, no obligation strategy session to discuss your results.
Is your business ready to weather changes, including employee turnover? Find out by taking our IT maturity assessment.
You’ll get personalized action items that you can use to make improvements right away. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to book a FREE IT strategy session to get even more insights into your IT needs.