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SD-WAN boosts pest-control company’s network performance

Jul 13, 20205 mins

Rollins pest control reaps better performance, security and automated changes with SD-WAN

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Credit: jamesteohart

Digital transformation has raised the value of the network to where for most companies the network is the business.

Cloud computing, mobility, remote working and other initiatives are all network-centric in nature shifting the network from a resource that most business leaders rarely paid much attention to into the most important IT asset in the company. A poor network leads to poorly performing applications, which impairs worker productivity and negatively impacts customer experience.

The network has never been more valuable

A recent ZK Research Study found 58% of respondents stated the COVID-19 pandemic has made the network more important. Historically, large companies with multiple locations required robust networking technologies to reduce costs and outages, simplify management, and improve the user experience. Now companies need to connect the company network to remote workers whether at home or in the field.

For Rollins Inc., a pest control services provider with 700 locations and 19 subsidiaries, traditional networking technologies couldn’t meet the company’s growing demands. So, Rollins collaborated with software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) and security vendor Fortinet to design a secure network that performed better for both employees and customers.

Rollins services over two million customers around the world, mostly homeowners and small businesses. The company relies heavily on real-time data to provide customers with key tracking information. When a customer books an appointment with Rollins, they receive the estimated arrival time of the service technician, their name, and the vehicle they’re driving.

Technicians in the field use Apple iOS devices, which track driver routes much like UPS or Uber Eats. The route data, including mileage and driving time, directly affects the company’s bottom line and customer satisfaction, Kevin Morrison, vice president of IT and chief information security officer (CISO) at Rollins, said during a recent webinar.

Rollins company was inundated with network outages on its legacy multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network that could take hours or even days to resolve. Network downtime affected the ability to schedule appointments, resulting in missed business opportunities or poor customer experience.

Better security

Additionally, Rollins wanted to improve security at all of its branches and boost performance of its voice and video apps. When a potential customer has a pest-control problem, they call Rollins for help. Voice is the company’s “most important application” and how it gets new business, said Morrison. A carrier-agnostic network with different transport options like broadband and wireless would give Rollins the greatest flexibility to scale in the future to 5G or other new technologies.

An SD-WAN offers the flexibility Rollins was looking for to support all transport types. SD-WANs can be deployed for hybrid and multi-cloud environments to perform over MPLS, broadband, cellular, satellite, and others. An SD-WAN delivers a secure, consistent user experience regardless of location or geography.

Rollins began the transition away from MPLS and deployed Fortinet’s SD-WAN solution across its 700 locations. Early in the SD-WAN deployment, engineers had to physically touch the equipment and program each device by hand. Rollins worked with the vendor to automate the process and program devices in minutes, no longer requiring hands-on engineers. Rollins was able to deployed five to 10 sites a day.

Automated processes

With traditional network infrastructure, doing that many branches per day was unheard of.  The “software-defined” nature of SD-WANs allows many repetitive processes to be automated. More importantly, ongoing operations can be automated, enabling changes to be made across the network all at once versus one branch at a time. My research finds that with traditional networks, it can take an average of four months to implement a change network-wide. SD-WANs can shrink that to just a few days.

Rollins’ network was put to a test during COVID-19 when the company had to switch to a remote work environment. With an SD-WAN, Rollins allowed traffic go directly from the internet to its branches since each branch had security controls in place.

“Our goal was to get applications closer to the users and ensure that we’re optimizing traffic, while still leaving plenty of bandwidth for most important applications like voice,” said Morrison.

LTE as a WAN backup

Today Rollins is using LTE wireless as a backup at all locations and has seen voice over LTE (VoLTE ) exceed the company’s expectations. Morrison observed several benefits with the LTE backup features of SD-WAN. For example, voice traffic quality has improved since Rollins moved away from a legacy hub-and-spoke model to a full mesh, dynamic SD-WAN.  This is not surprising since the number of hops the voice takes is greatly reduced.

What Rollins gained is stronger network security, resiliency, and visibility to deliver services across its network, Morrison said. More specifically, the company reduced its overall network costs by at least 25% or approximately $1 million a year, with a projected total ROI of more than $5 million in five years.

One piece of advice Morrison had for other companies going through an SD-WAN deployment is to develop a close relationship with their vendors. Rollins has an account manager assigned to the project—someone on the partner side who is ready to jump on problems when they arise.

“There is a major benefit and value to that because during any technology implementation there will be problems,” he said.


Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research, and provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long-term strategic advice. Kerravala provides research and advice to end-user IT and network managers, vendors of IT hardware, software and services and the financial community looking to invest in the companies that he covers.

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