Learn the benefits and challenges of SD-WAN solutions. Will it benefit you?

What is SD-WAN?

Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD WANs) have become the standard for how companies keep their employees connected across multiple locations. For building a traditional wide area network (WAN), each site must be connected with dedicated private circuits, usually based on Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS). This is very expensive, along with limiting your options for routing traffic and managing connections.

With SD-WAN, networks can use multiple connectivity options, including broadband Internet connectivity, along with MPLS and other dedicated connections. This enables resilient networks that use intelligent routing to ensure data always take the fastest path based on application needs.

SD-WAN can also be run from a central location, making it easier to manage than traditional WAN. Configuring the application’s network settings, security, permissions, and other elements in one interface and implementing all settings across the network. This is a significant improvement over configuring individual routers at each site.

When Should You Consider The Option Of SD-WAN?

The big question most organizations think about SD-WAN is understanding when it makes sense to migrate to SD-WAN from their existing WAN infrastructure. The short answer is SD-WAN benefits enterprises in almost every situation. It offers greater flexibility and can be implemented in a variety of ways to meet the specific needs of your network environment.

For example, a company currently using MPLS connections to branch offices can implement SD-WAN to offload all traffic destined for cloud applications. This allows you to reduce the bandwidth usage of the MPLS circuit without sacrificing quality and stability if needed. Organizations planning or wanting to eventually move 100% away from MPLS and use broadband internet services for all traffic can use SD-WAN for planned migrations to reduce costs and eliminate unnecessary downtime. 

Benefits of SD-WAN

All business benefits are different based on the physical location of the organization, the types of applications used, security requirements, etc. Below is a quick summary of some of the key benefits of using SD-WAN technology.

1. Avoiding wasted traffic

Older WAN configurations required all traffic from each location to be routed back to the main office or data centre. And from the data centre or head office, the traffic reaches its final destination. With this, it’s easy to understand that a lot of traffic has to go through the network all the time, especially when it comes to cloud solutions. For example, with SD-WAN, if you have a remote site that needs to access cloud email, traffic is routed from the site to the cloud service without going to the data centre. The specific route traffic through the public internet is determined based on the SD-WAN configuration. Another advantage is that this traffic can be routed around slow or broken circuits, increasing speed and reliability.

2. Faster response time

SD-WAN works faster than traditional or old WAN infrastructure. There are several reasons for this, including eliminating the need to route traffic to a central location. Additionally, SD-WAN technology can actively monitor the network to identify circuit failures, network congestion, and other issues that can slow response times. When detected, the system automatically reroutes traffic around problem areas to ensure the fastest possible response time. You can also manually adjust settings to fix potential problems or re-route circuits that are experiencing maintenance or other problems. 

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3. Cost reduction

Although it may be necessary to install and maintain dedicated private circuits, the bandwidth cost of MPLS lines is very high compared to other solutions. SD-WAN reduces or eliminates the need for leased lines. The software determines where traffic needs to be routed and what level of reliability is required. The software will choose the best path based on the configuration you set.

4. Perfect for cloud applications

SD-WAN is an ideal option for supporting cloud-based applications and services. Cloud companies build multiple high-capacity circuits at each location to ensure they can handle the required amount of traffic. This allows SD-WAN to send traffic directly to where it should reach without making unnecessary hops. In fact, the growing popularity of cloud technologies is one of the driving forces behind the development of SD-WAN.

5. High availability

One of the biggest problems with traditional networks is that they use only private circuits, which poses a problem when any one circuit gets affected, and then the entire network delivery chain faces the problem until it is fixed. Companies often provide backup circuits to prevent any failures, but this is a costly and time consuming process. With SD-WAN, you can schedule automatic rerouting of traffic whenever the problem arises, ultimately minimizing downtime. Certain types of traffic, such as live video and audio, can also be configured to use paths that provide high-quality connection called dedicated MPLS connection. 

6. Security Benefits

Many engineers are concerned about security when migrating from MPLS or other private links to SD-WAN. However, SD-WAN networks can significantly improve security. First and foremost, security can be managed centrally instead of distributing rules and policies to all routers distributed throughout the organization. This reduces the risk of human error, thus leaving data unprotected and end users with elevated privileges can be avoided.

Also, since data is typically sent over the internet to the cloud or other destinations, it must be encrypted. The specific encryption method depends on the SD-WAN solutions provider you have opted for. However, the system is protected and can be trusted regardless of the specific encryption method.

Common SD-WAN challenges

While the benefits of SD-WAN are undeniable, there are some challenges you should be aware of before proceeding with any kind of implementation.

Security challenges

SD-WAN security, if done right, is stronger than traditional WANs. By virtualizing and decentralizing the network infrastructure, you can reduce the number of policy settings required to route traffic to the corporate data centre and then to the desired service. The downside, however, is that security policy bugs propagate to all sites simultaneously (rather than individually, as with MPLS).

Quality of service

MPLS circuits are very reliable and ideal for technologies such as VOIP and live video streaming, but quality issues can occur while using broadband internet connections. Redundancy overcomes this obstacle by using multiple broadband connections or a combination of broadband and MPLS.

Network monitoring requirements

In the unlikely event that there is a problem with the MPLS circuit, it will be readily apparent and can be corrected. However, with SD-WAN, in many cases, the software can work around the problem automatically, so it doesn’t affect the user. This is clearly an advantage, but if the SD-WAN solution provider does not monitor these situations actively, the problem will remain active for a longer duration. This reduces redundancy and can’t fix the issue that caused the problem quickly. 


Maintaining an existing MPLS network requires deploying additional equipment at each site. Fortunately, SD-WAN simplifies this by allowing devices to be configured remotely using zero touch provisioning (ZTP). Even if MPLS circuits were completely replaced, SD-WAN devices would need to be deployed to replace existing WAN routers.

Is an SD-WAN Solution Right for You?

SD-WAN is fast becoming the standard for network infrastructure. This should not be seen as a replacement for traditional MPLS-based WAN systems but as an evolution of these technologies and the integration of cloud solutions. With this in mind, SD-WAN is a good option for almost any company that operates in multiple locations and wants to keep its IT infrastructure costs low while keeping its systems stable at all times. Now the choice is yours, and what to do next.

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