What is an SD-WAN? And is it Right For Your Business?

SD-WAN is simply an acronym for Software-Defined Networking in a Wide Area Network (WAN). An SD-WAN simplifies enterprise connectivity to remote locations and branch offices, providing needed flexibility, centralized control and monitoring, and reducing WAN costs. SD-WANs use software and a centralized control function to more intelligently steer or direct traffic across a WAN.

Most SD-Wans require a backhaul of all traffic from any branches to a central hub where advanced security services are applied to all data, even data sent to the cloud. Traditional WANs aren’t cloud-friendly. However, SD-WAN integrates better with the cloud than traditional WAN networks.

What Makes an SD-WAN Different?

A main benefit of using an SD-WAN is that it allows companies to build higher-performance Wide Area Networks using more cost-effective, commercial Internet access, allowing businesses to replace more expensive private WANs, like MPLS.

WANs allow companies to extend their networks across large distances, connecting branch offices to data centers and other branches, as well as delivering the applications and services that perform their business functions.

Issues often occur with traditional WANs when companies extend networks over greater distances and across multiple networks using different carriers. The most common issues are network congestion, packet delay variation, packet loss, and even outages.

Many popular business applications such as VoIP, video conferencing, and streaming, etc. require high network speeds and more bandwidth. It can be expensive and difficult to expand WAN capability.

However, SD-WAN are designed to address these common problems. So, let’s look at the different types of SD-WANs.

Types of SD-WANs

  • Managed SD-WAN – With a managed service SD-WAN, the customer pays a service provider to install it and deliver connectivity, as well as provide any appliances needed. The managed SD-WAN has added value as it often includes service level agreements with the provider. However, it’s usually deployed using the same hardware as Internet-based SD-WANs, so it usually relies on public internet for access, so performance and user experience (UX) could still suffer over larger distances.
  • SD-WAN as a Service – Using SD-WAN as a Service, companies obtain SD-WAN really the same way they would buy cloud, using a consumption model. Instead of building their own SD-WAN using the Internet, or using a provider to deliver and manage it, some next-gen networks combine the security and reliability of a private network with the flexibility, low cost, and quick deployment of the Internet to deliver a high-quality connectivity solution.
  • Internet-based SD-WAN – Internet-based SD-WANs must use appliances at each location or branch.

Is SD-WAN Right for My Business?

As with anything, there are pros and cons with each type of SD-WAN. And with each different type of SD-WAN, there are also differences in cost vs. performance. If you value high performance, managed SD-WAN is worth the cost. If your business has a lower budget, that may not be the right fit for you. Here is a list of some pros and cons for each type of SD-WAN:

    • Pros:
      • Private Network Connectivity
      • Reliable performance and consistent latencies
      • Works with all applications: on-premises, cloud, and SaaS
      • Built-in WAN optimization
      • Network and application monitoring
      • Deployment in hours or days
      • Zero CapEx/Lower TCO
    • Cons:
      • Not ideal for IT departments wanting to construct network infrastructure
      • Offered by only a handful of providers
    • Pros:
      • Reliable performance and consistent latencies within region
      • Direct IaaS connectivity
      • Fully managed service with support
    • Cons:
      • SD-WAN functionality may not be fully integrated
      • Will often use the public Internet for transport, so performance will suffer over greater distances
      • May require customer to pay for additional functionality
      • Lacks connectivity to majority of cloud/SaaS services
      • May not include WAN optimization
    • Pros:
      • Rapid deployment and cost savings
      • Network and application monitoring
      • Great for regional deployments
      • Deploys in days
    • Cons:
      • Inherits weaknesses of both Internet and MPLS
      • Does not address global application performance issues
      • Lacks the network component


At the end of the day, each and every business requires its own unique set of solutions. ANC is here to help you as you decide which type of network is the best fit for you! Contact us anytime. We’d love to answer any questions you have.