The Difference Between Traditional WAN & SD-WAN - Neos Networks

The Difference Between Traditional WAN & SD-WAN

  • Neos Networks
  • SD-WAN , WAN ,
SD-WAN

What is WAN  and how does it work?

A traditional Wide Area Network (WAN) is used to connect multiple office locations, or Local Area Networks (LANs). It provides a widely dispersed IT, voice and data networking infrastructure based on routers and Virtual Private Networks (VPN).

These solutions are completely reliant on hardware devices and often incorporate a mix of private and public connections. Traffic is normally routed using Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), a telecommunications technology introduced in the early 1990s. MPLS allows a business to shape its data packet transmissions, prioritising voice, video and data traffic across a network.

Due to the layers of physical hardware required, the management and scalability of a traditional WAN can be a complex and manual process, requiring advanced planning. However, despite its disadvantages, traditional WAN does have its benefits, and can still be the right solution for some types of businesses.

What are the advantages of traditional WAN?

  • Security

Traditional WAN offers a high level of security, as the data packets transmitted over MPLS can only be accessed through the intended MPLS link. All associated hardware is used exclusively by a single enterprise, while dedicated leased lines ensure data remains private and secure as it travels from site to site.

  • Reliability

High service quality and consistent reliability are achieved through a combination of dedicated circuitry and the use of MPLS transmission technology. Packet loss is prevented, latency is low and bandwidth availability is high; all contributing to reliable, efficient communications.

  • Control

Traffic can be managed and shaped, with a wide scope for prioritisation and control over routing. This allows an organisation to ensure video conferencing is smooth and without lag, as well as safeguarding against voice calls being lost. Traditional WAN offers traffic predictability, yet when any changes are required, these need to be carried out manually.

What is SD-WAN and how does it work?

A Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) takes some elements of traditional WAN, such as MPLS, and combines them with other transport mechanisms like broadband services to create a virtual network. As the name suggests, its architecture is based on software, which manages, prioritises, routes and monitors traffic.

To transmit and protect data between locations, SD-WAN uses tunnelling (wrapping a data packet inside another packet to move it from one network to another), and can provide network encryption and firewall software. It actively measures and evaluates traffic, selecting the optimal real-time route for every data packet.

SD-WAN can also allow for consistent enforcement of company data policies, while automatically adapting to changes in the network. This reduces the amount of manual intervention required and minimises any outages or congestion.

What are the advantages of SD-WAN?

  • Operational simplicity

SD-WAN reduces complexity by providing centralised management and configuration. It’s easier to control, as everything can be monitored from a single location, and IT teams can create and update rules in real time.

  • Higher capacity bandwidth

By using cloud-based resources, static routes are replaced with dynamic routes. SD-WAN allows IT departments to adapt to changing network conditions and adjusts accordingly, ensuring capacity needs are met.

  • Scalability

It’s easy to accommodate increased traffic and additional devices because SD-WAN connections can be scaled up or down quickly, based on actual demand. Instead of having to rely solely on MPLS, network administrators can use broadband connectivity to add or remove capacity as necessary.

  • Reduced costs

MPLS is expensive, both in terms of creating the connection and using the bandwidth. With SD-WAN, businesses can minimise using MPLS, employing a combination of services that includes broadband, 4G, 5G and DSL, bringing down costs significantly. MPLS can still be used when required but isn’t the only available option.

SD-WAN also reduces costs by relying on software instead of hardware, avoiding purchase, installation and ongoing maintenance expenditures.

Should I use traditional WAN or SD-WAN?

When you’re weighing up the benefits of SD-WAN vs traditional WAN, it’s important to consider your company’s current circumstances and future digital transformation roadmap. If you’re running a relatively small multi-site business, which is unlikely to expand in the mid-to long-term, the security and traffic prioritisation elements of traditional WAN may be your best option.

However, if your business is cloud-centric and operating across many sites or internationally, the scalability, performance and simplified management of SD-WAN will make it the preferred choice. You’ll be able to build a network that supports your company’s ongoing digital transformation and supports future expansion.

The needs of every enterprise are different, and if you’re currently considering your WAN options, we can help. Find out more about our WAN solutions or contact one of our experts today.

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