What is SD-WAN?

By: Chris Darr
October 31, 2022

SD-WAN stands for Software-Defined Wide Area Network. This topic can get fairly weedy, so I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible. 

WANs (Wide Area Networks) were designed to connect users to data centers at a time when most work wasn’t completed online. However, cloud services and apps demand more bandwidth, and they’ve made traffic patterns far more complicated. 

SD-WAN is an upgrade to WAN that gives you more bandwidth, routes online traffic in real time, and uses software to prioritize the tools your organization needs most. 

Say What?

Here’s an analogy: WANs are kind of like a one-lane country road. When traffic is light and it’s just coming and going from point A to point B, that’s just fine. But add more traffic and more places on the map, and you get congestion and delays. 

SD-WAN can give you multiple lanes. But it’s also smart, and can act as your GPS system, suggesting the fastest routes possible. You can also give certain “vehicles” priority over others — like video conferencing or voice calling — so that data has an uninterrupted journey.

How Does SD-WAN Work?

WANs use routers to connect users to data centers. Each router has internal hardware — a data plane and a control plane. The data plane holds the data; the control pane tells it where to go. Its route was predetermined by a skilled technician that initially set up rules for each router on the network. That takes a ton of time, and it’s very easy for mistakes to be made. 

SD-WANs use more sophisticated software so network admins can write new routes as needed and implement them everywhere quickly. 

What Are the Benefits of SD-WAN?

In addition to being a more intelligent way to manage connectivity, SD-WAN offers a number of advantages: 

  • Lower operational cost
  • Bandwidth is used more efficiently 
  • Better, smoother performance of online tools
  • Improved user experience on multiple platforms
  • Faster performance without compromising security 
  • Easy management and configuration through a single dashboard
  • Detailed analytics of network performance are included


When put side by side, it’s easy to see why SD-WAN is growing in popularity. With remote work fueling the shift to cloud-based tools, SD-WANs are the clear choice for organizations that need more bandwidth. Plus, SD-WANs are less difficult for your internal IT team to manage. 



Will send the most important data over the best network link and can prioritize some applications over others

Priorities are pre-set, and it can’t intelligently route traffic in real time

Uses encryption and VPN* 

Uses a highly secure MPLS* connection 

More scalable and flexible

More predictable but less flexible

Updates and configuration are quick and easy

Updates and configuration are time-consuming

Doesn’t need skilled IT staff

Needs skilled IT staff

Performance is great for cloud apps 

Performance is poor when connecting to cloud apps. 


There is an overwhelming number of telecommunication terms and abbreviations, but if you’re researching this topic, here’s a few you might come across: 


A WAN (Wide Area Network) is a large information network that isn’t tied to one physical location. WANs can be global, whereas a LAN (Local Area Network) has a limited footprint.


MPLS stands for Multiprotocol Label Switching. It’s a networking technology that routes traffic using the shortest path instead of network addresses to forward calls over WANs.


A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, includes encryption that can help keep your IP address hidden from prying eyes. However, it is already considered to be obsolete as it poses some additional cybersecurity concerns.

Business Networking Made Easy

If you’re contemplating updating your network, you likely already know the frustrations a poorly performing network can cause. Not all technology problems have such a one-and-done solution, but SD-WAN really delivers…if you get the right hardware and configure it correctly. 

Marco has a special network team whose only task is designing, implementing, and maintaining the right business network for organizations. They do this day in and day out, and they know how to make the process as smooth as possible. 

Let us know if we can answer any of your business networking questions or make your next steps easier!

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Topics: Business IT Services