The Disadvantages of SD-WAN (and how we debunk them)

Learn the pros and cons of SD-WAN and if it’s the right network option for your company. These are the top misconceptions that could hold your enterprise back.

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Rob Rodier

May 5, 2022


Over the past few years, companies have been racing to keep up with the complexity of a distributed workforce and rapid changes to their networking needs. Flexibility, efficiency, and scalability have become top priorities and while the tried-and-true networking favorite is typically MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching), a lot of companies are finding SD-WANs a better match for their needs.

However, despite surging interest in the “new kid on the block”, switching over from legacy systems is still a daunting prospect for many companies. There are also big questions to answer about exactly how effective and secure an SD-WAN is, for instance: Doesn’t the fact that it runs over the public internet make it a lot less secure?

So if you’ve been asking yourself whether SD-WANs are worth all the hype, well, this post is for you!

Ok, but technically-speaking, SD-WAN’s worse right?

For those used to the reliable, predictable solution MPLS offers, SD-WAN can seem like a lot of hard work and risk for no good reason. And while it’s true that on a technical level, the newer solution does add complexity by having both an overlay and underlay network to manage, it’s this decoupling that makes SD-WAN such a flexible option.

By virtualizing the network, SD-WAN opens up new options for traffic prioritization and network scaling that simply can’t be achieved using only MPLS.

Sure, but let’s circle back to that security issue… 

Look, we get it. If you’re dealing with customer data in any capacity, you have a list of regulations as long as your arm with which your company needs to comply and routing data through the public internet just seems like a really bad idea. 

It’s true that using an entirely private network, like you’d have with MPLS, makes certain aspects of managing data easier. For one, security audits are a lot more straightforward when everything’s on a private network, compared to having some of your enterprise’s traffic going over the public internet.

That said, it’s worth bearing in mind that modern SD-WANs are more than capable of meeting high security standards. Many of the major SD-WAN solutions on the market offer top notch (256 bit) encryption, and some offer Layer 7 firewalling as part of the package. 

Which is all to say, that while an SD-WAN may make your security and compliance approach a little more complicated, it’s not quite fair to categorize a network running both SD-WAN and MPLS as less secure.

Hang on a minute, what do you mean ‘Running MPLS and SD-WAN’?

The idea that it’s an “either or” when you’re deploying a new network tech is honestly one of the most persistent myths stopping most companies from optimizing their WAN. 

The thing is, it’s just not true.

Every enterprise is different. And the solution that’s going to bring the most value to your organization probably also looks different to the “right” solution for another company. In many cases, a multi-tech WAN makes the most sense, with different sections of the network dedicated to different use cases and applications, depending on the type of data and what the security and latency considerations are.

So, the best solution for your company might be a mix of SD-WAN, MPLS, point to point (P2P), dedicated internet access (DIA), or best effort internet. It really all just boils down to what makes the most sense for your particular circumstances.

Won’t the IT team hate me though?

Given all the options when installing an SD-WAN, and, depending on whether you want something managed or standalone, there might be a lot of work on the cards for your IT team. And yes, they’re going to need to be on the ball to ensure any issues that crop up are dealt with quickly and efficiently.

It could also be the case that your company just can’t afford, or doesn’t want, that kind of in-house IT specialization. I mean, why bother when you can get a fully managed MPLS service, right? 

The good news is there are managed SD-WAN solutions that fully take the burden off your team. And while they cost more than just a baseline product, they allow your organization to incorporate the flexibility of newer networking options without the hassle of day-to-day management.

Ok, but be honest. This is a lot of work, right?

Cards on the table? Yes, making any kind of topology change is a big undertaking. But, at the same time, there’s no need to go in blind and there’s a lot of good information available on how to make the switch to SD-WAN successfully.

And, if you still feel a little out at sea with all the options, we’d be more than happy to help you navigate the transition and procurement process. So, if you still have questions or just want some advice tailored to your enterprise’s network needs, reach out to us.

Chances are your optimal WAN solution is easier to achieve than you think.

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