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SD-WAN vs. MPLS and Which is Right for My Business?

July 20th, 2022 | 4 min. read

By Jordan Pioth

Open laptop keyboard on black wooden surface

In today’s day and age, WAN or wide-area network is highly important for businesses operating in a data center, corporate, branch, remote, or hybrid remote setting. 

If you are in any of these organizations listed above it can be frustrating when you don't have an efficient way to communicate across multiple locations.    

An area network can help with the management of data. However, there are a couple of different area networks you can choose from.

The two main options available to customers that are carried by many telecommunication companies are SD-WAN and MPLS. 

As a telecommunications company, we’re here to educate you on all things network area solutions related, and we know that this is a common question we receive from customers.

We’re here to help answer it for you so that you can make the best decision for your company.  

In this article, we will discuss the key differences between SD-WAN and MPLS, the pros and cons of the two, as well as which network service is right for you and your company.

By the end of this article, you will feel more knowledgeable about the differences between the two networks and feel more confident in making the best decision for your business. 

The key differences between MPLS and SD-WAN

Though these two network services have very similar jobs and are essentially used to do the same thing there still are a few differences that set them apart from one another.

Each network has different features and abilities that make it unique from the other.

Data transport

The first difference between MPLS and SD-WAN is the transportation of data.

MPLS or Multiprotocol Label Switching sends data through dedicated bandwidth on a one-track route while SD-WAN is more flexible and can use multiple underlying transport networks. 

Cloud access

MPLS backhauls data to a data center and from there gets sent to the cloud whereas SD-WAN has direct access to cloud services.


When MPLS sends internet traffic to the data center, the data is inspected there before being sent to the cloud while SD-WAN has embedded security into its software. 

The pros and cons of MPLS

MPLS is a one-track service and is not nearly as flexible as SD-WAN. MPLS sends data straight to its destination without bouncing around the internet along the way.

In MPLS when data first enters the network it gets assigned to an FEC or Forward Equivalence Class which dictates how the data is packaged and sent.

This process is similar to how an address is written on an envelope to be sent out via mail. This process means data traffic is kept separate and private across the infrastructure. 


  • The biggest advantage of using MPLS is its reliability to deliver data. Because MPLS is more grounded and a one-track service, data is less likely to be lost. Data traffic flow is also more efficient since data is sent out on a one-track route. 


  • One downside to MPLS is that because the network is so grounded, there is not much flexibility on where data is sent and how it is sent. MPLS network paths are predetermined so there is not much that can be done once the data is directed to the paths that it is being sent. 


  • Another big downside to MPLS is that the network itself does not offer built-in data protection. If an MPLS network is implemented incorrectly, the network could be open to vulnerabilities to outside entities.


  • The final downside to having an MPLS network is the high cost of the service. The cost of the bandwidth is in most cases higher than an SD-WAN network.  

The pros and cons of SD-WAN  

Software Defined Wide-Area-Network (SD-WAN), is connectivity that is provided through an internet connection whether it be over fibre LTE or broadband, and it can be provided from one carrier or multiple carriers at the same time.

SD-WAN is much more flexible than MPLS because it can use any underlay network available. 

SD-WAN is applied as a software network of SD-WAN appliances, connected by encrypted tunnels. SD-WAN appliances continuously monitor the availability and performance of each network service.

Data traffic is then classified based on application, ensuring data is sent out over the fastest, most reliable service.  SD-WAN BUYER'S GUIDE


  • The first advantage of having an SD-WAN network is the flexibility. If you have multiple connections coming into the location, then you can prioritize important data traffic over others.


  • SD-WAN allows organizations to easily add and subtract connections as needed while also improving the speed and availability of the network.

  • SD-WAN is typically the less costly of the two network services. Since SD-WAN is easier to manage, there is less time spent on IT services resulting in less money being spent on the service as well as fewer mistakes being made.

    In some cases, SD-WAN can result in 80% lower costs for businesses.


  • The final, advantage of having an SD-WAN network is security. All networks are managed through an encrypted software network meaning that all devices and endpoints are always authenticated. 


  • Since SD-WAN is a much newer service, there hasn't been a whole lot of experience as to what could go wrong. The unfamiliarity of a new service is one of its greatest weaknesses.  

Which network service is right for your company?

Now you the differences between SD-WAN and MPLS, the pros and cons of MPLS, and the pros and cons of SD-WAN. This will help you make a better decision on which solution is best for your organization.

If you have a poor-performing network, you may not be able to access the internet easily which could result in poor productivity and efficiency.

Coeo has helped thousands of organizations with their network connectivity and knows how important a reliable network is to an organization.

We want to inform you of the differences between SD-WAN and MPLS so you can determine which solution is best for your organization. 

If you would like to speak with our team to learn more about SD-WAN and MPLS or ask any questions you may have you can schedule an appointment.TALK TO AN EXPERT

Now you know the differences between SD-WAN and MPLS. Read this article to learn the migration process from an MPLS service to an SD-WAN solution:

Jordan Pioth

When he's not creating content for Coeo, Jordan loves to watch sports, hang out with friends and family, and anything sneaker-related.