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SD-WAN vs. MPLS: The Comprehensive Guide

SD-WAN is the answer to a variety of security and performance challenges brought on to traditional WAN by the modern state of the Internet. Nowadays, businesses must offer a secure and fast Internet solution for employees, vendors, guests, contractors, and more.

Two popular solutions, SD-WAN and MPLS, hold a variety of different benefits and are suited for different applications. MPLS preceded SD-WAN as a secure solution for two or more locations. SD-WAN came about as a response to the growing use of the cloud.

With an increase in the prevalence of applications being hosted on the cloud, it’s growing increasingly important for businesses to have a streamlined cloud connectivity solution.

Here we’ll discuss these two solutions and finally answer that burning question “is SD-WAN better than MPLS?”

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What is MPLS?

MPLS or Multi-Protocol Label Switching came about during the turn of the century. MPLS efficiently delivers packets, a unit of data, through secure means. MPLS is one of the most reliable systems for delivering high-quality packets without error, which is especially important when working with real-time protocols.

MPLS sends packets along predetermined paths through data centers. This system utilizes routers to send packets of valuable business information across the network.


What is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN is a solution that more efficiently directs traffic in a cloud-centric world. SD-WAN, or a Software-Defined Wide Area Network, divides traffic based on authority, security, and quality of service. SD-WAN directs traffic to ensure the utmost security while still providing a quick, streamlined network solution in a shifting cloud-based system.

Instead of utilizing a traditional router system that relies on sending information to a data center, SD-WAN uses cloud technology; therefore, increasing bandwidth capabilities. This traffic is filtered based on business requirements such as security, user experience, and more. Overall, SD-WAN cuts out the need for enterprise data centers and routers, by solely utilizing the power of the cloud.

Difference Between SD-WAN & MPLS

Both SD-WAN and MPLS hold unique advantages depending on a business’ type and goals. They offer various levels of security, along with differences in bandwidth, performance, and cost. Here is what each system provides to businesses.


Cost of SD-WAN vs. MPLS

One of the first and foremost differences between SD-WAN and MPLS is the cost of each. MPLS provides individual connections but requires Internet traffic to be sent to a data center where it must be processed and then redistributed. This solution provides extra expenses that are not seen with an SD-WAN connection.

On the other hand, SD-WAN utilizes the cloud to distribute traffic securely. SD-WAN provides connectivity at multiple points, ensuring users can access applications no matter their location. This system reduces costs by utilizing a variety of network connection types such as 4G, 5G, LTE, and even MPLS.

In the end, SD-WAN is the practical choice for lower operational costs.


Performance & Bandwidth of MPLS vs. SD-WAN

When it comes to speed and performance, MPLS offers a fixed bandwidth, meaning it is not flexible. Depending on the amount of bandwidth your business requires, MPLS can prove to be quite expensive. For example, if your business requires a monthly bandwidth of 100M+, your business’ Internet bill will be quite expensive.

Instead, since SD-WAN utilizes multiple connections, bandwidth is flexible. With traffic as unpredictable as it is today, it’s necessary to be able to scale your bandwidth when necessary to adapt to current traffic needs. In addition to this, video and audio often have latency requirements, and your system must have enough bandwidth to provide for these requirements. 

When it comes to performance, SD-WAN can prioritize between low-priority and high-priority traffic by operating on multiple ISP connections. On the other hand, MPLS only offers one network connection without the ability to adapt according to priority.

MPLS also offers less than preferable performance in areas where they do not have a network. SD-WAN systems utilize various ISPs making your network connection speedy and reliable no matter your location.


Security of SD-WAN vs. MPLS

Security is where SD-WAN and MPLS differ the most.

MPLS does offer significant security measures. Since MPLS operates across a managed, secure link to exchange packets between the source and the data center, businesses often look to MPLS as the most secure solution. But, on top of this secure connection, traffic still requires firewalls and additional malware inspection before it is deemed entirely safe.

SD-WAN offers a holistic approach to security, meaning it incorporates encryption across an entire network from end-to-end. SD-WAN provides secure traffic in the cloud and Internet. Real-time access control also creates the opportunity for application-aware policies. 

Overall, SD-WAN can dramatically improve your network security. 


Overall SD-WAN Benefits Over MPLS

SD-WAN promotes a greater user experience for businesses looking for a secure network connection. SD-WAN offers a seamless, secure connection by extending from traditional WAN to various public clouds.  This minimizes packet loss and helps a business operate when most applications are now hosted in the cloud.

With SD-WAN, you’ll be able to form many connections to a single site utilizing both ISP Internet and WAN. This is in contrast to MPLS, which fails to use multiple Internet connections. Overall, having access to various network connections increases speed and creates a better user experience.

SD-WAN also gives users the freedom they deserve. MPLS generally create restrictions for users when it comes to ISPs. With MPLS, you’re often stuck with one provider as you need to be connected to your dedicated MPLS provider at all sites. With SD-WAN, you have the luxury of being able to remove or add on an ISP any time.

In the end, the decision to go with SD-WAN or MPLS is up to you. Each plan holds its unique benefits, but there’s no denying the speed, performance, and security advantages that SD-WAN holds. SD-WAN is the new age of high-speed, secure Internet connection. Instead of sticking to traditional WAN, SD-WAN harnesses the power of the cloud to minimize packet loss, increase speed, and more.

If all or the majority of your applications are hosted in the cloud, SD-WAN will prove to be the most beneficial solution for your business. For instance, instead of dropped calls on VoIP, SD-WAN will keep your call connected while simultaneously searching for a better connection.

SD-WAN takes advantage of all the opportunities the cloud holds. For more information on how COEO can help you build custom cloud connectivity solutions from the ground up, reach out to us today!


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