April 12, 2022

Why SD-WAN is a better solution than a VPN

Software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) is the next generation of business networks. They allow companies to connect various geographical locations via one network, including both local and international offices, data centres and branches. Building networks that support a remote workforce has never been more essential for businesses.

Network speed and cyber security are two important factors that need to be considered when connecting workers to a corporate network. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have been around for the last two decades as a solution to these security and performance requirements. IT teams use VPNs to build high-speed, secure connections between two endpoints, or devices, on a network.

More recently, SD-WAN has become the preferred tool for managing corporate IT networks. Using a software overlay to automate and direct traffic flow, SD-WAN performs a similar function to a VPN in that it can securely connect remote devices and servers.

When we compare the ease of implementation, connection quality and security benefits, SD-WAN outperforms a VPN - with the added benefits of being a more flexible, affordable and easily scalable solution.

Implementing SD-WAN vs VPN

As a software-driven solution, SD-WAN does not require any specialised coding or changes to hardware and infrastructure. Software WAN is set up from a remote virtual console, making it easy to update and expand the network infrastructure as a company’s digital architecture changes.

Migration to SD-WAN requires planning but once in place it is much faster and easier to manage than VPN-based networking. This translates to cost savings - the ease of management, flexibility and scalability of SD-WAN make it an affordable alternative to a VPN.

Implementing a VPN often requires specialised resources and equipment. VPNs generally rely on purpose-built technologies, which are inherently not very agile. Large corporations need flexible ICT solutions that can adapt to their changing digital needs, something which SD-WAN offers.

VPNs are manually set up and maintained, making the implementation and management of a VPN much more complex and labour-intensive than an SD-WAN. With a VPN, each device needs to be individually configured, adding labour costs to the price of the VPN itself.

SD-WAN vs VPN connection quality

SD-WANs are dual-layer networks, made up of an underlay and an overlay network. The underlay provides the primary connection. The underlay network can connect to existing or private WANs, on both public and private internet lines. SD-WAN’s underlay network can also connect to the company’s broadband, multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), dedicated internet access (DIA) and point-to-point connections.

The software-defined overlay network operates on top of this and is used to identify connection issues and intelligently route traffic across the best possible path, whether it be on public or private lines within the network. Routing is automated to prioritise certain business operations, for example giving priority to voice and video calls over web browsing or file uploading - something that is extremely useful for an organisation that relies on a telephony system for customer service, such as a call centre.

Using smart routing, SD-WAN ensures excellent connection quality and improved network speeds. Unlike SD-WAN, VPNs are not managed by a central console. Connections have to be individually monitored and it is difficult to get a bird’s eye view of what is happening on the network. When issues on the network arise, VPNs do not have the flexibility of automatically routing traffic along the next best possible path, and it may also take technicians considerable time to identify and resolve issues.

Cyber Security: SD-WAN compared to a VPN

The global cost of data breaches in 2019 was almost $4-billion and this figure is only set to increase - an indication of why cyber security is so critically important for businesses. Cyber security is a business necessity, so it is essential to compare the security benefits of SD-WAN compared to a VPN.

With a VPN, data is heavily encrypted, making it a highly secure and stable connection. Some VPNs even include Layer 7 firewall protection for application-specific traffic. Even so, not all VPNs offer the same security performance.

With the sudden trend toward work-from-home, many employees ended up using consumer VPNs to connect to corporate networks. Consumer VPNs are not very secure and home computers infected with malware have posed a serious threat to cyber security for businesses in the last couple of years.

SD-WAN offers superior and streamlined security compared to a VPN. With SD-WAN, there is end-to-end encryption of the entire network, instead of manually secured individual connections. It is used in conjunction with next-gen firewalls and URL filtering. As a cloud-based smart security solution, machine learning and behaviour analysis are used to defend against zero-day attacks or new types of attacks that are launched by cybercriminals. All end-points and devices are authenticated and SD-WAN offers the security benefits of a private MPLS connection.

SD-WAN is better than a VPN

SD-WAN’s intelligent data routing and centralised management make it a better option compared to a VPN. Whether as a self-managed or managed service, SEACOM Business customers can benefit from improved network reliability and connection speeds. SD-WAN can be customised according to business requirements.

In business, for example, confidential data can be routed via the MPLS and other data over public internet connections. For media companies, SD-WAN can ensure ultra-high-speed data transfers between data centres. Large organisations with multiple branches and offices can use SD-WAN to save costs because they do not need to send technicians to each location to configure networks and devices.

SD-WAN offsets any connectivity issues by optimising traffic routing. Virtualised WAN is the next generation of secure networking, offering improved reliability, security and performance, particularly when compared to a VPN. SD-WAN offers a flexible, long-term networking solution that is easily configured to suit changing digital architecture. For more information or to get a quote for our SD-WAN services, email us at marketing@seacom.com or leave us a message.


SEACOM owns Africa’s most extensive network of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, including subsea cables and secure internet connections. We offer a diverse range of flexible, scalable and high-quality solutions for businesses that meet world-class standards for connectivity.

SEACOM is privately owned and operated, making it agile and adaptable to the needs of the customer. This makes us the preferred ICT and internet connectivity partner for African businesses and peripheral service providers. We can guarantee high-speed, low-latency and secure internet connections to corporates and small enterprises.

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