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SD-WAN vs. VPN: A Comparison

What Is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN is a short form of software-defined wide area network. A wide area network (WAN) is used to connect different geographical locations in a single network.

Basically, a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is a networking solution.

SD-WAN uses different transport media like mobile networks, broadband internet, and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) links to provide high performance and reliable connectivity.

The working of SD-WAN is very efficient as it provides a single channel to applications that use it, while SD-WAN also optimally distributes traffic on different transport links. SD-WAN is effective as it automatically detects traffic generated by specific applications.

SD-WAN also chooses the best route for the generated traffic based on configured policies and priorities. This methodology of SD-WAN ensures that high-priority applications get the necessary network bandwidth to give optimal performance, and applications with low-priority don’t consume much of the network bandwidth.

Some Types of SD-WAN

  • Internet-based SD-WAN
  • Telco or MSP Managed Service SD-WAN
  • SDWAN as-a-Service

What Is VPN?

VPN stands for the virtual private network. Basically, a virtual private network (VPN) is a security solution and is more inclined towards security. A virtual private network (VPN) is commonly used to connect corporate networks with each other or a remote worker to the organization’s network.

A virtual private network (VPN) protects the traffic between two parties by creating a secure tunnel between them. This experience feels like a direct network connection.

A virtual private network is also referred to as a point-to-point encryption solution. VPN encrypts all outbound traffic and decrypts all inbound traffic.

SSL VPN is used to provide secure web access to its users, and SSL VPN works in a web browser.

Some Types of VPNs

  • PPTP
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • OpenVPN
  • SSTP
  • IKEv2
  • SSL

Comparison of SD-WAN vs VPN Cost

SD-WAN and VPN are very similar in that both are cost-efficient but in their own way. SD-WAN and VPN are compatible with businesses as they are internet-based network solutions.

On a smaller scale, VPN proves to be much cheaper as compared to SD-WAN. VPN is best for small organizations and enterprises that require a network for a limited number of sites.

SD-WAN proves to be economical in large organizations. SD-WAN reduces costs by using the public internet, so there is no need for dedicated internet lines. It is less expensive to build the network on SD-WAN in the long run.

Comparison of SD-WAN vs VPN Maintenance

SD-WAN is easier to maintain because of the high scalability and flexibility they provide. Their usage in the cloud makes them scalable and flexible hence, making them much easier to maintain.

On the other hand, VPN can be a hassle when it comes to maintenance. VPN requires much more maintenance as compared to SD-WAN. A great level of expertise is required to configure and scale IPsec tunneling, IKE, and NAT-T in VPN. Similarly, a VPN can get tougher to maintain when more sites are added to the WAN network.

Comparison of SD-WAN vs VPN Reliability

SD-WAN and VPN are both very secure systems. However, SD-WAN is more secure and reliable as it extends to the various cloud, which reduces packet loss.

Moreover, it also has a failover feature, and this feature is not available in a VPN. Furthermore, SD-WAN automatically fixes a service failure. SD-WAN does this automatic fix by controlling your IP address and moving it from network to network. In terms of reliability, SD-WAN is ahead of VPN.

Comparison of SD-WAN vs VPN Performance and Bandwidth

SD-WAN offers high-performance because it is cloud-based, which means there is no latency issue due to geographical location.

SD-WAN has features like dynamic path selection, quality of service, and application-aware routing. All of these features make SD-WAN a high-performance system.

On the flip side, VPN faces latency issues due to distance between sites. VPN also faces spikes in congestion. All of these factors drag down VPN performance.

Comparison of SD-WAN vs VPN Scalability

SD-WAN is highly scalable due to the fact it is cloud-based. It is easier to extend and limit the networks on SD-WAN. SD-WAN is desirable to organizations as compared to VPN.

A great level of expertise is required to configure and scale IPsec tunneling, IKE, and NAT-T in VPN. Similarly, a VPN can get tougher to maintain when more sites are added to the WAN network.

Comparison of SD-WAN vs VPN Network Architecture

A virtual private network (VPN) is has a network architecture based on the implementation of point-to-point connectivity. In contrast, the network architecture of SD-WAN is like a gateway to a fully connected network of SD-WAN appliances.

Comparison of SD-WAN vs VPN Traffic Transportation

SD-WAN has the capability to optimize traffic routing over multiple transport media. Whereas in a VPN, all the traffic is transferred over a single network link.

Comparison of SD-WAN vs VPN Flexibility

SD-WAN is much more flexible as compared to VPN because SD-WAN uses various WAN connections like LTE, 4G, internet broadband, and MPLS. SD-WAN offers more network connectivity flexibility.


SD-WAN and VPN are both internet-based network solutions. VPN is the right choice for a small organization that has a WAN network of limited sites and works on a smaller scale.

SD-WAN is necessary for organizations that require performance, reliability, scalability, and operational agility. SD-WAN is much more effective and efficient when it comes to delivering at a high level.

Read more: 5 Roadblocks of Creating Superior AI Decision Quality

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