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Difference Between Traditional WAN Or SD WAN

Difference Between Traditional WAN Or SD WAN

The introduction of Wide Area Networks (WANs) revolutionized the world of computer networking by enabling the connection between computers over vast geographical distances. It allowed businesses to expand by having a central headquarters and multiple branches. 

Over time, the technology behind WANs has advanced, with modems becoming faster and the widespread use of the internet on various devices. Software-defined WANs (SD-WANs) have replaced traditional WANs, providing businesses with even greater operational efficiency. 

This article will compare traditional WANs and SD-WANs and determine which option is best for your business.

What Is A Traditional WAN? 

Traditional networks rely heavily on hardware devices and utilize Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) to efficiently route network traffic. Numerous hardware components and proprietary circuits are required to deliver IP services to end clients, making network management challenges for IT teams. 

Scaling traditional networks is complex and requires careful planning and the right network infrastructure to set up and operate. These networks primarily serve the needs of enterprises, branches, and data centres, enabling the prioritization of data, voice, and video traffic on the network. However, security concerns and management difficulties are prevalent issues in traditional WANs today.

How Does A Traditional WAN Work? 

Traditional WAN transmits IP packets through a virtual private network (VPN) tunnel. The IP packets reach a designated LAN, where the headers are removed, the payload is encrypted, and private networking capabilities become available. 

Implementing traditional WAN requires physical hardware, making scaling a complex process requiring additional equipment to expand to new office branches or remote locations. Integrating cloud-based and hard-drive-based services can also cause incompatible traffic surges with traditional WAN services.

What Is SD-WAN? 

SD-WAN refers to a Software Defined Wide Area Network, a virtual network management solution that leverages software to control all aspects of network connectivity and management. This approach combines conventional WAN technologies, including MPLS, LTE, and broadband connections. 

SD-WAN is ideal for global enterprises, providing enhanced application performance, optimized cloud connectivity, and simplified management. In a cloud-centric world, SD-WAN is preferred over traditional WANs. Using Software Defined Networking (SDN) technology helps determine the optimal routing path.

How Does SD-WAN Work? 

SD-WAN operates as an overlay network on top of the existing network infrastructure. It is achieved through the use of tunnelling technology to separate the physical network from the logical network.

The central component of SD-WAN technology is a centralized controller that acts as a single control point for managing the entire solution. It establishes and enforces policies that govern traffic paths, service level agreements (SLAs), failover procedures, monitoring, and more. The SLAs are determined based on application-specific information. Once the policies are established, they are distributed from the centralized controller to each SD-WAN node for automated implementation.

The policies, once implemented, continuously monitor link performance and dynamically migrate traffic based on the specified SLAs. It eliminates the need for circuit outages to redirect traffic to backup or redundant links.

What Are The Differences Between WAN And SD-WAN?

In simpler terms, traditional WAN utilizes physical hardware to connect multiple computer networks, whereas SD-WAN achieves this connection through cloud-based solutions. In terms of performance, the three key differences between traditional WAN and SD-WAN lie in efficiency, security, and cost.


Making changes to a traditional WAN network can be time-consuming and manual as it involves physically adjusting hardware. It can slow down efficiency for businesses looking to expand with new branch offices or remote employees.

On the other hand, SD-WAN offers streamlined operations through cloud technology, eliminating the need for hardware and minimizing the time it takes to make changes to the network.

SD-WAN also prioritizes traffic for crucial applications and software, ensuring a fast and reliable connection with minimal lag and jitter, allowing employees to maintain productivity.

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Traditional WAN has frequently always been secure since it makes use of VPNs that provide security by:

  • Authentication
  • Encryption
  • Confidentiality
  • Non-repudiation

Traditional WAN networks require strong security measures because they have potential vulnerabilities that could allow attackers to access the private network. Neglecting cybersecurity can lead to breaches and compromise the business’s primary WAN. The combination of traditional hardware and cloud operations, often present in traditional WAN services, increases the risk of security issues.

In contrast, SD-WAN includes built-in security features to protect networks from security threats and breaches. These integrated security measures prevent problems like:

  • Downtime
  • Lost data
  • Regulatory violations
  • Legal liabilities

SD-WAN technology provides ease in incorporating advanced security features like firewalls and threat management services.


SD-WAN has been proven to lower business internet expenses, resulting in cost savings. It is because it eliminates the need to invest heavily in upgrading bandwidth and runs on more affordable options like 4G LTE and broadband internet, as compared to traditional WAN, which is dependent on expensive MPLS networks.

With SD-WAN, you can utilize existing technology like WiFi or ethernet, eliminating the need for expensive IT involvement or additional overhead costs.


In conclusion, the comparison between traditional WAN and SD-WAN highlights the advantages of the latter in terms of efficiency, security, and cost. While traditional WAN relies heavily on hardware and VPNs, SD-WAN utilizes cloud-based solutions and software-defined networking to provide a better performance, enhanced security features, and cost savings. The dynamic and automated management of SD-WAN makes it an ideal solution for global enterprises looking to streamline their network operations and optimize their cloud connectivity.