Learn how SD WAN is better than VPNs

Internet-based VPNs use IPsec tunnels (or similar encryption methods) and physical or virtual VPN devices to securely connect multiple websites within a WAN over the public internet. In simple words, it has been an enterprise WAN for years. Internet-based VPNs are deployed by enterprises to reduce bandwidth costs, but with some compromises in reliability and performance. Even then, MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) comes second when it comes to choosing internet for your company to WAN connectivity. This is one of the reasons that companies prefer opting for SD WAN solutions over VPN; well, of course, the needs also determine what to opt for. 

Internet-based VPNs vs MPLS have been debated for some time, but WAN technologies have evolved over the past few years. Meanwhile, SD WAN has evolved into an enterprise WAN connectivity solution, offering a combination of cost efficiency, agility, and cloud readiness that neither MPLS nor Internet-based VPNs can match. Cloud-based SD-WAN, in particular, has proven to be a game changer, adding reliability and built-in security features to the mix. There are all moving parts in the decision, but how do you decide if an internet-based VPN or SD WAN is right for your organization’s use case? We answer all of those questions here in a step-by-step manner. 

What is SD-WAN? 

It’s a virtual architecture which enables organizations to securely connect users to their applications. Use software to control connectivity, management, & services between cloud resources, data centres, and remote branches.

SD-WAN device deployments typically include routers, switches, and virtualized devices at customer sites that run some form of software to handle network functions, policies, and security. SD-WAN appliances use centralized control to intelligently and securely route traffic over wide area networks (WANs) to improve application performance and user experience. Read this step-by-step guide to understand how SD-WAN is good in terms of increasing network visibility and ensuring availability and performance.

Virtual Private Network (VPN) – Overview

A virtual private network (VPN) allows internet users to keep their browsing history private & browse the internet safely. A VPN can help you stay anonymous while working or surfing online, hide your device location, and, lastly, allows you to access content from other countries safely. Not just this, VPNs add a protective layer for users against insecure Wi-Fi networks. This way, your login credentials or personal data remains safe from hackers. By connecting to a VPN or Virtual Private Network, users can hide their location along with maintaining their privacy.

A VPN encrypts your information and uses only a secure tunnel that hides your location and protects your data. This means users get the advantage of bypassing geo-restrictions on the streaming sites, staying anonymous/unknown online, and downloading any files safely.

When comparing SD-WAN and VPN, it is essential to remember that both have the same intention: to protect traffic and keep users safe while browsing the internet or accessing internet-connected applications. 

Difference between SD WAN and VPN

  1. Cost


SD-WAN prices are generally lower than traditional his WAN because it uses the public internet and does not require a private connection. The SD-WAN pricing model also provides a cost-effective option for building networks, reducing operating costs associated with lines such as cable, digital subscriber line (DSL), and fiber.


There are free and paid VPN solutions for you, but the more money companies spend, the more reliable and secure their solutions are. In most of the cases, if you are paying for VPN solutions, then in addition to remote access, it also includes time and human resources that spend time managing the user’s network connections.

  1. Configuration and maintenance


SD-WAN solutions are typically customizable and easily upgradeable. This centralized and software-driven approach requires no special hardware coding or infrastructure changes. However, maintaining WAN connectivity becomes complicated as organizations add sites, leading to performance issues and infrastructure disintegration.


Managing and configuring a VPN service can be a lot of work. For example, network knowledge is required to securely configure Internet Key Exchange (IKE), Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) tunneling, & Network Address Translation Traversal (NAT-T). VPNs are relatively easy to manage but are less flexible than SD WAN because each VPN connection is not centrally managed but rather end-to-end.

  1. Connectivity 


The SD-WAN approach sets up a two-tier network consisting of an underlay and an overlay. The underlay connects to the public internet & with existing private WANs via public & private lines such as dedicated internet access circuit (DIA), multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), and point-to-point network connections. An overlay is the top layer of software that enables an organization to monitor and troubleshoot connectivity issues.

This approach intelligently routes data between public and private networks based on priority and simplifies network management. However, SD WAN can still be vulnerable to public Internet issues such as bandwidth fluctuations, latency, and packet loss. 


A VPN provides an encrypted tunnel that creates a secure and stable user connection. However, the speed of a VPN connection often depends on the type of VPN service. They may also be affected by the encryption process. Paid network solutions typically offer more reliable and faster connections than free alternatives.

  1. Security solution


The benefits of moving to SD WAN include a higher level of security at a lower cost and lesser complexity than solutions such as MPLS. SD WAN security provides centralized management that provides end-to-end encryption across the enterprise network rather than manually securing individual connections. Compatible with advanced security features and solutions such as antivirus, encryption, firewalls, sandboxing, and uniform resource locator (URL) filtering.


Most of the leading VPN security services offer secured traffic with IPsec protocol and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit encryption. Some offer Layer 7 firewall protection, allowing organizations to filter application-specific traffic. However, VPNs or Virtual Private Networks can be vulnerable to threats from the public internet and should be monitored carefully and regularly.

For example, some remote access VPNs allow malware and viruses to spread from the user’s home device to the corporate network.

  1. Performance


With SD WAN, organizations can take advantage of network features such as application-aware routing, dynamic path selection, & quality of service (QoS). In addition to this, the cloud-based SD WAN can eliminate latency issues too. 


VPN solutions can be prone to performance issues over the public internet. This includes slow internet connections and traffic spikes resulting in latency issues with data traffic travelling long distances.

  1. Reliability


This technology provides stable connectivity and greatly reduces the chance of downtime. Improves reliability of WAN, the public internet, and mobile connections. This technology also simplifies network management through remote monitoring. Additionally, SD WAN provides features such as multiplexing and path conditioning that protect the network from connectivity issues and packet drops and intelligent network resources that ensure the performance of business-critical applications. 


A reliable VPN router provides reliable service that is immune to disconnections. However, an encryption problem exposes the user’s actual Internet Protocol (IP) address to the public internet.

Choosing between VPN and SD WAN depends on your business needs. Smaller organizations that connect only a few users or websites can probably start with just an internet-based VPN. Larger organizations that need agility, performance, reliability, and scalability from their network should consider SD WAN solutions