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SD-WAN vs VPN: What You Need to Know

SD-WAN vs VPN: What You Need to Know

With MPLS phasing out and cloud-first collaboration and business management tools taking over, many global IT teams are at a transition point in re-assessing network and application needs. Two network technologies that have gotten recent attention are next-gen VPN versus SD-WAN, and we’re seeing an uptick in comparisons between them.

VPNs offer secure, encrypted connections over the internet, while SD-WANs provide more efficient solutions for managing and routing traffic over multiple links. They serve different purposes and have distinct functionalities. But as VPN makes advancements in efficiency, and SD-WAN grows increasingly secure, it makes sense that businesses are comparing the two technologies.

It goes without saying that VPN and SD-WAN are not alone in the networking game. Emerging new connectivity solutions have joined the race to offer the fastest and most reliable network performance to the widest range of businesses.

“It goes without saying that VPN and SD-WAN are not alone in the networking game. Emerging new connectivity solutions have joined the race to offer the fastest and most reliable network performance to the widest range of businesses.”

In this post, we’ll establish a clearer understanding of the strengths, limitations, and appropriate use cases for SD-WAN versus VPN. Let’s begin with key definitions.

What Is a VPN: Definitions and Updates

VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a technology that creates a secure and encrypted connection over a public network, such as the internet. By encrypting the traffic between the user’s device and the destination network, VPNs prevent unauthorized access and eavesdropping. Using tunneling protocols such as OPENVPN, IPSec, and Wireguard, VPNs encapsulate data packets within another protocol. This effectively creates a “tunnel” through which data is transmitted securely.

VPNs are typically used for remote access scenarios. They enable users to securely connect to private networks from anywhere, such as accessing work resources from home or connecting to a company’s intranet while traveling. VPNs can also be used to enhance anonymity and privacy. They achieve this by masking the user’s IP address and encrypting their internet traffic, making it harder for third parties to track online activities.

Recent advancements in VPN technology, such as multi-hop connections and more advanced encryption protocols, have improved VPNs core security functionality. Yet alongside security, VPNs have also grown increasingly efficient. Consider split-tunneling for example. This feature improves performance by allowing users to selectively route or bypass different types of data through the VPN. In addition, some VPNs now offer dedicated IP addresses which are assigned to a single user. This makes it easier to access a wider range of content.

SD-WAN: Definitions and Updates

Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) simplifies the management and operation of a wide area network (WAN) by separating the network control plane from the underlying hardware. SD-WAN enables organizations to efficiently utilize multiple connection types (such as MPLS, broadband, or LTE) and direct traffic across the WAN based on real-time conditions.

SD-WAN is already a widely used technology and as more organizations adopt cloud-based applications and services, the demand for SD-WAN will likely continue to grow. Moreover, SD-WAN solutions are now able to provide improved security measures. These include distributed firewalls, advanced encryption technology, and SASE integration to protect sensitive data by providing additional layers of security for the network.

Difference Between SD-WAN & VPN

The comparison between SD-WAN and VPN as network connectivity solutions is logical as there does exist overlap between the two. However, the use cases for each essentially remain different. VPN’s main focus lies in securing data transmission and facilitating secure remote access to private networks. SD-WAN, by contrast, primarily focuses on improving network performance, optimizing traffic, and providing seamless connectivity for multi-site organizations. The differences are also visible in their respective network architectures.

Determining which of these technologies may be right for your business involves comparing the relative trade-offs, of which there are several.

The obvious tradeoff is performance versus security. SD-WAN prioritizes performance enhancements by utilizing load balancing, traffic shaping, and dynamic routing. VPN prioritizes data security through encryption and secure tunneling, which may introduce some latency.

When evaluating strictly for performance versus security, the best solution may even be to combine SD-WAN and VPN together. Combining these technologies ensures that all data sent between the networks is encrypted and secure. Additionally, SD-WAN can
optimize the performance of the VPN connection, allowing for better speeds and reliability. This makes it easier for organizations to collaborate and share data securely over the internet.

The tradeoffs between performance and security however, only present a partial picture. Scalability and management are also key factors. SD-WAN offers centralized management and scalability for organizations with growing network requirements. VPNs, by contrast, require additional configuration and management for each user or remote access connection.

Lastly, no evaluation would be complete without cost considerations. SD-WAN may involve upfront costs for hardware and software, but its ability to optimize network utilization and potentially replace expensive dedicated connections can result in long-term savings. VPNs are generally cost-effective as they utilize existing internet connections, but may require additional infrastructure or licensing costs for more extensive deployments.

When Is Teridion a Better Choice over SD-WAN or VPN?

It’s true that SD-WAN offers numerous advantages over traditional VPNs in industries and business environments where network reliability and performance are critical to meeting operational needs and providing an excellent user experience. These include retail businesses, the financial and education sectors, hospitality, and more.

However, due to its lack of a global backbone, SD-WAN may not be able to accommodate organizations with a global presence and networking needs.

To enhance SD-WAN for optimal business performance, such organizations must carry a comprehensive analysis of their connectivity priorities. This includes addressing security and data privacy requirements, identifying crucial cloud applications, implementing centralized configuration, and ensuring support for global traffic over the mid-mile.

Teridion’s AI-WAN is emerging as a strong competitor in the wide-ranging landscape of networking technology. ‌By leveraging AI-powered route detection to dynamically discover the fastest and most reliable pathways, Teridion ensures consistent performance, regardless of location or edge device.

Examples of industries or business environments where Teridion can outperform both SD-WAN and VPN:

  • Global Companies: Operating as an overlay network, Teridion has the flexibility to use the internet when its performance is optimal. However, should it identify a decline in performance below the SLA threshold, Teridion gains complete control to swiftly reroute traffic. In contrast, SD-WAN can identify connectivity issues but lacks the capability to fix them. It relies on the best available efforts of the internet and can only manage the exit point for traffic to reach its destination, such as private lines, internet, or DIA. This ability to optimize traffic over the long haul makes Teridion an excellent option for companies that operate internationally.
  • Multi-Site Organizations: While SD-WAN and VPN can efficiently connect branches, Teridion outperforms these tools in environments with numerous, globally-dispersed locations. Teridion’s optimized connectivity ensures enhanced network performance and increased network management simplicity.
  • Cloud Power: For businesses that rely heavily on cloud-based applications and services, whether site-to-cloud, hybrid-cloud or multi-cloud, Teridion can provide higher traffic optimization compared to SD-WAN and VPN. Teridion accelerates to the cloud natively and guarantees reliable, low-latency connections to critical cloud applications.
  • Bandwidth-Intensive Applications: Teridion excels in handling bandwidth-intensive tasks. Compared to SD-WAN and VPN, Teridion’s intelligent traffic routing and bandwidth aggregation can significantly improve performance and reduce data bottlenecks.

Why Teridion: Price-to-Performance Ratio

Perhaps what sets Teridion apart the most is the price-to-performance ratio. Despite its premium offerings, you get a powerful, globally-capable network service without the hefty price tag that’s typically associated with SD-WAN. This means superior network performance that offers the least-cost routing within SLA—often just one-third to one-fourth of the cost of implementing SD-WAN. Teridion’s cost efficiency, paired with unrivaled performance in supporting global connectivity needs, makes it a compelling choice for businesses seeking to get the most value out of their network investments.

About Teridion

Modern workforces demand modern connectivity and Teridion’s Network as a Service delivers. Using AI-powered route detection, Teridion provides fast, reliable WAN connectivity to any global location and edge device. Without the hassle of hardware.

As a cloud-native solution, Teridion allows businesses to accelerate to the cloud seamlessly. We connect hundreds of points of presence and 25 cloud service providers such as Amazon, Azure, and Google, through our agile network architecture.

Teridion dramatically cuts latency, jitter, and packet loss by directing traffic dynamically and in transit to the most available pipes. The result is SLA-grade performance that prevents expensive network failures and middle-of-the-night‌ phone calls to your IT department. Remote teams will feel like they’re working in the same room even from different corners of the world — including China.

Our efficiency isn’t limited to connectivity. Teridion’s plug-and-play platform offers same-day deployment, transparent network monitoring, 24/7 expert service, and optimized IT costs that don’t require long-term contracts. Try Teridion today and get scalable, customized, high-performance connectivity to support total digital transformation.