SD-WAN vs. MPLS (VPN): Is Now the Time to Future-Proof Your Network?

When you start talking about network technology that connects multiple sites, it’s easy to get in the weeds with terms like shared nodes and IP subnets. But each of these components plays a part in how solid and secure your internet connections are between offices, cloud apps, and other sites.

Some of the basics of any good network include IT security, encryption, speed, and reliability. The ability to expand your network easily to add more remote sites is also vital in today’s world. In the early days of networking, you only had to worry about having a good connection between point A and point B. Point A might be your corporate office and Point B, a satellite office. But once the cloud revolution hit, networking became a lot more complicated. Instead of just connecting two sites, you’re now having to additionally connect those sites to cloud services and ensure connections to things like video conferencing, VoIP calls, and Microsoft 365 or G Suite are running smoothly. That change in network connection demand has many companies wondering if they need to upgrade from using MPLS (VPN) to the newer SD-WAN technology to prepare for the future. We’ll take a look at both technologies and compare their capabilities to handle what the future might demand of your technology capabilities.

What is MPLS (VPN)?

MPLS stands for Multi-Protocol Label Switching, which describes how this network technology transmits data. A traditional IP network sends data packets through different routers, each one having to stop and look up the IP details to determine where it should go next. It doesn’t get any help from the previous router on where to send that data. Not very efficient and it can cause issues like choppy video streams. MPLS on the other hand uses label switching. The first router does the IP lookup and a label is applied with that information. The subsequent routers use the label to send the data to its final destination, without each one having to stop and do its own lookup. The improved network reliability is why MPLS came into play, but it does have drawbacks, such as being expensive when you need to expand and having security problems. Also… it wasn’t initially designed with cloud use in mind.

What is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN is the acronym for Software-defined Wide Area Network. It’s a technology designed with cloud infrastructure in mind and uses a virtual WAN framework to use several different types of data transport solutions, including:

  • MPLS
  • LTE
  • Broadband

An SD-WAN uses application-aware routing that’s able to identify on-premises and cloud connections and apply proper security. Because it has multi-connection and multi-transport capabilities, it offers organizations more flexibility to choose the most affordable connection technology. The SD-WAN acts as an overlay controlling and securing the communications infrastructure.

Reasons to Upgrade to SD-WAN to Support Your Cloud Infrastructure

Use of the cloud has pretty much become the business norm. One thing that the global pandemic confirmed was that unexpected events can occur that require remote capabilities that only the cloud can provide. Companies with up to 100 employees use an average of between 40 and 79 different cloud apps in their business processes. In order to future-proof your business, you not only need to strategically deploy the cloud, you also need to ensure your network can support your use of the cloud. Here’s why SD-WAN beats out MPLS for effective business networking.

Traffic Encryption

MPLS is not as secure as SD-WAN. If using MPLS, data can be left accessible by hackers and vulnerable to being compromised. SD-WAN applies end-to-end data encryption to protect your information.

Shared vs Private Traffic

Your internet provider plays a part in your network traffic. A PE (Provider Edge) route describes the router for your ISP that you use for your connectivity. If you’re using MPLS, PE route interfaces will be shared between customers (shared nodes). This makes your data vulnerable. With SD-WAN, data packets can be sent over tunnels that use multiple transports, which ensures better security.

More Affordable to Expand

SD-WAN is more affordable because you can mix and match the types of network links you use. You’re not stuck with only using one type of connection technology but could choose broadband 4G LTE (or 5G), or even MPLS if you needed it for any connections.

Cloud Friendly & Adaptable

Perhaps the biggest reason to switch to SD-WAN network architecture is because it was designed to support cloud use, where MPLS was not. SD-WAN has the ability to recognize the applications on your network and can adapt bandwidth, security, and other needs accordingly. It has much better agility when it comes to load balancing and basically juggling many connections at once and keeping your connection speed and quality reliable.

Have You Hit a Roadblock with Your Network Framework?

Your network is one of the backbones of your entire technology infrastructure. Make sure your business has one that can support you today and in the future. Onsite Techs of Rhode Island can make that happen! Contact us today to set up a network consultation at 401-415-6290 or reach out online.