Considering the way that SD-WAN technology has exploded onto the scene, it seems surprising now that no one had even heard of it as recently as five years ago. Due to the ever-changing needs of modern businesses and the nearly unlimited potential of this technology, it has quickly become one of the hottest networking options in a very short amount of time. However, like most new technologies, SD-WAN can be difficult to fully understand for those who do not work in IT or have direct interactions with WAN technology on a regular basis.

This article is designed to briefly explain everything you need to know about SD-WAN, focusing specifically on the numerous advantages that it offers small businesses. One of the best aspects of SD-WAN is its relative simplicity to compared to other networking technologies, and even those with no experience or knowledge in the field can quickly grasp its major benefits.

What is SD-WAN?

Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is basically an extension of its cousin, software-defined network (SDN) technology. It is designed to take advantage of the efficiency and availability of modern software in order to deliver a reliable, secure, business-class networking capabilities without the need for expensive networking hardware.

One of the basic concepts behind this technology is to cater to the ever-increasing demand for open, cloud-based WAN technologies. SD-WAN was created with modern software, specifically cloud-based applications, in mind, and this makes it uniquely suited to fit the needs of modern businesses and their customers.

While it provides clear advantages for large companies, it should be no surprise that this technology is also popular with startups and forward-thinking small businesses who are looking to get in on any new technology that can provide more efficient and adaptable networking option than many traditional WAN technologies.

What are the advantages of SD-WAN?

The first and most obvious benefit that SD-WAN has over other technologies is in the cost. When compared to other WAN systems such as MPLS, SD-WAN can greatly increase the networking capabilities of a company at a fraction of the cost. Whereas MPLS requires a complex array of hardware that is both expensive and difficult to maintain, SD-WAN is based solely on software that already exists within the network.

This also reduces the need for expensive software upgrades, since SD-WAN is already built specifically for the cloud-based applications that are quickly becoming the standard for most companies. This eliminates the headaches that come with installing specialized, expensive WAN technologies every time that something new comes along. It also means that businesses can connect another site to the network within minutes, as opposed to the weeks or months needed to connect additional locations to MPLS.

Will SD-WAN replace my MPLS?

To perfectly meet the needs of growing businesses and fast-paced industries, SD-WAN also offers scalability and flexibility that is not possible with more restrictive networking options. Companies can scale bandwidth up or down within minutes and redistribute to accommodate changing conditions and needs. This ensures that applications receive all the bandwidth they require with less money and effort than MPLS.

However, this does not necessarily mean that you have to scrap your entire networking system to get the most of SD-WAN. Many companies will keep their MPLS for current sites, while adding an additional Internet connection to include SD-WAN technology. This allows them to transition smoothly from one technology to the other, or to simply get the best of both worlds.