What You Need to Know About SD-WAN

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What Is SD-WAN?

A software-defined wide area network, or SD-WAN, is a way businesses can build a network using commercially available internet access, existing infrastructure, and cloud technologies. SD-WAN technology is cost-efficient and flexible, while maximizing security and performance. This can change how networks and services are delivered to companies of all sizes, including enterprises.

SD-WAN is also less complicated to maintain than a traditional wide area network (WAN). Because administrators control traffic flow with software instead of hardware, it’s easier to securely manage, deploy, and prioritize business applications across the network. That means it’s unnecessary for companies to bring in specialized technicians to make changes or updates.

How Does an SD-WAN Work?

WANs are made up of many connected routers spread across an area. Each router is manually programmed with a set of rules, or commands, on how to handle traffic throughout the network.

Comparatively, SD-WAN separates the control plane (where the rules are held) from the data plane (which transmits data packets). Parts of the control plane are centralized, making it easier to arrange and deploy applications. Network administrators can also prioritize these applications. For example, video for a shareholders conference can take precedence and bandwidth over social media sharing.

SD-WAN can support multiple types of internet access types, including the following:
  • Broadband, such as cable and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)
  • Multi-protocol labeling switching (MPLS), which is built for large enterprises
  • Fiber-optic, or FiOS
  • Long-Term Evolution (LTE), which is designed for mobile
  • Wireless
  • Ethernet
A software-defined network ties several connections together giving your organization flexibility and reliability with failover capabilities. It’s also highly effective because priority traffic will use the most optimal connection at all times, which optimizes your bandwidth.

How Does SD-WAN Compare to SDN and WAN?

Is an SD-WAN different than a traditional WAN or software-defined networking (SDN)? The short answer; yes. SD-WAN technology isn’t brand new. It builds on the concepts of WAN and SDN to create an ideal connectivity solution for today’s businesses. SD-WAN has the potential to drastically simplify hardware requirements while delivering even enterprise-level services and applications.

A WAN is built for and used by companies and institutions with multiple locations. It can be expensive to setup and complicated to maintain. Every router can have unique software and commands, so every change has to be carefully planned out in advance. Highly skilled professionals with proper training and experience are often needed to manage WANs.

What about SDN? It has the software aspects that make SD-WANs different than traditional WANs. Software-defined networking is an architecture or methodology. SD-WAN is a technology that utilizes software to create an agile network encompassing data centers, primary locations, branch offices, and more. It borrows SDN technologies to achieve this.

What Organizations Are SD-WANs Best Suited for?

A software-defined WAN is still a wide area network, which is typically used by companies with multiple locations. This technology can benefit most organizations, though large organizations will find it particularly appealing. Here are some things that may indicate your organization could benefit from an SD-WAN:
  • Increasing bandwidth needs
  • Tight budgets
  • Use of voice and video applications
  • Moving more applications or functions to a cloud environment
  • Security concerns
  • Unreliable, or slow connections
  • Desire to add redundancy and failover
  • Need of network visibility and reporting
  • Need for dynamic routing assistance
  • Overwhelming number of vendors and connections to manage
  • New location(s) being added to your network
  • Use of a VPN
  • Desire to rely less on IT professionals

What Are the Benefits of SD-WAN?

An SD-WAN, especially a managed SD-WAN, is the perfect combination of solutions. You get everything you need in a straightforward package. For you, that means a high-performing network and sometimes, just one bill—depending on who you purchase your service through. There are several reasons to choose this type of network for your business. However, it boils down to five primary benefits you can expect: flexibility, ease of management, security, performance, and affordability.


An SD-WAN can be configured for whatever your company’s infrastructure needs. There are a multitude of connection types and options. It’s fast and easy to setup, even for branch offices. An SD-WAN also leverages the power of cloud computing, which makes scaling your network fast and easy.

Ease of Management

Setting up and maintaining an SD-WAN is far simpler than doing the same for a traditional WAN. There are various deployment options, none of which require a specialized technician. With centralized management, there’s no need to deploy specific hardware or software at each location. You’ll get real-time analytics and reporting, which means you’ll be quickly alerted to problems. Any issues that pop up can be fixed remotely, without disrupting the user’s experience.


Security is, and should be, a top priority for every business. With SD-WAN, you get end-to-end encryption, secure deployment, and automation—without compromising mission-critical applications and sensitive information. You also can segment the different levels of access needed for guests, partners, staff, contractors, and more.


SD-WANs perform better than many other types of networks. You’ll see a decrease in jitter and latency because your traffic will automatically use the strongest connection. An SD-WAN provides a positive user experience, regardless of location.


Upgrading your network isn’t beneficial for anyone if your bottom line takes a hit. The good news is that an SD-WAN implementation can reduce network costs. You’ll save on IT costs because you may not need as many IT staffers and technicians to manage your WAN. And, with software control over the network, all software updates are done remotely.

Broadband and many Ethernet internet access methods are more affordable than an MPLS connection. Traditional WANs can require upfront costs for hardware and IT labor. However, some SD-WAN providers offer subscription-based payment options and take care of the rest for you. This can make SD-WAN more accessible to companies with smaller budgets. And, savings can be reinvested into other parts of the business.

Is an SD-WAN Right for Your Business?

SD-WAN is a cost-effective alternative to MPLS or a traditional WAN that gives your company an edge. It more effectively accommodates cloud computing and mobile needs. This allows you to future proof your business for the growth you may experience.

Frontier® Business will help you customize your network and get your company running efficiently. SD-WAN is the difference between simply handling business that comes your way and assertively expanding into new, competitive landscapes.