Conventional WAN vs. SD WAN: Which One Should You Choose?

Having good connectivity is essential to the success of your enterprise. In this day and age, almost everything ranging from inventory checks to creating business-critical conference calls depends on your network infrastructure staying connected at all times. That being said, being able to manage your company’s WAN or wide area network can be the most important factor for your company’s chances of success in today’s information age.

For a long time, enterprises didn’t have much in terms of managing their WAN. Even today, conventional WAN remains a common option for enterprises with branches operating across large geographical areas. However, the development of Cost-efficient SD WAN solutions has given businesses a viable alternative. The question is, would it be better to stick to conventional WAN, or should you choose the newer SD WAN options?

How does conventional WAN and SD WAN work?

To find out which type of WAN is better for your needs, you have to understand how the two options are similar and also what makes them different from each other. Here’s a quick rundown on how each option works:

Conventional WAN

With a conventional WAN, data from devices in a local area network from one branch office are relayed via a type of connection (usually multi-protocol label switching or MLPS) and then through a telecom network before being sent to the destination LAN located in a different branch office. This requires the right networking hardware, infrastructure, and bandwidth to work properly.


SD WAN functions almost the same as conventional WAN, except the networking hardware is completely virtualized through the cloud. This means data from one device sent using one type of connection can be relayed to the destination device using another type of connection.

Conventional WAN

Because conventional WAN uses an established network infrastructure, a single connection boasts excellent bandwidth and transfer speeds. This makes it an ideal option for non-enterprise purposes or for enterprises with only a few branches.

However, conventional WAN solutions often require a lot of single-use devices. Each of these devices must be configured accordingly to ensure a secure connection. Aside from manual configuration being a major hassle, each networking device required to run a conventional WAN can be a potential entry point for unauthorized users, making it a possible security risk, especially for bigger networks.

Although bandwidth and stability for a single connection are great, there’s only so much bandwidth that it can handle. This means expanding with conventional WAN solutions may require paying for more connections to handle the extra bandwidth, not to mention the cost of additional dedicated hardware to establish the connection in the first place.


The greatest advantage of SD WAN over conventional WAN is the lack of need for a complex network architecture. Instead of having a series of devices configured one by one, all changes needed to expand or reduce the size of the WAN can be done through a cloud-based control system. Expanding only requires downloading the right configurations and security protocols to the SD WAN-ready devices instead of having to purchase and configure one device at a time.

The lack of need for extra devices also allows SD WAN to operate on a more simplified platform. Because the network isn’t as complex as that of traditional WAN, connection problems are less likely to occur. In case something still goes wrong, the simplified network makes it easier to pinpoint and address the cause of the problem. Some SD WAN solutions even feature advanced algorithms that automatically correct issues to ensure minimal downtimes.

Because SD WAN can take advantage of multiple connection types to relay data across different LANs, there’s no need to pay for extra connections just to keep up with growing bandwidth demands. For example, whereas traditional WAN only transfers data typically through MPLS, SD WAN can use4G/LTE, and other connections on top of what a traditional WAN can use.

The Verdict

While traditional WAN has a few minor advantages over SD WAN, SD WAN’s flexibility and cost efficiency make it an overall better choice. For an enterprise that sees plenty of room for expansion, SD WAN’s scalability and security at a fraction of the cost of traditional WAN are too good to pass up.

About Carson Derrow

My name is Carson Derrow I'm an entrepreneur, professional blogger, and marketer from Arkansas. I've been writing for startups and small businesses since 2012. I share the latest business news, tools, resources, and marketing tips to help startups and small businesses to grow their business.

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