SD WAN versus MPLS:
Choose the best solution for your business

As your business grows in a market place that’s increasingly digital, your ability to compete may hinge on the speed and reliability of your networking and internet connections. Bandwidth and the right technical tools are today’s must-haves for connecting with customers when, how and where they want.

But the bandwidth you need — the capacity and speed — for advanced digital communications becomes pricey as you add employees, locations and digital services. Before long, you may be looking for networking options that can help you more securely control and streamline your connections to sites, customers and the cloud.

Two options are particularly appropriate for businesses with a mix of technologies and connection types to branch offices and remote users. These are software defined wide area networking (SD WAN) and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS). A better understanding of SD WAN versus MPLS and their benefits can help you choose what’s best for your business and your budget.

What is SD WAN?

SD WAN is a type of software defined networking (SDN) that helps you manage and control a wide-area network (WAN) from a single dashboard in near real time. It also helps you use your bandwidth efficiently by routing important traffic, such as e-commerce, through channels that you designate. Less important traffic, such as web surfing and social media updates, can be sent inexpensively over the internet.

What are the benefits of SD WAN?

Because SD WAN is a cloud-based solution that businesses typically attain through a service provider, it can dramatically simplify WAN operations that use a variety of protocols for internet and other types of connections. When you need to provision a new site, SD WAN allows you to do so relatively quickly and economically. Because you can securely access many network operations through a dashboard on a laptop or tablet, it’s easier to scale your capacity to accommodate changing traffic demands.

However, if your company’s networking is limited to only a few branches, and if you don’t conduct a lot of business using cloud-based applications, you may not need SD WAN. Instead, MPLS may make more sense. As you’ll see, these dedicated circuits are separate from the public internet.

What is MPLS?

MPLS is essentially a virtual private network (VPN) that, like SD WAN, readily accommodates a wide range of networking technologies to connect disparate WANs. Also like SD WAN, MPLS is typically delivered and provisioned by a service provider. Unlike SD WAN, MPLS doesn’t operate with the public internet. Connections act as a direct, point-to-point link.

What are the benefits of MPLS?

MPLS is often found in older networks because it was one of the original options for securely tying telephony networks together across wide areas. It has served enterprises reliably for more than a quarter of a century, and is still valued as a highly stable means of routing traffic without using the public internet.

As newer SDN technologies have emerged, such as SD WAN, costs and other factors have represented challenges for MPLS and some of the businesses that use it. With MPLS, adding sites may take weeks to complete. Also, because MPLS technology isn’t built for connectivity to the cloud, bandwidth’s per-megabit costs can quickly skyrocket when internet isn’t a ready option to transport traffic. Some versions of MPLS, such as hybrid solutions that afford internet connectivity, can counter these bandwidth costs.

Which one — SD WAN or MPLS — is right for your business?

If you’re concerned about quickly and easily building on your network while carefully allocating bandwidth over the internet to potentially control costs, then SD WAN could be a good choice for your business. On the other hand, if you’re more concerned with the reliability you get by establishing direct network connections, you may be a good candidate for MPLS. Both are typically managed services offered by a service provider, so your teams are spared much of the heavy lifting relative to maintenance and security. Your service is also backed by a service level agreement (SLA).

To illustrate how the options may or may not suit your situation, here are two scenarios. Let’s say your retail business has five storefronts and no Wi-Fi for customers or staff. You network with one or two suppliers and distributors. The stores and businesses on your network mostly handle point-of-sale transactions, fulfill orders by mail, and track inventory and shipments. You’ve grown as big as you intend to, and any more overhead is out of the question. MPLS may be a great choice for your business.

The happy customer for SD WAN is more likely to be a business that depends on cloud connectivity that’s virtually always on. For instance, a company with a voracious appetite for speed and capacity may appreciate SD WAN’s flexibility for allocating bandwidth to run video, webinars and sharing of large media files. This company may also want to provide Wi-Fi service to guests, and use that bandwidth for business data if there’s a network outage or heavy congestion on the normal link.

Are you ready to choose SD WAN or MPLS?

Whether you operate a small business with several remote workers or a multi-location enterprise, we have networking solutions that can help you maximize the amount you’ve budgeted for bandwidth. With our hybrid, dedicated and SDN solutions, we can work with you to implement SD WAN or MPLS — or a solution through which SD WAN and MPLS complement each other— on the same network.

Our Software Defined Secure Branch is a flexible, secure SD WAN solution that can help unify your networks to improve accessibility, scalability, speed and reliability. Our webinar explains how this service can provide a single-package solution for secure and rapid turn-up of sites in a simpler way. For enterprises seeking MPLS with advanced IP capability, our Private IP solution can securely connect locations or cloud service providers.

As your network evolves, complexity often escalates. Business owners know the risks of change when it comes to essential connectivity. When you team with a provider you can trust, you’re better positioned to adopt a solution that extends your operational capabilities as it eases your path to tomorrow’s technical advancements. The right partner can provide a stable solution that addresses your networking challenges, and does so on your terms. Verizon can be that partner. We’ll help you take the next step into your digital future with confidence.