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SD-WAN vs. MPLS – Which one is right for my business?

Tech Trends · Feb 12, 2018

As SD-WAN gains traction among Canadian businesses, more and more IT leaders are starting to think about its viability as a networking technology. Can SD-WAN truly replace a traditional WAN? Is it any easier to manage?

The answer to those questions, in short, is – it depends. While SD-WAN has the potential to be a replacement for (or, in some cases, even an upgrade to) a traditional private or Internet-based WAN, and is indeed simple to set up and manage, the success of a deployment comes down to what the network is for, and how it is being used.

Three indications that SD-WAN might be right for you

1. Cloud Apps

If your business relies on cloud-based applications, such as productivity and collaboration tools, or those hosted by a cloud services provider, an SD-WAN environment can enable direct access to those applications from each location. This reduces the complexity and bandwidth requirements at a head office or data centre location, and, more importantly, the risk associated with sending all traffic out via a single centralized point.

2. Reliability

With the ability to switch seamlessly to a backup connection such as 4G LTE, your business-critical applications are always available, with reporting tools in place to give you visibility into uptime and performance statistics.

3. Growth and scalability

Because SD-WAN is a cloud-based solution and doesn’t require significant up-front investments in complex hardware, adding new locations is simpler, quicker, and costs less.

Three reasons why a traditional WAN might be a better fit

1. QoS

While SD-WAN has the capability to offer features such as QoE (Quality of Experience), there’s an element of uncertainty in the performance of Internet-based connectivity. Many applications are now built with mechanisms to handle variable network conditions, however, some critical real-time applications such as voice and video still have specific requirements for packet loss, latency, jitter, etc.

2. Meshing

If your network relies on direct site-to-site connectivity, without routing all traffic through a head office or data centre, the meshing capability of an MPLS-based network is difficult to duplicate over the Internet.

3. Security

MPLS networks are inherently private from end to end, keeping sensitive traffic secure and isolated from the Internet. Using public connections requires the use of VPNs to encrypt and secure traffic, which can be cumbersome to manage, and limit the scalability of the network.


TELUS has a long history of working with our customers to find the best solutions for their technology requirements. With a best-in-class MPLS network trusted by organizations of all sizes, as well as a SD-WAN / Network as a Service (NaaS) offering that was recently recognized with a “Most Innovative Product/Service for Operators” award by Telecom Review, our team can help design you a network that makes the most sense for your business.

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Authored by:
Nigel Perry
Nigel Perry