SD-WAN: Debunked and Simplified


Brian Henderson, President


See if you can answer these two questions without reading further into the blog:

  • What does SD-WAN stand for?
  • What does SD-WAN do?

Any thoughts?

As a business owner, you’ve probably heard this phrase and either understood as little as necessary to get by, or just left it to carriers and service providers to take care of the service for you. As your ally in the technology industry, though, we want to help de-mystify SD-WAN and help you understand how it can benefit you and your company in a number of ways.


SD-WAN: What is it?

Short for Software-Defined Wide Area Networking, SD-WAN is a network service, usually deployed as an appliance at the edge of your office network. It connects various branch offices easily, securely and more efficiently. Basically, it’s smart routing that allows your local devices and servers to communicate across internet connections better without relying on large internet and telecom carriers to do it for you via expensive network services such as MPLS.

SD-WAN can be used in different ways, depending on the size of your business, your location and how many branch offices you have. So even if you have only one office, SD-WAN can be valuable as an edge management strategy. An SD-WAN edge appliance manages your various WAN (carrier) connections using real-time performance metrics. The performance of your WAN connections is available to you as well through an online portal. You can then see how your services are performing, and if a connection goes down or isn’t performing well, SD-WAN will re-route your data as needed, in real-time and you won’t even notice the difference or be negatively impacted. Most SD-WAN solutions allow you to choose how you’d like the service to make these real-time changes, by specific applications, traffic type, destinations, etc.



The Multiprotocol Label Switching network, or MPLS, required carriers to make their network routing act as though they were on your local network. This meant business owners were dependent on the carriers for long provisioning intervals, to fix any problems and implement any changes for them. Apart from taking away control from businesses and causing owners to rely on carriers to answer questions and fix problems over the phone, MPLS is also very costly.

On the other hand, SD-WAN is more user friendly, flexible and cost effective. You as a client are given the power to control your data traffic by using a simple online portal. As briefly mentioned above, your portal can run reports on the health of each connection, you can see who is on what network and where, and you can make decisions for future networking based on what is working well.


Major Benefits to SD-WAN:

  • More control and understanding of effective services
  • More cost efficient
  • Save time bypassing help centers
  • Every bit as secure as other traditional networks
  • More flexibility to make changes


Cynergy’s best advice: Keep the power to control your data in your hands, and remain carrier agnostic.

When you have control of your network services, you can improve your disaster recovery process, allowing SD-WAN to keep your traffic running properly when something goes wrong with one connection while eliminating the middleman of using a carrier.

When you take control of your network services, you can make informed decisions about different carriers and different connection types and speeds. Don’t rely on a carrier to tell you what’s best. The most likely answer will always be some else in their product portfolio.

Instead of buying services from internet carriers and getting stuck in contracts and endless bills, get to know the simplicity of SD-WAN and how to take matters into your own hands. Even choosing Cynergy to help you through the process is a great choice.


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Is SD-WAN Always Better?

The short answer is no, not always. SD-WAN allows you to inter mesh many different types of internet connections (cable, DSL, wireless, fiber, etc.) and smartly leverage all of them at once for the best experience. Basically it can do traffic management on your edge and between the edges of your other offices. However, it can’t override a carrier’s network routing. Once you’re past the “first hop” in your route, your data is still subject to the carrier’s priorities and routing policies. This means some services such as true QoS (quality of service) are beyond the reach of SD-WAN. Many SD-WAN solutions try to overcome this by “emulating” QoS and putting your highest priority traffic over only the most healthy connections real-time. It’s the 80/20 rule. 80 percent of the time this will work…but just know there’s still the other 20 percent that it won’t.


Here’s an analogy:

Basic internet connections are like sending a pilot-less boat across the ocean. You can determine when and where it will leave and where you’d like it to arrive. But you don’t get to decide WHEN it arrives and by which route. Once it leaves the dock, the boat is subject to forces outside your control (currents, waves, weather, etc.) and may stray off the path many times before finally arriving.

MPLS solutions allow you to manage much of the path. Think of it as having “way points” or buoys along the way. These way points know and recognize your pilot-less boat, know where it’s trying to go and keep it on the straightest and most efficient path. They’ll also work to move other boats out of your way as to not slow yours down (QoS).

SD-WAN solutions make intelligent INITIAL path choices. In this analogy, you’re collecting information from each returning boat…and that intel to decide which route you’d like to send your next pilot-less boat. In doing so, you hope to take advantage of calm seas and favorable weather reports for specific areas. But you still lack the “way points” or buoys and once launched, you’re again subject to the forces out of your control until it arrives at the destination.

So MPLS still makes a lot of sense for critical data in many scenarios. Particularly when true QoS is needed or desirable. But in a lot of scenarios, SD-WAN is almost as good, significantly easier and less expensive.


Why Cynergy?

When you use our services, you’re gaining our decades of telecom, networking, infrastructure, virtualization and software experience at no additional cost. Our goal is to help you find the best solution for your needs…not to force your needs into any specific solution. We consult with you, analyzing your company’s needs and provide recommendations to meet your goals or solve your problems. No biases in the mix; just a technology ally to help you better understand all of the acronyms and details behind technology services. We can even train you on how to manage these interfaces on your own. And did we mention these services are at no cost to you?


Start taking control of your network services. Connect with us for more information >