What Is SD-WAN and What Is It Used For?

what is SD-WAN

Wide-area networks have evolved rapidly over the past few years, resulting in more efficient enterprise internet solutions like SD-WAN technology. But what is SD-WAN? 

In our guide to SD-WAN, we’ll go over how it works, along with five use cases to evaluate whether it’s the right solution for your business’s internet connectivity needs.

What Is SD-WAN?

Short for software-defined wide-area network, SD-WAN is a virtual WAN architecture. It connects enterprise networks over long distances so your organization can use multiple transport services, including multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), LTE and broadband internet.

Rather than relying on enterprise data centers and a traditional router system, SD-WAN leverages the power of the cloud to create a centralized control function. By virtually connecting all networks, SD-WAN solutions manage traffic and monitor the performance of WAN connections to increase application performance and optimize connectivity.

By automatically directing WAN traffic from multiple networks through a virtualized structure, SD-WAN enables users to remotely access corporate applications, files and resources so they can work from anywhere. In addition, the centralized structure of SD-WAN offers flexible scalability and bandwidth options to increase business productivity and reduce IT costs.

SD-WAN Architecture Explained

Today, bandwidth requirements continue to increase as organizations transition to cloud computing and other modern applications like video conferencing, VoIP calling and remote desktops. But when traditional WANs were first developed, we weren’t planning for the cloud.

To use cloud computing with a WAN, the router-centric WAN architecture requires backhauling all traffic from your office to a remote data center for advanced security inspection, even if you’re just backing up data to your cloud storage. Furthermore, a network administrator must manually configure the policies for each router on the network, which is time-consuming and can result in errors.

Compared to the rigid, inefficient WAN structure, the SD-WAN model was designed with the cloud in mind. An SD-WAN intelligently identifies application traffic and routes it to optimize performance and user connectivity. 

In addition, it uses software to separate the control and management processes from the hardware rather than requiring individual policies for all your network devices. This enables a network administrator to write, configure and deploy new policies across an entire network at once.

SD-WAN’s intelligent application-aware routing reduces latency while securely transferring all data. This means that it can fully support any application your business needs, whether it’s hosted in an on-premises data center or stored in a public or private cloud. SD-WAN can even support popular SaaS services like Microsoft 365, Salesforce, Workday and other enterprise applications.


A virtual private network, or VPN, has become an increasingly popular option as remote work has become the norm. A VPN provides a secure connection to your organization’s private network so users can remotely access internal files and other resources. 

Although a VPN is a safe and cost-effective solution for many businesses, it can become expensive and introduce latency when scaling up for a large remote workforce. 

However, SD-WAN was designed for enterprise applications, creating a more seamless user experience with features like quality of service (QoS) and application routing to optimize data traffic. In addition, if your business uses cloud-based applications, SD-WAN offers better security for remote employees and more flexibility for your network connections. 

Why Use SD-WAN?

As scalability and remote work become priorities in many industries, enterprises transition to the cloud and other software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions. With more business operations moving to the cloud, application performance is crucial to an efficient workflow. 

SD-WAN simplifies the WAN to provide a seamless connection to the cloud to support bandwidth needs and application performance without compromising security and data privacy. By improving the performance of critical applications, SD-WN increases productivity, security and customer satisfaction.

6 Benefits of SD-WAN

The flexibility and scalability built into SD-WAN make it ideal for enterprises that need reliable, high-performing internet. Below are six benefits of SD-WAN that can improve your business productivity.

1. Optimized Cloud Connectivity

An SD-WAN can seamlessly connect to multiple public clouds and SaaS applications like Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce. By enabling direct cloud access at a remote office, workers can access cloud applications anywhere. In addition, it can prioritize business-critical cloud applications to improve overall performance and communication between locations.

2. Simplified Network Management

The WAN infrastructure offers very little flexibility for organizations that want to manage their networks digitally. By centralizing all control functions through a software platform, SD-WAN eases the burden on your IT team by allowing them to configure network policies from one place.

In addition, this enables the option for a completely remote IT infrastructure, so you don’t need to staff onsite personnel at remote locations.

3. Increased Bandwidth

Limited bandwidth can restrict your business’s ability to scale up as it grows. SD-WAN resolves this by adapting the network to each application’s business requirements to direct data through different connections without slowing down overall traffic. 

With SD-WAN, your business can scale your bandwidth up or down in just a few minutes, enabling you to deploy new applications on the same day.

4. Improved User Experience and Performance

By enabling streamlined access to cloud applications without backhauling traffic to a remote data center, SD-WAN can provide a better user experience for your business. 

In addition, intelligent network management enables it to automatically select the optimal network connection at all times, reducing latency and improving application performance for remote users.

5. Easy Deployment

Setting up the network at a new branch office is much simpler with SD-WAN. Rather than configuring multiple routers and gateways, a network engineer can configure an SD-WAN appliance through a central management console. 

Then the appliance is transported to the new location and connected without IT expertise. Upon startup, the appliance configures the equipment and brings everything online.

6. Reduced Costs

SD-WAN’s software-based approach simplifies the network management process, so you don’t need to send IT staff to individual locations to set up new network connections, add hardware to increase bandwidth and perform other IT maintenance tasks. 

Instead, you can manage your entire network from just one platform, reducing administrative and equipment costs across your enterprise.

SD-WAN Use Cases

SD-WAN can improve network efficiency and business performance in many industries. Here are five use cases for SD-WAN.

First Responders

First responders need to get on the road at a moment’s notice and stay connected even when they’re on the move, often needing to change between network connections as they travel. 

SD-WAN provides seamless network management so first responders can automatically switch to the best network connection in the area without disrupting their operations.

Rural Operations

Connectivity can be sparse and unreliable in remote areas with less wireless infrastructure. Many organizations use multiple internet connections to stay online, from broadband to mobile satellite internet. 

SD-WAN enables your organization to leverage the flexibility of multiple network connections without impairing network performance. With SD-WAN, you can also oversee all locations and remotely configure the network in real-time as needs change.

Business Continuity

In many industries, businesses depend on a 24/7 internet connection to keep their operations going under any circumstance. To ensure uninterrupted connectivity, organizations can use SD-WAN to intelligently manage network traffic to meet the security requirements of each application without compromising speed or performance.

Enterprise Operations

As businesses grow, their network needs often become more complex. However, staying connected to critical business applications is simple with SD-WAN, encompassing anything from broadband data connections to satellite internet and off-grid solutions. 

SD-WAN can ensure sufficient bandwidth for enterprise operations that can’t risk disconnecting from voice, email or data, so your applications aren’t disrupted.

Large Events

Large events often experience rapidly changing network demands as people move throughout the venues, concentrating in areas like a bar, food court or media section. SD-WAN can provide flexible bandwidth while prioritizing specific applications, like live video streaming, so the event isn’t interrupted by slow internet speeds.

Use FUSION For Uninterrupted Network Connectivity

Does the reliability and flexibility of an SD-WAN solution sound like the right fit for your network needs? Businesses can stay connected from anywhere with FUSION technology, which allows you to seamlessly access satellite, cellular and FirstNet internet services for 24/7 internet connectivity. 

Rather than manually monitoring and switching carriers to stay connected, businesses can use FUSION to source alternative carriers and even access satellite networks, so your network is always online.

To learn more about FUSION, contact us today.