VPN and SD-WAN: We Weigh them Up

Cyber Security

We weigh up the differences between a VPN and SD-WAN.

As our work arenas become predominantly cloud-based, many companies are searching for effective solutions that offer better security, increased performance, and advanced scalability to accommodate copious amounts of usage.

Now more than ever, businesses have to find telecommunications solutions that keep their business running effectively and seamlessly. SD-WAN might be the new kid on the block, that many consider was designed to replace VPN, but there are many factors to consider in the SD-WAN VS VPN arena.

South Africa has in recent months shown a big appetite for working remotely. 

Many employees who are not in remote teams say they would prefer the option. The working-from-home legacy brought on by the pandemic has also given many employees an expectation to work remotely – even if it is just a few days in the week.

According to Skills Portal, a whopping 53 per cent of working South Africans said their preference in the future will be for a job that allows them to work from home at least occasionally. Ultimately, South Africa has also emerged as one of the countries that would embrace fully remote work, with 44% of employees saying they want to work fully remotely compared to a global average of 24%.

Working remotely also comes with a big uncertainty. Firstly, how should enterprise IT teams build safe and secure networks to support their remote workforce? Secondly, should enterprise IT teams, self-manage their networks, or should they rely on third-party service providers to manage it for them?

We answer these questions by sharing the intricacies, along with the pros and cons of VPN and SD-WAN.

Virtual Private Networks

In simple terms, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an internet-based network that allows users to convert public connections into private ones. A VPN is set in place to protect users against external surveillance or tracking when they are using the internet.

VPNs are most commonly used by organisations that want to connect two corporate networks securely. VPNs are also used to connect a remote worker to their company’s network. 

Ultimately, VPNs create secure tunnels between two parties while protecting their traffic against eavesdropping. It also provides a user experience similar to a direct network connection. 

VPNs are a point-to-point traffic solution and can be implemented in numerous ways. A few examples are IPsec and SSL VPNs

IPsec VPNs require client software but can transport any type of traffic from the client to the server. Alternatively, an SSL VPN runs within a web browser and provides web-based access to the company network securely.

Advantages of Virtual Private Networks

Ease of use is by far the most important advantage of using a VPN. They can be used with or without client software on a remote user’s machine.

Disadvantages of Virtual Private Networks

There are a few. Scalability, security integration, and visibility being of the most concern. In terms of scalability, each party wanting to communicate directly needs its own VPN. The number of VPN links required for a connected network scales rapidly depending on how many parties are communicating.

Furthermore, VPNs are not that secure. A VPN provides an encrypted connection between two endpoints. Until a secure VPN solution is on the table, companies cannot take advantage of a VPN with integrated security.

VPN connections are also completely independent of one another. Maintaining visibility into a company’s network traffic is challenging, and unless these capabilities are built into a VPN solution, the problem persists.


Software-defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) is a network known for connecting organisations over vast distances using a variety of different transport media like broadband, LTE, 4G, or MPLS.

The WAN connectivity solution is cost-effective, agile and cloud-friendly. It does not use a traditional router system and instead uses the cloud exclusively. Its reliability and security features, along with flexible scalability and bandwidth, have made it a game-changer.

Its main function is to route traffic over multiple different transport links in a single network pipe to applications utilising it.

Advantages of SD-WAN

Performance, application-specific policies and decentralisation put SD-WAN in a class of its own. Reliable network connectivity is achieved because traffic is routed through the organisation’s network.

SD-WAN also identifies traffic based on the applications that generated it. This enables stringent routing and security policies on a pre-application basis.

When SD-WAN apps deploy throughout a company’s network, it reduces the strain on the headquarter’s network. This helps to inspect and secure all in and outbound network traffic.

Disadvantages of SD-WAN

As with VPN, SD-WAN also cannot solve an organisation’s networking and security challenges all at once. SD-WAN is appliance-dependent, as all traffic must be routed via an SD-WAN appliance, or it cannot be routed through the corporate WAN.

Lastly, improved security is required when using SD-WAN. 

Despite VPNs and SD-WAN both offering a handful of pros and cons, organisations need to take careful consideration of each and decide which will offer the best in scalability, security and performance. 

Not sure how to determine which will suit you best? Let the team at Netlogix assist you with IT support and strategic solutions.

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