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How realistic are compact SD-WAN appliances compared to VPNs?

The battle between VPN vs. SD-WAN returns. In this clash, see how realistic SD-WAN appliances are for remote and mobile workers compared to VPN connections.

Mobile and remote workers typically use VPN devices -- not software-defined WAN, or SD-WAN, appliances.

A WAN connects two networks, and a VPN connects an individual to a network. It is less likely for individual users to connect to a network with SD-WAN. Organizations that require users to connect to networks over VPNs can expect much lower overhead and fewer potential management complications.

While most remote and mobile workers connect to a VPN through software clients, portable VPN appliances exist from companies like Cisco, Dell Technologies -- with SonicWall -- or Zyxel. Ubiquiti Networks makes a product called Teleport for VPN connections, but that product only ties into its consumer routers -- called AmpliFi -- and not its line-of-business routers, called UniFi.

Do mobile SD-WAN appliances exist?

Mobile SD-WAN appliances exist, and ad hoc workgroups can use these devices if the group works temporarily in a specific location. For instance, if an accounting firm's team needs to be on premises for a customer audit for a few weeks, the IT team could set up a WAN connection and connect all team members. This enables the IT team to establish a secure network without compromising the audit.

Additionally, because IT teams can establish SD-WAN connections over 4G LTE cellular connections, the teams could also create a mobile SD-WAN at remote locations, such as construction sites, where access to traditional wired circuits is not available.

Companies like Cisco and Fortinet provide small SD-WAN endpoints that organizations could use in these cases. With the upcoming 5G cellular services, organizations can expect to see more SD-WAN appliances and devices like these on the market in the future.

This was last published in November 2019

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What capabilities would your organization require from SD-WAN devices?
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