SD-WAN vs MPLS – What’s the difference in ‘legal’ terms?

4 min read.

News Article
5 March 2020

In today’s fast-paced legal environment, where you have staff working from multiple locations and remotely, users aren’t worried about what type of Wide Area Network (WAN) they’re using – but just whether they can access systems and data when they need to and at the highest speeds. It doesn’t matter if they’re accessing systems through your head office, a datacentre or via the cloud; your network needs to deliver the right systems and apps at the right time, to the right people. And without delays or dropouts.

So, which solution offers the best ROI? 

As a result of this high demand and the growing need for networked business-critical systems, today’s WANs are becoming stressed beyond capacity. Consequently, networking teams are looking to expand network capabilities by implementing technologies such as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) solutions… But which solution will allow your business to get the best return on your network optimisation investment, and how do you select the right one?

What is MPLS?

MPLS is often implemented on high-performance networks. In the debate against which is better, MPLS or SD-WAN, MPLS has one notable advantage: its ability to deliver packets reliably and provide a high QoS (Quality of Service). This is a significant benefit for businesses that rely on real-time protocols such as VoIP, virtual desktops and video conferencing as these systems are able to operate without loss of signal or quality over an MPLS framework. MPLS also allows for the creation of CoS/QoS buckets that ensure traffic with a higher priority is delivered with a lower probability of packet loss.

So, how does MPLS work and why is it so reliable? MPLS works in a similar way to network routers and switches and uses packet-forwarding labels that determine how and when data will be forwarded. Each packet is assigned a label which separates it from other traffic on the WAN. When there are many users on a shared network using a large number of high-demand apps, this traffic predictability can be a big plus.

However, MPLS does come with one major caveat; bandwidth cost. This is becoming an increasing issue for organisations that eat bandwidth like there is no tomorrow, and who must pay the price to keep their systems running efficiently.

What is SD-WAN?

As the cost of MPLS continues to rise, organisations have started to look for better and more affordable alternatives. SD-WAN is the perfect solution for businesses that want a more open, flexible, cheaper and cloud-based WAN.

The benefits of SD-WAN speak for themselves. The most notable ones being scalability, global availability, visibility, advanced controls and high performance. It is also extremely quick to put into place and can be increased and reduced as and when required.

However, SD-WAN’s biggest advantage for many organisations is its cost factor, especially when compared to MPLS. Generally, the more SD-WAN you use the cheaper it gets and it can be upgraded easily without making any changes to the network or infrastructure.

Security is another huge selling-point of SD-WAN; perfect for a legal business that needs to ensure it chooses a network system that integrates performance, security, orchestration and policy in one solution. SD-WAN unifies secure connectivity while also offering end-to-end encryption both across the WAN and over the internet.

Which is Right For Your Business?

When it comes to agility, flexibility, scalability and cost, SD-WAN is a worthy winner for the legal sector and fast becoming the preferred choice for many firms. However, for organisations with specific connectivity requirements that depend on the quality of real-time protocols such as VoIP, an MPLS solution may be the right choice.

Forcepoint’s Secure Enterprise SD-WAN addresses the challenges faced by today’s modern law firms by cutting networking costs without compromising performance, agility or security. NETprotocol’s solution combines the latest SD-WAN technology and allows you to scale your network with ease, and access cloud-based apps and enterprise systems securely and efficiently.