What’s the Difference Between Managed SD-WAN and SD-WAN as a Service?

If your organization is considering changes to its SD-WAN infrastructure, you'll need to decide between Managed SD-WAN and SD-WAN-as-a-Service solutions

While both may seem initially similar, they also differ in a few major ways, like maintenance, troubleshooting, and support. Let's take an in-depth look at the differences between SD-WAN management and SD-WAN as a service — as well as the solutions that are most likely to make sense for you.

Your Choices for SD-WAN

Many organizations are switching to SD-WAN (software-defined networking) solutions rather than traditional MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) solutions. SD-WAN is more flexible, affordable, and scalable. Network functionality can be changed on the fly. Load balancing and optimization are more effective, and there's a much lower burden of investment regarding on-premises solutions.

But when investigating SD-WAN solutions, you may have discovered both SD-WAN-as-a-Service and managed SD-WAN options. These are very different solutions, even though they can sometimes be referred to interchangeably. “SD-WAN as a service” doesn't always include SD-WAN management, while SD-WAN managed services do.

There are pros and cons to each solution. All organizations’ network systems are different and so there isn't one "best" option. But understanding the differences between SD-WAN-as-a-Service and SD-WAN managed services is critical to making the right decisions for your business.

The SD-WAN industry is expected to quadruple by 2025.

SD-WAN-as-a-Service: Powered by Your Organization

SD-WAN as a service is like any other "businessman hand working with modern technology and digital layer effect as business strategy concept technology; your organization gets the services and functionality of an SD-WAN networking solution hosted on by a service provider. The service provider will have a Service Level Agreement that ensures basic functionality of your SD-WAN networking solution. They may monitor to make sure that your system is up 24/7, but other than that you're free (and required) to manage and maintain everything on your own.

As a pro, an SD-WAN-as-a-Service solution is very affordable. Usually, there will just be a low monthly cost, and the contract will be month-to-month. As a con, you will need to dedicate some or all of your internal IT staff to managing and configuring the SD-WAN solution.

Experience and expertise are needed when initially architecting an SD-WAN solution. Managing, configuring, monitoring, and troubleshooting may all necessitate further training of internal IT staff members, as well as ensuring that they have the time between managing other day-to-day IT tasks.

If an internal IT department isn't well-versed on SD-WAN solutions, using an SD-WAN-as-a-Service product could ultimately lead to an inefficient and poorly-configured end product — even if the IT department is otherwise quite skilled. Additionally, any problems that arise with the SD-WAN solution can take down the entirety of the network, and it rests upon the shoulders of your internal IT department to take care of it.

  • SD-WAN as a Service is an affordable, minimal solution for SD-WAN provisioning.
  • Your organization will not need to manage the basic deployment of the SD-WAN.
  • However, your organization will need to maintain, troubleshoot, and configure it.

Managed SD-WAN: An All-in-One Network Solution

Managed SD-WAN solutions encompass SD-WAN-as-a-Service solutions, providing everything that an as-a-service solution does as well as management, configuring, maintenance, troubleshooting, and training. A Managed service provider (MSP) will help your organization construct the right SD-WAN configuration, optimized for efficiency. From there, the MSP will continually monitor your solution, make adjustments and optimizations as necessary, and troubleshoot any problems that arise.

A managed SD-WAN solution is a completely hands-off solution. Your organization doesn't have to manage a thing. You'll have an MSP contact that you can communicate with if you encounter issues or need to make adjustments to your configuration. Your MSP will also advise you on changes that you might be able to make to improve efficiency in the future or any upgrades or futureproofing you might want to consider.

There are some significant advantages to this type of setup. An MSP can not only ensure that the network is fast and responsive, but also that it's reliable and properly secured. Further, MSPs are able to respond to potential issues faster and mitigate them faster, because they have more resources than an internal IT department has.

The downside to engaging with an MSP is that it generally is more expensive than an SD-WAN-as-a-Service option. Usually, it's a one-year or two-year contract with an MSP. But when comparing costs, you're not really comparing the cost of an MSP and an as-a-service provider — you're comparing the costs of an MSP and maintaining a larger internal IT department. Comparatively, it's usually cheaper to engage with an MSP than try to manage everything internally.

  • Managed SD-WAN services are more expensive but more robust than as-a-service solutions.
  • A managed SD-WAN service will manage everything about your SD-WAN for you.
  • Overall, SD-WAN managed services tend to be more affordable and effective than managing the system internally.

Do You Need Managed SD-WAN or SD-WAN as a Service?

The easiest way to think about the differences between managed SD-WAN and SD-WAN as a service is by conceptualizing it as the difference between a "dedicated server" and a "managed dedicated server." Either way, your organization is going to get the fundamentals provided for an SD-WAN service. With SD-WAN as a service, you're going to need to manage and maintain that service yourself. With managed SD-WAN, your organization will have everything handled for you.

Which solution is better for you depends on the level of control you want to keep over your SD-WAN network. If you want to configure, manage, and troubleshoot the solution on your own, then an SD-WAN-as-a-Service model is best for you — but you should be aware that the costs of managing an SD-WAN network internally usually exceed the costs of outsourcing it. If you would rather have everything handled for your organization, a managed SD-WAN solution is best.

Are you still not sure which SD-WAN solution your organization needs? R2 Unified Technologies can help. At R2 Unified Technologies, we focus on building integrated networks optimized for you. Contact us today to find out more.