SD-WAN: How To Transform Your Digital Networks with Security-Driven Networking

An SD-WAN solution allows cloud-to-cloud connectivity and security to work in tandem with updated cloud-to-cloud functions.

Sam Bocetta

December 21, 2020

8 Min Read
SD-WAN: How To Transform Your Digital Networks with Security-Driven Networking
(Source: Unsplash)

Software-defined wide area networks, or SD-WAN, have enabled individuals and companies alike to access high-speed connections and immediate access to essential data.

This is in response to resources that are shared across increasingly distributed networks, specifically as it relates to SD-WAN in the cloud. Internet users expect to have access to business-critical applications and important information from any location or any device, but this comes with significant security concerns. SD-WAN offers flexibility, speed, and reliability that today’s networks need, but at what cost?

In this article, we will discuss the real-world issues with the SD-WAN and how security has been put on the back burner in favor of ever-increasing improvements in speed and function. We’ll also discuss how companies and individuals can deploy a security-driven approach to make sure that they don’t sacrifice cyber safety for speed and performance.

SD-WAN and cyber security

Industries across the board have made commitments to increase their big data analytics activity in the future, meaning we are recording and storing potentially sensitive data at levels never seen before. With nearly 90% of business professionals agreeing that improved data skills will improve success at their respective organizations, the adoption of security measures like SD-WAN are highly welcome.

The appeal of SD-WAN is its ability to fine-tune and adjust connections to ensure peak performance. This provides a big challenge for security methods that are reliant on stable, fixed connections to surveil traffic for security threats. While cybersecurity solutions organizations implement can be complex and expensive, they will always be limited in their ability to keep up with the ever-evolving, dynamic SD-WAN environment.

Organizations that utilize SD-WAN connections generally must integrate several point products to pick up the slack in security coverage and meet compliance standards. However, applying these band-aid security solutions can come with severe limitations.

An ideal SD-WAN is designed to have embedded, automated security mechanisms in the network. This ideal marriage between function and security ensures that speed, reliability, and flexibility never come at the cost of security.

This concept emphasizes security where users are accessing networks via the cloud or from local devices or remote locations. The idea is for security solutions to be able to adapt to real-time changes in the network, keeping pace with the dynamic connections that are integral to the functionality of the SD-WAN.  This allows security functions to track, inspect, encrypt, and decrypt at a rate quick enough to stay on top of potential security threats.

Your security-driven SD-WAN requirements may depend on your industry or the size of your organization. Security needs are often evolving, and it's important to keep this in mind. A network security solution that works for your company now may need to be adapted to future needs.

The number of remote workers, global connections, and locations of different offices all play a role in choosing the ideal security protections. Adaptable SD-WAN approaches coupled with security-rooted networking that allows the merging of infrastructure and security will permit companies to encourage digital functionality while also providing reliable, synchronized security anywhere on any WAN edge.

Examples of industries and their correlating security requirements

Here a few different kinds of organizations that may have different SD-WAN approaches as it relates to their performance and security concerns.

Highly confidential industries or organizations

Banks, financial tech companies, health care organizations, and hospitals require the utmost security for their data. These organizations are likely to have diverse remote teams engage in R&D activities or workers who regularly touch highly sensitive client data. Furthermore, local and national laws generally make it a criminal offense if any of these organizations are found to have lax security procedures.

In these scenarios, a secure SD-WAN is simply not enough. Security needs to extend across the entire branch of networks to cover the entire operation. Connectivity, LAN operations, endpoint devices, and all cloud-based applications must all be secured.

With this branch-wide, security-driven approach, users on any device can access resources from any location safely. These industries require secure networks that integrate a full array of security methods with high-level routing, reliable connectivity, and endpoint protection.

Global corporations

Of course, this is the most complex scenario in terms of security-driven SD-WAN solutions. Global enterprises generally involve a variety of important data centers, a mixture of different public and private applications, and other international variations that can greatly affect speed and security. As such, routing stacks must be high-grade, flexible, and complex, with real-time automated WAN remediation and self-healing functions.

They also need full detection and real-time response functionality, so any issues with connections or security threats are not just noted and recorded but immediately resolved. Needless to say, this is a job best suited for advanced AI, which may be expensive but is worth it for global enterprises.

For global corporations, SD-WAN needs to accommodate elements like forward error correction, per-packet load balancing to ensure the best user experience while never sacrificing security, all in the face of high levels of traffic.  An SD-WAN solution that supports a dynamic security-driven network coupled with advanced routing capabilities is ideal for these types of organizations.

Retailers with large numbers of small brick-and-mortar locations

Another scenario that requires customized solutions to cybersecurity are smaller sized retail stores. The largest potential problem is in securing connections between locations. Centralization and consistency is key between data centers, configuration, and management.

SD-WAN solutions that are easy to operate and manage in smaller applications while also achieving high-speed connectivity and performance are vital. This means choosing a security-driven SD-WAN that utilizes application integrated security circuits so routing, wireless controllers, and security can all be merged for peak performance and consistent ROI.

Reliability is important, which is why retailers need one framework for management, analytics, and monitoring. The goal is to deploy and monitor all devices connected to multiple branches.

Another solution is for retailers to utilize virtual private networks (VPNs) in conjunction with an SD-WAN solution together. VPNs are designed to encrypt any and all data that you or your employees and customers send while connected to your network. They accomplish this with the use of encryption protocols such as L2TP/IPSec, which is the VPN solution offered on most operating systems and utilizes very secure 256-bit encryption keys, if at the expense of slightly slower network speeds.

VPNs are very useful for small enterprises that need to encrypt data sent over their networks. But they should also be considered an additional measure to use with SD-WAN solutions and not a replacement. SD-WAN is the most useful when operational agility and scalability are the top priorities.


Many companies have begun using SD-WAN to complement their cloud-based security strategies. Unfortunately, there are not many SD-WAN solutions that can guarantee advanced connectivity.

An SD-WAN solution allows cloud-to-cloud connectivity and security to work in tandem with updated cloud-to-cloud functions. For organizations like these, SD-WAN must be capable of supporting software-defined networking (SDN), allowing it to utilize cloud on-ramp functionality to guarantee application acceleration via the cloud.

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About the Author(s)

Sam Bocetta

Sam Bocetta is a freelance journalist specializing in U.S. diplomacy and national security, with emphases on technology trends in cyberwarfare, cyberdefense, and cryptography.

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