The Impact of SD-WAN Firewalls on Network Performance and Efficiency

Firewalls rely on backhauling applications from branches to the data center to perform security inspections. This requires additional network resources and imposes performance costs.

Managed SD-WAN integrates quality of service abilities that allow businesses to emphasize traffic based on distinctive criteria and optimize bandwidth use. This increases application performance and enhances user experience.


Network congestion occurs when data packets get backed up on their routes because too many devices are active simultaneously, similar to traffic on highways with overcrowded lanes. This can cause various problems, including latency (the delay between data transmissions), affecting real-time applications such as VoIP and video conferencing. Bandwidth utilization can also suffer, with overactive devices consuming too much of your network’s available bandwidth, leading to choppy performance.

The best firewalls with SD-WAN can help mitigate congestion issues by intelligently steering traffic and prioritizing mission-critical applications. They also provide dynamic traffic management, prioritizing a business’s unique requirements and reducing the risk of human error by eliminating manual configuration and monitoring.

Centralized orchestration and automation are essential for simplifying networking and security and reducing operational costs. While traditional WAN architectures require multiple point products at the edge, a managed SD-WAN can consolidate these devices for lower capital costs and easier maintenance.

Advanced SD-WAN firewall solutions allow for zero-touch provisioning, minimizing the need for experienced IT staff at local branch offices and eliminating manual configuration. This enables changes to be deployed across thousands of branches in minutes, minimizing human errors that can compromise network efficiency and security. It also allows centralized monitoring of all connections from a single UI, making it easy to identify problems and optimize application performance across the entire network.


As more organizations adopt cloud applications, WAN architectures must adapt to enable direct internet access from branch offices and remote workers. This shift toward a secure access service edge (SASE) model creates new security challenges that must be addressed with next-generation firewall capabilities such as zero-trust network segmentation and identity-based policy management.

Traditional WANs backhaul data from branches and home offices to central IT for security inspection, which slows application performance and requires additional infrastructure resources. An advanced SD-WAN combines firewalls with software-defined wide-area networking to provide flexibility and optimize application performance. It eliminates the need for backhauling to the data center and provides a more efficient and secure way to connect branches, home offices, and chain locations to the corporate network.

A high-performing SD-WAN offers several ways to improve network reliability and efficiency, including load-balancing traffic over multiple network links and optimizing traffic routing based on defined policies. Without a human operator, it also detects and responds to network issues, such as link congestion or network downtime.

Detailed visibility into an SD-WAN gives administrators the information they need to effectively enforce quality of service (quality of service) settings and prioritize business-critical applications over lower-priority traffic. This ensures that business users receive a high-quality experience for critical apps, even during network congestion or disruptions to other links.

Bandwidth Utilization

SD-WAN can monitor bandwidth utilization to ensure critical applications get priority over non-critical data. This can be particularly important for remote workers who rely on data-heavy applications or video conferencing for productivity.

Traditional WAN uses hardware routers to direct network traffic down specific paths on a private network for low latency and efficiency. Still, these options can be expensive and require extensive hardware and physical lines. Managed SD-WAN provides a much more cost-effective solution with dynamic traffic management to prioritize and route network traffic over multiple paths without costly hardware.

Using SD-WAN, IT administrators can centrally monitor network performance and make changes from one location. This makes it far more efficient than having a technician travel to each branch to update software and hardware.

In addition to centralized IT management, SD-WAN offers secure connectivity that ensures sensitive information remains closed over the internet, even when traveling between networks. The security features provided by SD-WAN can include SSL decryption, enterprise-level firewalls, ID-based firewalls, intrusion prevention, URL filtering, and advanced malware protection.

Businesses must work together across teams to design the right network for their organization. Getting feedback from stakeholders can help identify pain points and make meaningful improvements for end-users and the business. For example, retailers with multiple locations can use SD-WAN to connect new sites quickly and meet demand more efficiently. Similarly, manufacturing companies can use SD-WAN to enable their customer service team to communicate rapidly with employees in other offices.


The network performance of a secure SD-WAN enables businesses to optimize application delivery and boost user experience. It also allows IT teams to focus on strategic initiatives rather than spending much time maintaining their legacy firewalls.

Performance issues can affect multiple network segments and impact a variety of applications. These include link congestion due to heavy traffic load, routing inefficiencies (e.g., path switching), and quality of service misconfigurations that prioritize non-critical traffic over critical applications, leading to sluggish or even unusable applications for users. Additionally, jitter and packet loss can lead to choppy audio and video during real-time communication.

Firewalls can provide security and performance capabilities but lack granular bandwidth allocation controls and network optimization abilities. This can lead to inconsistent security policies across different network segments and slow down performance improvements. In contrast, managed SD-WANs offer centralized management with the ability to easily change and apply security and performance policies to all locations.

Additionally, an advanced secure SD-WAN can securely steer SaaS and cloud traffic directly to the closest point of presence, bypassing backhaul and improving performance. It can also perform traffic classification based on first packet identification and use dynamic routing to select the best path based on factors such as jitter and packet loss. This can significantly reduce WAN costs and increase SaaS and cloud application performance. With visibility from network monitoring tools, administrators can monitor key performance metrics in real time, detecting and addressing problems before they negatively impact SLA compliance.

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