The basic words that make a whole lot of a difference in our virtual world. Wide Area Network or WAN is a network that much of our society currently depends on for virtual connectivity. Keep reading to find out what it is and why it’s an essential part of our day to day lives.    

What is a wide area network?    

A wide area network (WAN) is a massive network that can use different types of links to relay, store and communicate data no matter the location through a WAN provider. WAN is used as a data-sharing service, so when a computer needs to communicate with another computer or server, WAN is used. An example of WAN is when you send an email, the computer can communicate with the server where the email is stored and send the composed email to that server, where it is then stored and viewed by the recipient. WAN uses numerous connections such as private lines, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), virtual private networks (VPN), Wireless, and Internet to connect to networks that are in diverse locations to a single distributed network. These networks could be a couple of feet away or across the world. Wide area network’s ability to connect to multiple devices from different locations creates a gateway for businesses, schools, governments, and the public to share data, stay connected, and communicate between branches and data centers. WAN allows international companies to carry out information and daily operations without delay in transferring or obtaining information. WAN also plays an essential role in the day-to-day functions of the public, such as transferring money into your bank account, purchasing a gift on Amazon, and helping students access their school’s library database for research.    

Cloud map demonstrating remote connectivity and security

Local Area Networks    

There is often confusion about the difference between WAN and LAN, while they may sound very similar they are not. The difference largely has to do with the size of scope the network covers. The local network or LAN is just what it sounds like; they are limited to a single building or small area. LAN is private to every organization or an average person who has a secure connection. For example, your Wi-Fi network is a LAN. Local area networks are relatively easy to deal with; WAN then steps in to connect one or more LANs to transfer the data being sent out. LANs are usually used to access a greater WAN (such as the Internet), but only within the area where the LAN’s infrastructure can reach. LAN allows companies to work within their building, but connecting to another LAN that is outside their scope, such as another city or country, would not be possible without the help of WAN.


Types of WAN Connections  

There are many different types of WAN technologies that can help with network performance, reliability, security, speed, or just price. Below is a brief review of some of the most popular WAN technologies used and its features: 

Packet switching: A method of data transmission in which a message is broken down into separate parts, called packets, sent independently and reassembled at the destination. The packets are then verified through a process that confirms the message was sent correctly. 

Router: a networking WAN device typically used to interconnect LANs to form a wide area network. IP routers use IP addresses to decide where to send packets. An IP address is a numeric identification authorized to each connected network device.  

Multiprotocol Label Switching: MPLS is a network routing-optimization technique that directs data from one node to the next using short path labels.

Asynchronous Transfer Mode: ATM is a switching technique used by telecommunication networks that supports voice, video, and data communications.   

Frame Relay: A form of packet-switching cost-effective telecommunication service. It transmits data between local area networks or between the endpoints of wide-area networks. 

Wide Area Network Design Considerations   

When considering the types of WAN designs, it is essential to note that the design should describe the enterprise’s functions. The expected service provided should outline the desired service provided by each WAN technology. Some keys to WAN design are in the following processes:   

  • Identifying the network requirements: reviewing the types of applications, traffic volume, and patterns within the network.   
  • Assessing the existing network: reviewing the technologies used, locations of hosts, servers, and network equipment.   
  • Designing the topology: based on the projected traffic patterns, technology performance, constraints, reliability, and the availability of technology.   

  The traditional approach to designing WAN is to have T1 access to a service provider’s MPLS network at each branch office with one or more higher-speed links at every datacenter. An alternative to the traditional design approach is to supplement the T1 access link in a branch office with direct Internet access while also leveraging technology. Once you have outlined the expected services and identified the functions you want to operate, the simple design comes into play. 

Why WAN?   

Wide area network has been around for a long time, and it has evolved to help meet the constantly changing needs of our world. If WANs didn’t exist, organizations would not transfer information between branches or allow employees to access the information and resources they need remotely. Not having WAN would also affect our day-to-day lives, such as shopping or even calling family members on WhatsApp. Tune in for the next WAN education series to learn WAN. Why? WANnot?  

Check out the first post in our WAN series, The Evolution of WAN, to learn more about the Wide Area Networks over the years.

Contact us on our website to find out how we can connect you to WAN and why it is the plan.    

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