What is a WAN network?
A wide area network (WAN) is a network, usually used for connecting sites over a large geographical area, i.e. a computer network. It connects various Local Area Networks (LAN) connections together & allows you to communicate with any sites over long distances. Implementing a Wide Area Network is done one of two ways.
You can either use a point to point to connect the sites in question, or use a packet-switched network. Packet-Switched Networks make data into small data units called packets. You can share the data path between users by breaking the data into packets. WAN’S use Frame reply or X.25 to aid the transfer of data, among other ways.
Point to point WAN’s involve either a public-switched telephone network or a dedicated Leased Line. Larger companies will go for the Point to Point Wan rather than packet-switched networks as you can send larger amounts of data more efficiently.
What is it used for?
Wide Area Networks connect cities, counties/states, or countries. Larger companies normally use WAN to allow the exchange of data. WAN’s allow most types of data-sharing services such as email, file transfer, to allow remote users access and data entry on a sites database etc.
One of the best known examples of WAN is the internet. On internet we transfer files from one PC to another over public networks. There’s FTP, HTTP and HTTPS protocols.
There’re many types of software that has been helping to facilitate productivity and production tracking. Two examples of this is Groupware and work-flow automation software. Groupware allows remote workers to have a centralised place to work on collaborative projects. All these software’s can work on Wide Area Networks.
Difference between WAN and SD-WAN
SD WAN (software-defined wide area network) is a virtual WAN that allows companies to transport data over a combination of services. Such as MPLS, broadband internet, cloud services, and other network services. It works by using a centralised control to securely direct traffic across a WAN. This increases performance which results in increased productivity, reduced IT costs, and better user experience.
Whereas WAN uses only one data sending service, SD WAN combines multiple. Some other differences are:
- Scalability and Control- Changes to WAN are manual. This can be a lengthy process which could decrease efficiency for a business.
- Security- Security is a feature in both types of WAN. Just the way they keep your data secure is different. Data packets sent are private on traditional WAN, so it’s hard to intercept/see them, only the receiver can do this. Adding firewall and antivirus will add extra security. With SD-WAN it keeps data secure by using an end-to-end encryption over a VPN connection (Virtual Private Networks). SD-WAN also allows you to set up additional security layer such as firewalls.
- Reliability- As traditional WAN only uses one type of connection to send data if this goes down you can no longer communicate with other sites. Whereas with SD WAN it uses multiple forms of connections, so if one goes down it can automatically switch to another allowing data to still send.
- Price- SD WAN’s are normally cheaper. This is because you can mix and match what connection you want to send the data over. Traditional WAN’s can be more expensive because it needs the use of Leased Lines (fibre optics) or packet-switched network. Which is more expensive compare to broadband or 4G which SD WAN can run on.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a wide area network (WAN)
WAN is a revolutionary type of data sending service. But as most things it does have disadvantages as well as advantages.
- High Bandwidth- If your company can afford a Leased Line then it will allow you to send data at a much higher rate due to bandwidth increase and consistency.
- Centralised Data- It allows remote users to access (for example) a head office server. So, there is no need to have multiple data saves, all data can be in one place where everyone can access it.
- Location- A wide area network can reach anywhere within the world. So, connecting a head office in the UK and branch offices in America is easy.
- Distribute workload and decrease travel charges- Wide Area Networks allows you to distribute your work to other locations. For example, if you have an office in the UK then you can hire people from other countries and send data to them effortlessly over a wide area connection. Reduced travel costs are a plus because there is no need to travel to remote workers as you can communicate over WAN services.
- Security- Data is private so harder to intercept (but interception can still happen without proper cautions in place). You can also encrypt your data to add an extra level of security.
Guaranteed uptime- You get a specific level of uptime as stated from your ISP in their SLA.
- Adding firewalls and antivirus software- For ultimate security you would need to add an extra layer of security to your network devices. This can be costly but essential.
- Setup cost- Setting up a WAN can be extremely expensive. It requires you to buy all new equipment to be able to implement it.
- Fixing any issues – This can be troublesome, especially if the network is across two or more countries. For example, if you have a line connecting two sites and that line goes underwater, the cost and time of fixing it will be immense.
Other types of networks
There’re a few other networks associated with WAN, these are:
PAN: Personal Area Network
LAN: Local Area Network
MAN: Metropolitan Area Network
WLAN: Wireless Local Area Network
SAN: Storage Area Network, System Area Network, Server Area Network etc.
CAN: Campus Area Network, Controller Area Network, or sometimes Cluster Area Network
How to get the best deal on your network
The quickest and easiest way to secure the best deal on your network is to compare prices and negotiate with the network provider. If you have more than one site it puts you in a good position to try and reduce prices using economies of scale.
Compare Multi-site networks and see how much you can save.