Definition of a WAN (Wide Area Network)
Wikipedia’s definition of WAN is – “A wide area network (WAN) is a telecommunications network that extends over a large geographical area for the primary purpose of computer networking. Wide area networks are often established with leased telecommunication circuits.“
It’s a network that can cover a large geographical area, and can cover long distances – across cities, counties and even countries. WAN networks connect smaller networks which can either be Local Area Networks (LAN’s) or the less-know Metro Area Network (MAN’s). Lan connections are usually what you have at each branch/office in a company. In a business Wide area networks are often used to connect a companies head office, their branches and any collocation facility they may be in, lik8e a data centre.
Many people may not realise the internet itself is a form of a wide area network, but its great way to understand how they work. It uses multiple ISP’s to connect smaller local area networks and allow data communications to be sent anywhere in the world.
Leased Lines & Wide area networks
The most commonly used connection on a WAN network are Fibre Leased Lines. They range in bandwidth from 10Mb to 10Gb and have a number of reasons they are the preferred connections for WAN networks :
- High Speed Bandwidth – Fiber optics allow high speed transfer of data between sites on a wide area network. The faster the networks the more they are able to handle so the internet connection is a key part of having a good WAN network.
- More Secure – Leased lines are far less vulnerable than traditional broadband because they are completely uncontended, its also part of the reason they are often used in a point to point.
- Lower Latency – Latency is as important as bandwidth to many IT managers and a leased line has the benefit of having a lower latency than most connections.
Virtual Private Networks VPN and WAN
Everybody uses the internet, most of us do on a daily basis – you are using it now reading this article. We all know the benefits of the world wide web – information at our fingertips, fast communication across the world & cat videos on youtube. However, it comes with some disadvantages too. If you are browsing without using a VPN you are more vulnerable to hackers & the dark side of the web.
A virtual private network stops that as makes the link between two networks secure so that the traffic is completely private, hence the name. It allows that private traffic to pass over another network which may be untrustworthy or unsecured. VPN’s are often used on WAN’s, but they are not exclusive to them as you can also set up a VPN on any other network like a LAN.
Types of WAN network.
There are two key types of networks when it comes to WAN’s. These include utilising wired or wireless technologies, sometimes even making use of traditional telephone lines connections like DSL. Wired WAN networks are usually made up of MPLS, carrier ethernet and standard broadband internet linking. MPLS stands for multi-protocol label switching and refers to the IP routing configuration of the network.
Wireless WAN’s are less common but they generally use the same kind of data that you see on mobile devices like 4G, wi-fi or in some cases satellite. When it comes to commercial WAN’s the wireless options are far less common due to the reliability of them. However, with services like 5g coming in that could change in the future and make it more cost effective for businesses needing a wide area network.
You may have also heard about SD-WAN (software defined WAN). This is a newer technology in network services and is rapidly growing in popularity. This is because SD WAN connects your networks making them work smarter, faster and at a lower cost than traditional networks. They can also help reduce the frame relay time, which can be a big benefit to businesses that rely on this.
We have written about the difference between WAN & SD WAN previously. So if you are interested in those two please check it out.
What Network is best for my business?
Your network is as unique as your business & there are multiple factors to consider when choosing the best option. Two important things to consider when looking at network options include:
- Security – This is usually impacted by the type of internet connection used on the network. Public connections like standard broadband are not as secure as a private leased line. So if that is critical to your business we would suggest to review your connections as well as network requirements.
- Cost – Some technologies and networks cost considerably more than others. We would recommend speaking to a wide area network specialist to discuss your options if you are unsure. To get some Wide Area Network quotes fill out the form on our WAN specialist page & an expert will be in touch.