Skip to main content

What is WAN (Wide Area Network)?

Wide Area Network (WAN) connects smaller Local Area Network (LAN) in multiple places via various links—private lines, multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), wireless, virtual private networks (VPNs), and the internet. A WAN's function in a company is to connect local branches or even remote employees with the head office or the data center so that organizational resources and information can be shared.

WAN connections can be wired or wireless, even though they cover a large area. Wireless WANs encompass 4G/5G and Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks. At the same time, wired WANs typically include broadband internet services and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), to increase the speed.

What is a Wide Area Network (WAN)?

As mentioned earlier, a Wide Area Network, also known as WAN, links multiple Local Area Networks (LAN). LANs are linked together by a device known as a router. Several routers may be used to connect a large number of LANs which cover an extended geographical area.

An example of WAN would be a bank networking infrastructure. The local branches are connected to a data center through an ISP infrastructure, which hosts the server farm (application and database servers), the core, distribution, and access layer switches, and routers.

You have a LAN located in a small space and connected with networking equipment and wires. When connecting one or more LANs, you should enable adequate ISP infrastructure that ensures better routing.

History of WAN

The first known Wide Area Network was built by The United State Air Force in the late 1950s to make communication among multiple workstations in the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) radar defense module. The locations were interconnected by a vast network of modems, phone lines, and telephones.

In the late 1990s, Wide Area Networks were designed to connect two separate networks across the street or inside the same city, when a 9.6 Kbps connection was considered a high-speed network. Because network speed on leased lines was continually improving, the 45Mbps T3/DS3 links were the most costly options at the time.

The urgency of a more speedy network led to the development of packet-switched networks, ensuring better network resources use. However, cutting down the expenses was another reason behind it. Not only were packet-switched networks the first "cloud" service for remote terminal access in common use, but they also changed the WAN pricing model by enabling users to pay per usage.

Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) is the successor of Frame Relay. MPLS adoption began in the middle of the 2000s. Though many organizations use Frame Relay, the majority of businesses have moved to MPLS in recent times. On a price-per-bit basis, the carriers have usually priced MPLS lower than Frame Relay.

Frame Relay is well-known for its circuit-switched protocol and MPLS is a connectionless protocol. The main exception of MPLS was VoIP, where its connectionless nature allows for any-site connectivity, which is beneficial for decreasing latency in live voice conversations. MPLS has a practical advantage in delivering QoS.

Although the internet has a far longer history, it only began to "happen" for businesses in 1994 with the Netscape Navigator web browser release. For connectivity, companies purchased T1 and subsequently T3 connections from Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

In the late 1990s, broadband Internet connections – ADSL and cable modem – were available, enabling almost ubiquitous high-speed Internet access at a fraction of the cost of T1-based access. Most home users and many mobile users now have a faster Internet connection at their homes than employees at smaller locations in the great majority of businesses, thanks to continued improvements in bandwidth accessible with these technologies, and more recently with 4G/LTE as well.

There is no one service provider on the internet that can guarantee end-to-end performance. Over the public internet, you can't get an end-to-end Service Level Agreements SLA. The business model of peering points — the locations where the internet's network of networks connects various ISPs – explicitly excludes the possibility to provide such an SLA. Because of the general peering point use and the complexity of conducting the accounting or paying, even if service providers wanted to attempt, you can't achieve the significant quality of service (QoS) over a single Internet connection.

What is the Purpose of a WAN Connection?

A wide area network is a feasible solution for boosting efficiency and increasing internal communications if your organization has several sites.

The WAN's most significant benefit is frequently considered as the centralized IT interface. The need for each office to acquire email or file servers is reduced while using a WAN. WAN setup also makes server maintenance more accessible because you won't have to support, back up, host, or defend many units. Furthermore, establishing a WAN delivers considerable economies of scale by offering a central pool of IT resources that the entire organization may use.

WANs can save money by avoiding the need to rent costly ISDN circuits for phone calls. You can have your WAN carry them instead. If your WAN provider prioritizes voice traffic, you're unlikely to notice a reduction in speech quality. When compared to calls made via ISDN lines, you may be able to save a lot of money on your calls. Certain businesses use a hybrid strategy. Inbound calls are made via ISDN, and outbound calls are made over the WAN. This method will not save you as much money, but it will help you save money.

You may transmit sensitive data across all of your locations without having to send it over the internet by using a WAN. Encrypting your data before transmitting it over your WAN adds an extra layer of protection to any sensitive data you're delivering. With so many hackers out there out to steal sensitive corporate data, a business needs all the network intrusion protection it can get.

Leased lines, rather than broadband connections, are frequently used as the backbone of corporate WANs. Leased lines provide numerous advantages for businesses, including faster upload speeds than standard internet connections. Corporate WANs often have unlimited monthly data transfer limitations, allowing them to utilize these connections. Improved communication not only improves efficiency but also increases productivity.

Many WAN providers provide enterprise-level assistance. As part of your SLA, you are guaranteed a certain level of uptime on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. They may also provide you with round-the-clock assistance. No matter what sector you're in, guaranteed uptime is a huge benefit. Let's be honest. Given the severe demands of modern consumers, no firm can afford to remain down for any length of time in today's business climate.

What are the Types of WAN Connections?

There are numerous methods to build a WAN that best meets your needs and keeps your information safe, depending on the kind of data your users deal with regularly. All choices have advantages and disadvantages, and costs will vary from one to the next. Due to the fact that certain remote sites have restricted alternatives, it is conceivable for a firm to use various WAN technologies.

1. TCP/IP Protocol Suite: Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) or Internet Protocol (IP) is a group of communication protocols that are used to link network devices on the internet. TCP/IP is also used as a communications protocol (an intranet or extranet) in a private computer network.

TCP/IP defines how data is transferred over the internet by defining end-to-end communications that define how packets should be broken down, addressed, sent, routed, and received at their destination. TCP/IP is a network protocol that needs little central control and is meant to make networks more dependable by allowing them to automatically recover from the failure of any device on the network.

TCP specifies how programs might establish communication channels across a network. It also controls how a message is broken down into smaller packets and sent over the internet, where it is reassembled in the correct sequence at the destination address.

2. Router: The WAN Port is one of your router's most critical ports, but what does it do? And how do you know what it is? The WAN port on your router may appear to be identical to the LAN ports.

Only your router's WAN port is utilized to connect to your internet connection. WAN and LAN ports have similar appearances and can even be put next to each other. Internally, however, they are separated by a firewall. This prevents devices connected to the WAN port (everyone on the internet) from accessing your LAN-linked devices.

3. Packet Switching: The switch is a wide-area network (WAN) component that routes packets from one network to another. Depending on variables like traffic congestion and switch availability, data in the same communication session may be sent across multiple distinct pathways.

Because the data transmitted by most computer networks are inherently bursty in nature and can tolerate delay, packet switching is the transmission technique of choice (due to lost or dropped packets).

In other words, the amount of transmission bandwidth required fluctuates considerably over time, from low traffic due to background services like name resolution to periods of high bandwidth use during operations like file transfer. In contrast, in audio or video communication, a continuous stream of data must be delivered to maintain transmission quality, and latency must be kept to a minimum to ensure intelligibility.

4. Packet Over SONET/SDH (PoS): Synchronous optical networking (SONET) is a physical layer protocol for sending multiple digital bitstreams across optical fiber lines, which serve as the network's backbone. Packet-over-SONET (POS) is a protocol for converting IP packets into SONET frames. Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) is used on IP routers to accomplish this method.

The Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) is a data connection layer used to send data between two computers linked directly. It's a byte-oriented protocol that's extensively utilized in high-speed broadband communications with large loads.

5. Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) Networks: MPLS networks have long been used in business and specific industries. Using a frame-relay network, an MPLS network effectively extends a company's LAN by transferring data from site to site without exposing it to the public internet.

Another distinguishing feature of MPLS networks is their ability to classify and prioritize traffic from certain applications quickly. MPLS networks can identify which applications each piece of data is associated with by placing a virtual tag on it, allowing them to prioritize the most business-critical apps on the network, allowing end-users to remain productive.

Businesses will pay extra for the port expenses connected with MPLS connections and the taxes and levies related to them from a cost standpoint. MPLS price has been creeping closer to dedicated internet access (DIA) pricing in recent years, but taxes and levies will continue to make it one of the more expensive choices.

6. ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode): Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) is a wide-area network (WAN) technology that organizes information into cells effectively and flexibly. It is asynchronous in that the necessary or instantaneous bit rate determines the recurrence of cells. As a result, when data is waiting, empty cells do not pass. ATM's tremendous versatility comes from its ability to provide a protocol, speed, and low-latency switching for all forms of information, including data, video, image, and voice.

The capacity of an ATM to enable a wide range of communications services while offering transport independence from those services is its biggest value.

7. Frame Relay: Frame Relay WAN is a strong wide-area network technology that uses a reliable data transmission mechanism to send digital data. It is widely used for LAN inter-networking, which involves data transmission between LANs and WAN endpoints. The Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model’s physical and data connection layers (Layers 1 and 2) are used to run frame relay WANs based on packet switching technology. They are, however, primarily used at Layer 2. Packet switching methods like variable-length packets and statistical multiplexing are used in Frame Relay WAN. It enables end-user computers to share the network as well as bandwidth.

The Frame Relay WAN protocol allows data to be sent from one user device to another through a network of switches and routers. It provides a framework to encapsulate and utilize voice and data across WAN. This is a popular and cost-effective approach. End users are connected to a frame relay node through a private or leased connection. Frame relay WAN is a system that sends communications in frames, comparable to a "relay race." Data packets are sent from one or more starting points to one or more endpoints via intermediate node locations.

What is WAN Connection?

WANs use a direct connection between two sites, whereas packet-switched WANs use shared circuits to send data in packets. Analog dial-up lines, often known as private lines, are the example of point-to-point WAN service. Analog lines are ideal for batch data transmissions like non-urgent order input and point-of-sale transactions.

Local telephone companies and long-distance carriers are both point-to-point WAN service providers. Organizations with modest quantities of data or many locations, for whom several dedicated lines would be prohibitively expensive, often choose packet-switched network services.

What is a WAN Network with a Diagram?

WANs connect LANs and other network components so that users in one area may interact with users and computers in another. Many WANs are private and developed for a single enterprise. Others, which Internet service providers establish, link a company's LAN to the internet.

WAN Diagram

Figure 1. WAN Diagram

What is the Symbol for WAN?

There are many icons that are used to identify WAN options and functions. Typically WAN symbolizes a circular figure with four equally distributed points around the edge. The number of points refers to the connected networks in the WAN.

Symbols of WAN

Figure 2. Symbols of WAN

However, rectangular and square geometrical shapes exemplify many components like Channel Service Unit, Data Service Unit. Symbols of cloud are used to indicate a variety of cloud services. Often, colors are added to specify cloud components.

How is WAN Security Ensured?

Security risks are still impacting countless companies. Phishing tactics, for example, entice unwary people to open emails and click on embedded links. Malware, viruses, and even adware are becoming more prevalent, posing a danger to corporate infrastructure and productivity.

For multinational brands and corporations, security hacks and breaches cost billions of dollars in lost revenue. It's critical to remain on top of the latest security risks while putting strategic measures in place to protect your wide area network (WAN).

A virtual private network (VPN) is an easy way to connect a single or group of computers, networks via the internet. VPNs, on the other hand, are not all created equal. It's critical to set up a VPN that offers strong connectivity, speed, and data security to boost your team's productivity. A firm may set up a VPN on its own or hire a managed IT service to help with planning, implementation, and administration of the VPN.

In order to build a powerful and secure network, WAN encryption is essential. Encryption has never been more vital, especially for businesses that have previously experienced security breaches and system hacks.

Users previously relied on their national providers to ensure the highest level of cyber security for all applications and networks—that's why the additional network security provided by WAN encryption is essential.

The Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) is a virtual WAN structure that provides businesses to securely connect users to applications using any mix of transport services, such as MPLS, LTE, and broadband internet services.

Network administrators manage and orchestrate these security aspects centrally using software that provides detailed insight into the network.

As mobile devices, like smartphones, laptops, and tablets, become increasingly popular in business, a new realm of network vulnerability emerges. This is especially true if the gadgets are owned by employees rather than your company.

Working with an IT security professional and ensuring you have the proper rules and protocols in place to secure your network are the keys to managing mobile device security. If your organization owns mobile devices, ensure the software is up to date and that your staff is taught on best practices, including locking devices and avoiding connecting to public Wi-Fi.

What's the Difference Between Wide Area Network (WAN) and Local Area Network (LAN)?

A LAN (local area network) is a collection of computers and network devices linked together, generally within a single building. The connections must be high-speed and reasonably cheap by definition (e.g., token ring or Ethernet).

In contrast to a LAN, a WAN (wide area network) is not constrained by geography; however, it may be contained within the boundaries of a state or country. A WAN links several LANs and might be restricted to an enterprise (a company or organization) or open to the general public. The technology is both high-speed and low-cost. An example of a global public WAN is the internet.

How to Optimize WAN?

Wide-area network (WAN) optimization is a set of technologies and strategies for improving WAN data transfer efficiency. WAN optimization is an important element of network administration because it allows you to prioritize traffic and ensure a specific amount of available bandwidth for the most vital applications. The following are some of the specific technologies utilized in WAN optimization:

WAN optimization has grown increasingly more important as the WAN evolves, thanks to advancements in apps, cloud computing, and other technologies. These main developments are pushing an increasing amount of traffic through the WAN, which will significantly influence company performance.

Here are 5 steps for Wide Area Network optimization.

  • Step 1: Compress the Data: The process of encoding, rearranging, or otherwise altering data in order to minimize its size is known as data compression. It essentially entails re-encoding data with fewer bits than the original representation. Compression can be applied to the content or the complete transmission for data transport.
  • Step 2: Deduplication the Data: Data deduplication is the way of reducing storage capacity needs by eliminating redundant copies of data. Deduplication can be performed inline, while data is stored into the storage system or in the background, after the data has been copied to disk, to eliminate duplicates.
  • Step 3: Optimization of Transmission Control Protocol (TCP): TCP optimization reduces the time it takes to access available bandwidth by dividing latency between the subscriber network and the Internet network and implementing strategies to improve TCP performance on both sides of the connection.

  • Step 4: Optimization of Application Protocol: The application layer of the Open System Interconnection (OSI) is known as a focal point for wide-area network (WAN) optimization. Because the suffering was based on optimizing only a few unique apps at branches or remote offices, efforts to enhance application distribution were concentrated here.

  • Step 5: Move to SD-WAN: Traditional WANs rely on routers, and were never intended for cloud purposes. They usually necessitate backhauling all traffic from branch offices to a hub or headquarters data center, where enhanced security inspection services may be implemented. Unlike traditional router-centric WAN architecture, SD-WAN is built to accommodate applications housed in on-premise data centers, public or private clouds, and various other services.

What is a WAN Switch?

WAN switch is a multiport internetworking device. These devices generally switch traffic such as ATMs and operate at the OSI reference model's Data Link layer. Circuit-switched connections like Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) or analog dial-up can also be made using public switched telephone network switches in the cloud.

WAN Switching is a technique that allows computers to communicate across vast distances through telephone lines or satellite communications using the serial transmission.

What is Dual WAN?

Dual WAN can select two ISP connections to your router, a primary WAN and a secondary WAN.

A router with two WAN (wide area network) ports for connecting to several Internet Service Providers. Dual WAN routers are beneficial in places where ISP failures are common, and they may be set up to switch over if the current one fails. They're also utilized for load balancing, which was a bigger issue for small businesses with early, slower connections.

What is the Purpose of SD-WAN?

SD-WAN has made a paradigm change in the deployment and management of a wide-area network. SD-WAN is a software-driven solution with application awareness that is administered from a centralized network point, as the name suggests.

SD-WAN systems are installed as an add-on to existing network architecture, allowing easy integration and adoption over time.

Five benefits of SD-WAN are as follows:

1. Performance

Network traffic isn't all created equal. Fortunately, SD-WAN can be set up to optimize business-critical traffic as well as real-time services such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and then direct it to the most efficient path. IT teams may assist decrease packet loss and latency concerns by supporting key applications over dependable, high-performance connections, enhancing employee productivity and morale. This is business-impacting performance.

2. Cost

The quantity of data traveling across a WAN grows dramatically as businesses implement an ever-growing assortment of cloud-based services, rising operational expenses. On the other hand, SD-WAN can help save costs by utilizing low-cost local Internet connections, enabling direct cloud access, and lowering traffic on the backbone WAN. According to an International Data Corporation study report, roughly a quarter of respondents predict SD-WAN cost reductions of up to 39%, with the other two-thirds anticipating smaller savings of 5-19%.

3. Security

According to a United States cybercrime survey, 41% of respondents reported increasing the frequency of cybersecurity events in 2017. The good news is that many SD-WAN systems come with built-in security.

However, most SD-WAN systems' basic firewall and VPN functionalities are typically insufficient, requiring IT teams to try to overlay security over elastic and dynamic SD-WAN connections after the fact.

4. Cloud

Cloud services are becoming more popular among businesses. SD-WAN enables direct cloud access at remote branches, eliminating backhauling traffic, allowing workers to access cloud applications regardless of location without putting additional traffic on the core network to manage and secure. Moreover, SD-WAN prioritizes mission-critical apps and allows branches to interact directly with the internet.

5. Simplicity

Networks might become more complicated as a result of digital transformation activities. The outcome is a danger of poor network performance and overworked IT staff, and the requirement for onsite employees to handle local IT equipment at remote locations. On the other hand, SD-WAN may reduce IT workloads by simplifying WAN infrastructure, utilizing the internet to offload non-critical business software, automating monitoring chores, and controlling traffic through a centralized controller. Look for an SD-WAN solution connected to the local branch architecture to bring security and administration to the LAN's core.