March 2, 2021
A Wide area network (WAN), refers to a network that results from the collaboration of network components such as VPNs, Cellular networks, and private networks usually extending to a large geographic area.

WANs are important in our everyday life and business contexts. In an enterprise context, a WAN is what connects office branches with main operators, or other branches. The Internet may be considered another good example of a WAN.

LAN vs WAN — What’s the Difference?

A Local Area Network (LAN) refers to a group of devices and networking components connected to each other, over a small geographical location, for the main purpose of sharing information. Geography is the main distinction between the two. WANs are typically several LANs connected using standard technologies and protocols. Two main examples of LANs include Wireless and wired networks.

How WANs Work

It could be complex to explain how WANs work because of the varying technologies and connection protocols at play. To make it easier, you can use the Internet as your point of reference. The internet is made up of LANs or Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) with the help of Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Therefore, WANs can either operate through point-to-point connections (the connection between two points) or through packet switching where data is shared through shared circuits. Examples of point-to-point services may include private lines or analog dial-up lines.

WAN Technologies, connections, and Protocols

For WANS to operate or communicate, they use the following technologies, connections, devices, and protocols:

  1. TCP/IP protocol. The is a standardized suite of communication protocols that facilitate communication between devices on the internet.
  2. Router. This is a networking device used to connect several LANs, hence creating a WAN network.
  3. Packet over SONET/SDH (PoS). This can be referred to as the ‘WAN transport’ medium. It provides ways for point-to-point links to communicate when using SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) or optical fiber and SONET (Synchronous Optical Network) communication protocols.
  4. Frame Relay. This is a technology that facilitates data transmission between LANs.

There are many other technologies, devices, and protocols such as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), Overlay Networking, Packet switching, and ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) that contribute to the working of WANs.

WAN Applications

The applications of WANs in the modern business ecosystem are game-changing. WAN has enabled businesses to increase productivity among their workforce and business scalability through features such as remote access. In enterprises, WANs offer long-term cost efficiency, despite high initial implementation budgets.

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