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What is a WAN?

Wide area networks are used by businesses that operate across multiple sites. Find out the business advantages of using a WAN.

A wide area network (WAN), as opposed to a LAN, allows the exchange of data and sharing of systems between sites. Usually, these are linked together using leased lines in order to provide a secure, robust network. In recent years, however, we’ve seen the rise of the software-defined WAN which makes setting up and administering a WAN a much simpler process.

What is the difference between LAN and WAN?

The difference between a LAN and a WAN is basically in the geography. Where one – the LAN – covers a single building or site, the other – the WAN – links up a number of sites over a wider area. There are variants of this concept including MANs (metropolitan area networks) and CANs (campus area networks) but the basic concept is the same.

Is WAN faster than LAN?

Data is transferred faster in a LAN than it is in a WAN. WAN speeds will simply never top LAN speeds because the purpose of a WAN is to transfer data between LAN’s.

What is a WAN used for?

A Wide Area Network is used to connect computers that are spread across wide geographical areas. Not only can WANs be used to connect cities, but they can also be used to connect countries as well.

What is the largest example of WAN?

As a WAN is a network that typically includes two or more LAN’s, the Internet itself is the largest WAN on the planet.

Do I need a leased line for my WAN connection?

Most WANs are connected using leased lines. Where in the past these may only have been used to connect main sites with smaller offices relying on broadband links, the recent fall in the cost of leased lines now allows all leased line WANs to be used even by smaller businesses.

In many cases, these leased lines are used to connect sites in a ‘hub and spoke’ configuration where lines radiate from a central data centre, either in-house or provided by the ISP, to serve other sites. Using leased lines means that you get a secure, private connection so that data can be shared safely between different locations. Connecting via the ISP means that even if one of your offices has a failure, the other nodes can continue to talk to each other. Compare the best leased line deals available online.

Wide Area Network definition

There are a number of advantages to this. It’s more flexible as it’s much easier to scale up for business expansion or make changes to cope with peak demand periods without the need to deal with lead times for new equipment. Extra networking features can also be added easily using a sort of ‘app store’ model to add functionality. Smaller branch offices or home workers can also be linked securely using low-cost public internet connections if you don’t want the expense of leased lines.

Why is WAN necessary?

Being in the cloud, a software-defined network can also be controlled from a central point. This gives network administrators an overview of exactly what is going on across the network which means that they can spot issues early and often fix them without the need to travel to remote sites – so saving on the cost of running a WAN. It also makes it easier to achieve the network manager’s key goals of a secure network with sufficient bandwidth on tap to handle the required traffic.

The business advantages of SD-WAN

So, what can a software-defined WAN do for your business? We’ve already seen that SD WAN solutions offer improved agility and better security. When operated over leased lines, these benefits are amplified plus you have the advantages that come from having a high-bandwidth, fully synchronous, uncontended connection. This can assist SMBs in competing with their larger competitors who, in the past, would have been the only businesses able to afford more sophisticated networking technology. Even SMBs operate across multiple locations, so the network challenges they face are really no different to those of larger enterprises.

Switching to SD WAN solutions also means that IT managers are more in control of network functions. Troubleshooting problems are made easier and this means that it can often be possible to fix problems without having to send people out to a site or waiting for support from service providers. In the past, WAN services have often been complex, requiring specialist hardware such as routers, switches and gateways and thus requiring expert input from service providers or hardware companies to troubleshoot and resolve problems. Software-defined systems help to put in-house IT teams back in control because they offer a far more user-friendly way of handling network functions.

Can I reduce my networking costs with SD-WAN?

The newest SD WAN systems are designed to be fast to roll out and simple to maintain, as well as offering much higher levels of flexibility. The technology is also better able to adapt to changing needs, so as the business grows, so you won’t be stuck with a solution that holds back your ability to respond to changing needs.

There are cost savings to be had too. These come from the fact that there’s no need for dedicated hardware such as switches with the power and maintenance costs that go along with them.

As more and more businesses look to implement digital transformation projects or switch to IP-based voice systems, the need for a flexible, reliable networking solution has never been greater. An SD WAN can offer this in a cost-effective way.

Is SD-WAN the right choice for your business

SD-WANs are a cost-effective way to manage multiple sites within your business, so to access the best deals on the market, get in touch online today.

Compare deals from leading SD-WAN vendors.