Smart WAN – A Complete Guide to WAN

Over the years it is safe to say that many people would describe the developments in technology as astounding. Arguably, to many, one of the most impressive evolutions in the field surrounds Wide Area Networks (WAN). However, what is WAN, why is it important and how does it work?

In this comprehensive blog post we explore all the above, and more, in detail.

What is a WAN?

WAN is an abbreviation, standing for Wide Area Network. It’s essentially two or more systems that are not physically connected with one another, but work as if they were.

Two or more computers connected to one another via any type of cable or by wireless connection constitute a Local Area Network (LAN). With that being said, WANs don’t generally connect just one computer to another. Instead, they often connect two or more LANs together.

The internet is often defined as the biggest WAN in the world. This is because, with other pieces of software, it allows a person in one location to transfer data or speak to another as long as they both have a working internet connection.

How do WANs work?

Setting up a LAN is simple. You can either use a pre-built program to connect the computers without wires, or you can use Ethernet cables to physically link the systems to each other.

Neither of those solutions are possible for a WAN, and as this is the case many WANs are connected by point-to-point fibre optic or copper connections that link two or more sites via a router. This is often referred to as a leased line.

The difference between a leased line and the internet primarily comes down to speed and security. A private lease line is extremely difficult to compromise and the speed at which a company can transfer large files across a leased line is much quicker in comparison to the internet. If the file is being transferred by an external program like WeTransfer, the business not only has to contend with their own bandwidth use, but also WeTransfer’s. With a private leased line if you pay for 100mbps of bandwidth that’s exactly what you get – regardless of the time of day.

Why are WANs necessary?

Today, the majority of WANs are used to connect businesses with different sites across the globe to one another securely.

Previously, this mostly benefited large corporations who wanted to save money making phone calls between international offices. A WAN would, and still does, allow businesses to make international calls as if they were sitting next to one another. However, with programs like Skype, making long distance calls via WAN is no longer so much of a benefit.

In 2015, WANs are mostly beneficial for securely transferring traffic data without the need for a public or third-party application and inter-site videoconferencing. Furthermore, a business will not be charged for breaking fair-use data costs as a WAN offers unlimited usage.

Optimising WAN speeds

Ensuring that your WAN has enough bandwidth to deal with important factors when required is imperative. That is why making sure there is a system in pace to optimise WAN speeds is crucial.

This can either be managed in-house or by a third-party operator. The latter tends not only to be more financially viable, but also the smarter option because an in-house team can cost a small fortune.

When setting up your WAN connection with a third-party provider it’s important that you always have bandwidth available for what you may deem vital. For example, browsing social media websites, while commonplace, is not principle. Therefore, if a business is required to host a video conference between multiple locations, but everybody is on social networks, a company can ensure their network has bandwidth set aside.

Add to that the fact that non-vital operations, like web browsing, can be made low-priority and queued to allow high-priority file transfers or video conferences to take place without interruption and you can optimise WAN speeds to work for your business.

Ultimately, a WAN is a necessity for an increasing number of businesses who have multiple locations round the world. If you want to talk to a member of staff about switching your underperforming WAN or setting a new WAN up, contact us today.

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