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Table of contents
1.
Introduction
2.
What is a WAN?
3.
History of WAN
4.
What is a WAN Router?
5.
What is Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN)?
6.
Types of WAN Technologies
6.1.
MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching)
6.2.
LTE and 5G
6.3.
Broadband
6.4.
Satellite
7.
Characteristics of WAN
7.1.
Large Geographical Area
7.2.
Lower Speed
7.3.
High Latency
7.4.
Expensive Setup Costs
7.5.
Use of Routers and Gateways
7.6.
Varied Technologies
8.
Advantages of WAN
8.1.
Extended Connectivity
8.2.
Centralized Data Management
8.3.
High Bandwidth
8.4.
Cost Efficiency
8.5.
Improved Communication
8.6.
Resource Sharing
9.
Disadvantages of WAN
9.1.
High Setup and Operational Costs
9.2.
Complexity
9.3.
Security Risks
9.4.
Latency Issues
9.5.
Bandwidth Limitations
9.6.
Maintenance and Troubleshooting
10.
Frequently Asked Questions
10.1.
Can I use a WAN for my small business?
10.2.
How does a WAN differ from the internet?
10.3.
Is a WAN secure?
11.
Conclusion
Last Updated: Apr 8, 2024
Medium

Wan Network

Author Rahul Singh
0 upvote
Master Python: Predicting weather forecasts
Speaker
Ashwin Goyal
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Introduction

Wide Area Networks, or WANs, are the vast networks that connect smaller, localized networks - like those in your home or office - to each other across considerable distances. They are the digital bridges that allow computers in New York to communicate with those in Tokyo as if they were in the same room. 

Wan Network

This article will explain the concept of WANs how they function to keep our world interconnected. From the basic principles that define a WAN to the sophisticated technologies that are involved in its working, we'll cover the essential aspects that make WANs an indispensable part of today's digital landscape. 

What is a WAN?

A WAN, or Wide Area Network, is a network that covers a large geographical area. Think of it as a network that stretches over cities, countries, or even continents. Unlike your home Wi-Fi, which only covers your house, WANs connect multiple smaller networks, such as those in different buildings or cities, making it possible for data to travel long distances.

One easy way to understand WAN is by comparing it to the postal service. Just as the postal system allows you to send letters to friends in another city or country, WANs enable computers to send data to each other over vast distances. This is what lets you access websites, send emails, and stream videos from servers located around the world.

WANs are crucial for businesses and services that operate in multiple locations. They rely on WANs to share information, communicate, and offer services no matter the distance. For example, a company with offices in New York and London uses a WAN to ensure that employees can access the same resources and communicate effectively, as if they were in the same building.

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History of WAN

The concept of WANs has been around for decades, evolving as technology advances. Initially, WANs were simple connections using telephone lines or radio waves to link computers across distances. The aim was to share information between distant locations, which was a significant challenge before the digital age.

In the 1960s, a major breakthrough occurred with the development of packet switching technology. This was a game-changer because it allowed data to be broken down into small packets, sent across various routes, and then reassembled at the destination. This method was more efficient and reliable than previous techniques, setting the stage for modern WANs.

The next big step was the creation of the ARPANET in the late 1960s, a network funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. ARPANET is often considered the predecessor of the internet. It connected universities and research centers, allowing them to share resources and communicate more effectively.

Over the years, the technology behind WANs continued to improve, with the introduction of fiber optic cables, satellite links, and eventually, the global internet we use today. These advancements have dramatically increased the speed and reliability of WAN connections, enabling the instant global communication we now take for granted.

The history of WAN is not just about technology but also about the desire to connect and share information. It reflects our ongoing quest to break down physical barriers and build a more interconnected world.

What is a WAN Router?

A WAN Router is a device that connects different networks together over a Wide Area Network. Imagine it as a bridge that helps data get from one place to another over long distances. A WAN Router makes sure that information sent from a computer in one city reaches a computer in another city, or even another country, correctly.

WAN

WAN Routers are smart. They look at the data being sent, decide the best path for it to travel across different networks, and send it on its way. This is crucial because the internet is made up of countless networks, and finding the most efficient route ensures data travels quickly and arrives at the right place.

These routers are not just for big companies or the internet itself. They're also used in places like schools, government buildings, and even in homes where there's a need to connect to different types of networks or the internet.

What is Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN)?

Software-Defined WAN, or SD-WAN, is a newer approach to managing and optimizing a WAN. Instead of relying on physical hardware and manual setup, SD-WAN uses software to control the traffic and routes in the network. This makes it much easier to manage large networks that span across different locations.

With SD-WAN, businesses can use any combination of transport services, including broadband internet, LTE, or MPLS, to connect their various locations. This flexibility allows for more efficient use of resources and can help reduce costs. SD-WAN also provides better performance for applications, especially those hosted in the cloud, by choosing the best path for data to travel.

One of the key benefits of SD-WAN is its ability to ensure that critical applications get the bandwidth and priority they need, even in a crowded network. This is particularly important for services like video conferencing or VoIP, where delays or interruptions can be disruptive.

SD-WAN also offers improved security features. Since it separates the control of the network from the hardware itself, it can apply consistent security policies across the entire network, making it safer from threats.

Types of WAN Technologies

MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching)

MPLS is popular in business networks because it's very reliable. It directs data from one network node to the next based on short path labels rather than long network addresses, avoiding complex lookups in a routing table. This speeds things up.

LTE and 5G

These are wireless communication standards LTE (Long-Term Evolution) is commonly used for mobile phones and data terminals. It's quite fast, but the newer 5G technology is even faster and can handle more devices. Both are options for WAN connections, especially in areas where wired connections might not be available.

Broadband

This is what many of us use at home for internet. It's widely available and uses different technologies like cable, DSL, or fiber to provide high-speed internet access. Broadband is often used for WAN connections because it's cost-effective.

Satellite

This technology is especially useful in remote or rural areas where other types of connections aren't feasible. While it can cover vast distances, it might not be as fast or reliable as other options due to the signal having to travel to space and back.

Each of these technologies has its own place in the world of WANs, depending on the needs of the network, such as speed, reliability, and coverage area. Choosing the right technology is crucial for ensuring that the network operates smoothly and efficiently.

Characteristics of WAN

Large Geographical Area

WANs cover a much larger area compared to LANs. They can span cities, countries, and even continents, making it possible for devices far apart to communicate.

Lower Speed

Because WANs cover vast distances and the data often travels through various paths and devices, the speed can be lower than what you'd experience on a LAN.

High Latency

Latency refers to the delay before a transfer of data begins following an instruction for its transfer. In WANs, this delay can be higher due to the long distances the data needs to travel.

Expensive Setup Costs

Setting up a WAN can be costly because it may involve leasing lines, using satellite links, or paying for specialized services like MPLS. These costs are typically higher than those for setting up a LAN.

Use of Routers and Gateways

WANs rely on sophisticated devices like routers and gateways to manage data traffic. These devices help in choosing the best paths for data to travel and in converting data formats as needed.

Varied Technologies

WANs can use a mix of technologies, such as fiber optics, satellite, and broadband, to connect different parts of the network. This flexibility allows for the best use of available resources but also adds to the complexity.

Advantages of WAN

Extended Connectivity

WANs provide a bridge for connecting smaller networks across vast geographical areas. This means businesses with multiple locations can stay connected, sharing resources and information seamlessly, no matter the distance between them.

Centralized Data Management

With WANs, organizations can centralize their data management instead of having to distribute and maintain data across multiple locations. This centralization simplifies data management tasks and enhances security.

High Bandwidth

WANs often offer higher bandwidth than local area networks (LANs), meaning they can handle more data at once. This is crucial for businesses that rely on transferring large amounts of data quickly across different locations.

Cost Efficiency

While setting up a WAN might require an initial investment, it can be more cost-effective in the long run. It reduces the need for numerous small networks and cuts down on the hardware and maintenance costs associated with them.

Improved Communication

WANs enable more effective communication between different branches of an organization, clients, and remote employees. This improved communication supports better collaboration and productivity.

Resource Sharing

Through WANs, resources such as software, databases, and files can be shared across multiple locations. This not only reduces costs by eliminating the need for duplicate resources but also ensures consistency and accessibility.

Disadvantages of WAN

High Setup and Operational Costs

Establishing a WAN can be expensive. The initial setup involves purchasing equipment and sometimes leasing lines, which can add up. Additionally, the ongoing costs of maintaining and managing the network can be significant, especially for very large networks.

Complexity

Managing a WAN is more complex than handling smaller networks. This is due to the scale of the network and the variety of technologies involved. Ensuring smooth operation often requires specialized knowledge and skills.

Security Risks

Because WANs span large geographical areas and often use public infrastructure, they are exposed to a wider range of security threats. Ensuring the security of data transmitted over a WAN requires robust security measures, which can add to the complexity and cost.

Latency Issues

The vast distances data must travel in a WAN can result in latency, or delays, particularly in comparison to local area networks (LANs). This can affect the performance of time-sensitive applications.

Bandwidth Limitations

Despite generally offering high bandwidth, WANs can still experience bottlenecks, especially during peak usage times. Managing bandwidth effectively and ensuring adequate capacity for critical applications can be challenging.

Maintenance and Troubleshooting

Due to the complexity and scale of WANs, identifying and resolving issues can be more difficult and time-consuming than with smaller networks. This can lead to longer downtimes and potential disruptions to business operations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a WAN for my small business?

Absolutely! Even small businesses can benefit from a WAN, especially if you operate in more than one location or rely heavily on cloud services. It can improve your connectivity, data management, and communication across different sites.

How does a WAN differ from the internet?

While the internet is a vast network of networks and can be considered a type of WAN, a business's WAN is typically private, offering a secure connection between specific locations. The internet, on the other hand, is public and accessible to anyone.

Is a WAN secure?

WANs can be very secure, but because they cover large areas and often involve public infrastructure, they require robust security measures. This includes encryption, firewalls, and secure VPNs for safe data transmission.

Conclusion

In this article, we talked about the Wide Area Networks (WANs), explained their essence, evolution, and the critical role they play in our interconnected world. From their basic definition and historical roots to the sophisticated WAN routers and SD-WAN technologies that enhance their functionality, we've covered the broad spectrum of WAN-related topics. We've also explored the diverse types of WAN technologies that cater to different networking needs, alongside the defining characteristics that set WANs apart from other network types. 

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