07/17/2023
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What Is WAN? How Wide Area Networks Function

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In general, a Wide Area Network or WAN is a collection of Local Area Networks - LANs. A WAN can also include other types of networks that are interconnected. Therefore, a WAN can be considered as the combination of multiple networks, with the Internet being the largest global network.

Nowadays, there are various types of global networks created for different purposes. It is impossible for modern individuals to imagine their everyday processes without the use of WAN.

What Is a Wide Area Network (WAN)?

In fact, Wide Area Networks are a type of telecommunication network that can connect devices located anywhere. It is global networks that are considered to be the largest and most extensive forms of networks.

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

Among all types of territorial networks, LAN is the most popular. It differs from WAN in that it belongs to the subspecies of local area networks.

What Is the Purpose of a WAN Connection?

In addition to providing convenience in everyday affairs, WANs greatly benefit  large enterprises. Without WANs, communication for large organizations would be limited, hampering global development.

What Is a Passive Optical Network?

PON is is a technology used to form a distribution access network. It is a system that enables optical network connections without active components.

What Is Network Address Translation?

NAT is a mechanism that allows multiple systems within the same local network to share a single external IP address. It enables communication between devices in a local network and external networks.

What is Attenuation?

A parameter that indicates the reduction of the output signal level compared to the input signal level. It measures how much the signal has weakened during transmission.

Types of WAN connections

All WAN connections include a variety of technologies. They can be wired or wireless. Among the wired ones, the most common are:

  • Commercial and broadband Internet channels;
  • MPLS;
  • T1;
  • Carrier Ethernet.

The list of wireless connectivity technologies includes cellular networks, satellite networks and public networks - Wi-Fi.

What is a WAN router?

An edge or border router, also called a WAN router, is a system that routes packets of information between multiple points on a WAN. It grants businesses access to the carrier network during the transmission.

What is software-defined WAN (SD-WAN)?

SD-WAN is an approach aimed at simplifying the deployment, management, and operation of WAN architecture. It is built on virtualization, overlay network policies, and software platforms.

What is WAN optimization?

Network optimization involves techniques to eliminate bandwidth constraints and reduce delays, which are common issues in enterprise wide area networks. Many techniques such as deduplication, compression, traffic shaping, protocol optimization, and local caching are used for optimization purposes.

Types of WAN technologies

Global networks utilize a wide range of technologies. Let's explore a few of them:

Packet switching

This technology is a method of transmitting information by dividing a message into small pieces (packets). They are forwarded in triplicate via the best route independently. Each packet contains a certain amount of useful data, an identifying header that includes assembly and destination information.

TCP/IP protocol suite

This technology is a set of foundational protocols used for communication between network devices, including the Internet or any other networks.

Router

A networking system that allows local networks to be connected into one global network by routing packets using IP addresses.

Overlay network

This technology involves creating virtual networks on top of existing networks using software. This often involves the cabling infrastructure and hardware.

Packet over SONET/SDH (PoS)

This technology is a communication protocol that is most commonly used for transmitting data over wide area network. This protocol defines a method of connecting multiple points while using optical fiber and communication protocols.

Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)

With the help of this technology, network routing is optimized by directing information from one node to another. For this purpose, small path labels are used to eliminate the complex process of searching tables.

ATM

Often used in early data networks and is one of the switching technologies. Over time, ATM have been replaced by more technologically advanced IP-based methods.

Frame Relay

Another technology used for exchanging information between multiple local networks or endpoints within global networks.

How WAN connections work

The entire WAN infrastructure in 2023 can be leased or purchased in a service format from some provider. Such services are offered by ISPs, telcos and private IP networks.

WAN optimization

In addition to the mentioned WAN optimization techniques, cheap bandwidth connections are commonly used. Implementing a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) platform or customer premises equipment (CPE) significantly improves software performance control.

WAN security

To mitigate the risk of unauthorized access and device compromise, firewalls and specialized antivirus software are employed. This applies to large companies and even ordinary users.

Advantages and disadvantages of WAN

The advantages of global networks can be divided into incredibly large geographical coverage, availability of centralized infrastructure, high levels of security, and the possibility to increase bandwidth capacity through dedicated lines. However, there are a number of disadvantages, such as the risk of security vulnerabilities, a number of requirements for anti-virus software and a relatively high installation cost.

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