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What is a wide area network (WAN)?

The wide area network (WAN) is part of communication networks, or what is known as information and communications technology, and it facilitates the work of wired and wireless communications. In this article, we will learn about this type of network.

What is a wide area network (WAN)?
What is a wide area network (WAN)?

What is a wide area network?

A wide area network is defined as a group of computers that are connected together over wide geographical distances, and it works to provide remote communication through computers and low-voltage devices to each other through one large network to communicate even when they are miles apart and is a little more complex than a network. LAN, the basic example of a network is the Internet, which connects all computers together around the world and reaches all users.

WANs are the largest and most comprehensive form of computer networking available to date. These networks are often created by service providers who then rent their WANs to businesses, schools, governments, or the public.

Clients use the network to relay and store data and information or communicate with other users over the Internet, regardless of their location, as long as they have access to the established WAN. Access can be granted via different links, such as virtual private networks (VPNs), lines, wireless networks, cellular networks or Internet access, all through the development of IT infrastructures.

What are the types of WAN?

When someone has an office in Asia and another office in Europe, these offices need to communicate with each other and be on one network, even if they are geographically distant. Therefore, several options have been provided for the WAN and the Internet protocols used.

  1. Leased Line: It is a point-to-point connection between two local LANs. One of its advantages is that it is secure, but its operation is very expensive. Protocols used in this type: PPP, HDLC, and SDLC.
  2. Circuit Switching: It means creating a fixed physical link or a dedicated circuit path between terminals, or between two devices in the network that want to communicate. A good example is dial-up communications, in which wired segments are linked together to create a single uninterrupted line for each telephone call. It has the advantage of being considered less expensive, and one of its disadvantages is setting up the call. Protocols used in this type: PPP, ISDN.
  3. Packet Switch: It means transferring packets of data from one device to another network device between switches in particular, and between the rest of the devices in general. One of its advantages is the use of bandwidth very efficiently, and one of its disadvantages is sharing media via a link. Protocols used in this type: X.25, and Frame Relay.
  4. Cell Relay: Similar to the previous type of Packet Switch, but it uses fixed-length packets, in which data is divided into fixed-length cells and then sent over virtual circuits. It is best for using voice and data technologies simultaneously, but its cost is considered high. The protocol used in this type: is ATM.
  5. Internet: It is the switching of wireless packets using the Internet when establishing a WAN network. The network address is used to deliver packets. Due to security issues, VPN technology must be used as we mentioned in previous articles. It is considered less expensive and available globally. However, it is the least safe among them. Protocols used in this type: VPN, DSL, cable modem, and wireless.

Difference between WAN and LAN?

  • There are many different shapes and types of networks, but one of the most common networks outside of WANs is a local area network or LAN.

  • While WANs can exist globally, without links to a physical location through the use of a leased network provider, local networks exist within a limited area.

  • LANs can be used to access a larger WAN (such as the Internet), but only within an area that the LAN infrastructure can reach.

What is a leased line?

One way organizations connect their LANs to create a WAN is by using something called a leased line. A leased line is a direct network connection leased from a large network provider such as an Internet service provider. Building their own physical network infrastructure—including cables, routers, and Internet exchange points across hundreds or thousands of miles—would be a nearly impossible task for most organizations. Instead, they rent a direct, dedicated connection from a company that already has this infrastructure.

Advantages of WAN

  • It's similar to a LAN except the sharing scope etc. becomes much larger.
  • This network can be global and very wide like the Internet.
  • A wide area network provides a large geographic area.
  • Possibility of providing a leased Internet line that can connect to multiple branches.
  • Data is centralized, so there is no need to purchase emails, files or backup servers.
  • Software companies run on the live server, and programmers get updated files within seconds.
  • Sending and exchanging messages quickly through web applications, for example (Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype) and programs for communicating with friends.
  • Programs and other resources, for example, hard drive and RAM, can be shared.
  • Business can be done online globally. It contains devices such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and computers.
  • Increasing productivity for companies through the use of leased lines, which increases bandwidth and thus increases the data transfer rate.
  • They operate using radio transmitters and receivers built into client devices

What is SD-WAN?

A programmable wide area network, or SD-WAN, is a WAN that uses software to route traffic, in addition to or instead of traditional routers. With SD-WAN, networking functions are virtualized – they run in software rather than hardware – making network management much easier for IT experts. In fact, some SD-WAN vendors offer software routers that can at least partially replace existing routers.

SD-WAN is a form of distributed networking (SDN), a technology that makes it possible to manage networks using software.

Disadvantages of wide area network

  1. It provides less security compared to other types of networks in the computer.
  2. Need for firewall and antivirus software.
  3. The cost of initial WAN installation and setup for investment is high; Because it involves purchasing routers and switches.
  4. Troubleshooting wastes time in its implementation due to the wide coverage and use of different techniques.
  5. WAN is difficult to maintain and requires skilled technicians and network administrators.

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