What is a WAN

‘WAN’ stands for ‘Wide Area Network’. It is a telecommunication network. WAN spans a very large geographical area in a particular region (in a country). WAN is basically a broader telecommunication structure from a LAN (Local Area Network) i.e. WAN is just a physical extension of LAN. A WAN may be owned or rented privately (mostly by the organizations to run their business). These can be configured using private leased lines.

Due to large area covered by the WAN’s, the cost of their installation goes very high and thus results in lower transmission speeds. That means unlike LANs, the WANs are not limited to a single location, they can be spread over a large area or region. The WAN is implemented over long distances with the help of telephone lines, fiber optic cables, or also through satellite cables. These can also be composed by interconnecting smaller LANs. The largest WAN which exists is the Internet.

These are basically used to connect other networks together so that people can communicate across various computers. Using circuit switching or packet switching makes it a more efficient way to create a WAN. Circuit switching involves dedicated path while packet switching sends the packets from any path keeping in mind the packets are sequenced the same way at the receivers end as they were send.

In subnet (the term used for computer components in the WAN), there are two main components where Wide Area Networks are considered. These are:

Switching elements

Transmission lines

Transmission lines are put in a medium to transfers bits of information between the machines in the network and to connect these transmission lines, specialized computers are used which are called switching elements. It performs intelligent switching functions. When an input is received by it, it decides which output line to forward it to.

The organizations usually deploy VPN or Virtual Private Network over internet connections which are much cheaper than implementing Wide Area Network which requires too much money and time. But the router and switches used must be capable of handling VPN traffic.

Using virtual private networks, the user must ensure that the security of data is intact. Several encryption techniques are used which help in keeping the data private and prevent unauthorized access of sensitive data from intruders or hackers. The least expensive use of WAN is to use internet over a dial up modem.

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