What Is WAN? (Wide Area Network)

WAN stands for wide area network. WANs are extensive networks that span countries or even continents. They don’t just connect individual computers but link other networks like LANs or MANs together.

WANs can be public networks or operated by businesses to connect multiple sites together over vast distances.

What is a WAN?

WAN is the abbreviation for Wide Area Network. These networks extend over large geographic areas and link several smaller networks such as LAN (Local Area Networks) or MAN (Metropolitan Area Networks). This is the reason why they are only used in a professional context.

Public WANs are operated by Internet service providers to provide their customers with access to the Web. Private wide area networks are mainly set up by companies, for example to enable cloud services and link together networks of different company sites.

Definition and uses

By definition, the WAN is an extended communication network capable of covering a large geographical area  (Wide Area Network ). It can also be a network IT than a telecommunications network, it differs from LAN (Local Area Network) , which only cover the network inside a site.

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The most famous of the wide area networks is the Internet. This giant extended network covers the entire planet. Internet boxes allow you to connect your local LAN network , whether residential or professional, to this global public network.

How does a WAN work?

WAN-specific protocols

WANs are often set up by large companies that want to more easily flow information or resources between different branch offices. Installing a WAN therefore amounts to connecting smaller local networks to each other, those of the sites concerned. 

But connecting networks together is very different from connecting computers: to do this, you have to use transfer protocols other than those recommended for LANs or MANs. 

These protocols can be IP (Internet Protocol) , MPLS (MultiProtocol Label Switching) , ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) , Plesiochronous Digital Hierarchy (PDH), Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH), Ethernet, etc.

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WAN network for your business

Companies often have several sites: factories, subsidiaries, regional offices, etc. How to interconnect the local networks of each of them, so that they can transmit data to each other? Through a WAN!

Connecting each local network to the same WAN allows access to the same servers and data from anywhere in the WAN. Factories, subsidiaries or site offices can thus access all the applications of the company’s intranet: ERP, CRM software, etc. 

By allowing better pooling of work tools and better sharing of information, the company gains in fluidity and productivity , hence the importance of setting up this type of infrastructure.

As we have indicated, a WAN can be a computer network as well as a communication network. As such, it generally comprises three components: an Internet link, a telephone link and point-to-point links to link the various sites of the company.

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