A Wide Area Network (WAN) is essentially your data's highway in the digital environment. It provides an avenue through which commercial and noncommercial computers in different geographical areas can communicate. It also facilitates sharing of information between individuals far apart from each other. The world’s most popular WAN is the internet. Without it, people and businesses would be isolated to restricted areas.

What is a Wide Area Network?

A computer network is a connection between two or more computers. Such a network allows the computers to communicate, for example, share files. There are two main types of computer networks: local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN). A local area network is a connection of computers within a limited area such as a home, building, or school. 

While a wide area network covers larger areas such as cities and even allows interconnectivity between computers from different continents. WAN uses a unique set of numbers (IP addresses) to differentiate or identify the millions of computers in the network. A network service referred to as DHCP is responsible for assigning computers with IP addresses.

A wide area network also extends to interconnectivity between local area networks. Typically, a router is used to connect LANs to WANs. There are two main types of wide-area networks, wired and wireless connections. Wired WAN can include submarine fiber connection interconnecting continents. A wireless WAN mainly consists of cellular data networks and satellite connections. Generally, WANs over wired connections remain the most popular and preferred medium due to their stability.

What does a WAN architecture look like? How is WAN created?

WAN architecture is the manner in which network devices and services are designed to serve the end-user devices. Network devices, in this case, mainly include routers and switches and are responsible for the transmission of data from one computer to another. Network services refer to DHCP, among others. The end-user devices are the computers.

The creation of WAN architecture depends on the kind of network topology and communication protocols within the network. Network topology refers to the physician and the logical structure of a network. Common WAN topologies are physical and logical.

Physical Topology

A physical topology reflects the physical layout of a WAN network. It explains how devices and cables are physically connected or arranged in a WAN network. An example is a point-to-point topology, which employs a point-to-point connection between two end-points. Another is ring topology, which involves connecting WAN devices in a circular structure, with each device connected to the other two devices.

Logical Topology

A logical topology indicates the logical layout of a WAN network. It is concerned with how data travels from one device to another in a WAN network, irrespective of the physical arrangement of the devices. Logical routes are created using routers and switches.

What are WAN protocols?

WAN network protocols are standards that define how data is transmitted from one computer or network to another. They are characterized by their ability to transmit data over long distances, for example, from one continent to another. Some of the most common WAN protocols in use today include TCP/IP, frame relays, PPP, and X.25


The transmission control protocol (TCP/IP) is a foundational protocol suite that defines how information is transmitted from the sender to the receiving computer. First, application programs such as the browser send data to one of the TCP/IP protocols (TCP or UDP). Secondly, the protocol breaks the data into smaller pieces known as packets and sends them to the internet network layer protocols such as IPv4 for transmission.

Frame Relay

The frame relay protocols are designed to transmit data between LANs or end stations of a WAN connection. Frame relay is a better alternative to the point-to-point protocol for connecting multiple end stations requiring dedicated connections.

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP)

SMTP is a protocol responsible for sending and distributing emails over WAN connections. The protocol has two components, the SMPT server and the SMTP client. The former is accountable for the actual transfer of email messages while the SMTP client arranges email messages for transfer, including identifying the receiver.

Types of WAN connections

Depending on the type of data you wish to transmit and the kind of features you wish for your connection, there are different types of WAN connections to choose from.

4G and 5G Connections

These are wireless broadband connections that enable mobile devices to connect to the WAN networks. They evolved from WiMAX and 3G wireless technologies. While 4G and 5G are characterized by unreliability and regular fluctuations, they offer end-users a significant amount of bandwidth.

Broadband Connection

A broadband connection is what many people have in their homes. It is a type of WAN connection with asymmetrical upload and download speed, meaning there are no guarantees for sustained good performance. While it is much cheaper than a dedicated connection, the affordability comes at the cost of reliability.

Dedicated Connection

A dedicated connection is characterized by the same upload and download speed. That means, as the end-user, you are guaranteed the bandwidth capacity you pay for. While this type of connection is among the most expensive, it brings you some level of satisfaction knowing that you get everything you pay for. Users on dedicated connections also get the first priority on any technical issue or utmost consideration for any policy change.

MPLS Networks

MPLS networks are more popular in the business world. They are used by enterprises to interconnect their LAN networks. For example, an organization with branches in different countries can utilize MPLS to interconnect LAN networks of those branches' LAN networks, allowing the organization to create a single logical LAN network where internal resources can be shared easily.

How is a WAN network optimized?

WAN optimization uses a combination of techniques designed to improve data transfer efficiency between devices in a WAN network. Among the common metrics used in optimization include throughput, bandwidth requirements, and latency. An optimized WAN connection is characterized by high throughput, adequate bandwidth capacity, and very low latency. The following are some of the WAN optimization techniques.

Data Deduplication

Data redundancy is a major issue with WAN networks, and deduplication is a strategy used to cure it. It identifies and removes redundant copies of data, reducing the amount of data transmitted over a WAN connection.

Data Caching

Having the same data transmitted from one computer to another over and over again burdens a WAN connection. Data caching stores frequently used or transmitted data on a local computer for easy future access.

Data Compression

Transmitting large pieces of data over a WAN connection creates congestion. Data compression is the use of encoding techniques to reduce the size or amount of data needed for transmission.

Traffic Shaping

Some internet applications and services are more critical to an enterprise and thus require greater availability. Common among these include email services as well as applications used to manage enterprise data stored in the cloud. Traffic shaping allocates more internet resources such as bandwidth to such services and applications.


WAN connections are essential for international business and communication. It allows enterprises with branches in different cities or countries to create logical local networks that can be used to share in-house resources easily. However, WAN connections can be a security vulnerability if not built and protected properly.

Managed WAN service providers have extensive experience and employ some of the most cutting-edge solutions to ensure your WAN connection is built and protected properly. Talk to us today for more information on how we can help you build or secure your WAN connection.

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