Networking Fundamentals: Wide Area Network (WAN)


Networking Fundamentals: Wide Area Network (WAN)

Networks are a collection of servers, peripherals, computers, devices and mainframes, which combine to establish a system for efficient and effective flow of information. A WhatsApp text you might have sent, or an electronic invitation you might have received for a friend’s wedding may all seem quick and easy, but there is a mountain of all these servers, computers and devices which ensure that the text you send reaches its desired location with ease.

There are different types of networks, ranging till about 11 network types, these networks are based on the specific requirements of the users. One of these highly applicable network types is called a Wide Area Network (WAN), and in this blog, we will be taking a thorough look into a WAN and its functioning.

What is a WAN

WAN is set on a large geographical area, usually consisting of cities and countries, connecting devices and systems across oceans. Although WANs serve a purpose similar to LANs the difference arises in the structure of the network and how it is operated. Comparatively to LAN, WAN are more costly to deploy and is leads to more rapid information flow. WAN users range from businesses, government entities and education institutes to communicate and transfer data to various users consisting of suppliers, clients and students spread across the entire globe.

This facility is particularly useful for carrying out business operations without the hurdle of long distances hampering anything. Unlike LANs, WANs do not connect through individual computers, but are connected through multiple LANs, which results in a massive connection. Considering the applicability of WANs, it is essential for network enthusiasts and professionals to have the adequate training for this network type.


The biggest and perhaps the most common example of WAN is the internet itself, as it utilizes various ISPs and connects through numerous others LANs to display and transfer the information and data. WANs can even be applied to a comparatively smaller scale of just businesses utilizing WAN network to operate its cloud services and connect the multiple offices and head office.

How are WANs Connected?

As WANs are spread across huge distances, it is preferable to connect the parts and components of WANs with a virtual private network, which ensures a secure flow of communication between sites.  WANs are also implemented through dial-up internet, fiber-optic communication, ISDN, Leased line, SD-WAN, frame relay and synchronous optical networking. Furthermore, WANs are usually built through leased lines which is linked to routers which connects the LANs on both of it’s ends. Apart from leased lines, circuit switching or packet switching methods are also implemented, and the protocols like TCP/IP communicate transport and addressing functions. Moreover, to deliver the specific links utilized by Wide Area Networks, protocols including MPLS and ATM are put to use.

Types of WAN

There are two primary types of WAN, a dedicated connection and a switched connection.

  • Dedicated Connection: A Dedicated Connection, as the name suggests, has a dedicated line for communication purposes. These dedicated lines include Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) and Leased Line.
  • Switched Connection: A Switched Connection on the other hand is a connection with a physical path for a single connection and they are further classified into cell switched network, packet switched network and circuit switched network.

WAN optimization

An equally important area of discussion relating to WAN is optimizing or accelerating WAN to maximize the efficiency of data flow. Apart from data flow, another goal of WAN optimization is to improve the speed of accessibility to important applications and information. The entire process of WAN optimization consists of a variety of procedures such as traffic shaping which allows for categorizing and prioritizing traffic so that bandwidth can be allotted accordingly. 

Furthermore, compression allows for shrinking of the size of data to restrict bandwidth utilization, along with data caching in which data, which is regularly and consistently accessed, is stored on a local file so that it can be accessed even quickly. Moreover, a significant part of WAN optimization is data monitoring to detect non-essential traffic and limit it, in addition to implementing various rules pertaining to the downloads and internet usage.

Finally, data reduplication takes place to make space, which was initially covered by data linked to backups, replication and recovery. All in all this process of accelerating WAN dramatically boosts the usability and effectiveness of a WAN, and this is yet another phase of network engineering which a network professional needs to master.


Another derivation in the wide array of WAN elements is software-defined wide area network, which is based on software components to control network operations. This software is essential in virtualizing networking hardware. Therefore, a software control mechanism in the SD-WAN facilitates further in ensuring that the WAN components spread across the globe with vast distances are properly managed and their performance and efficiency is maintained so that organizations and businesses can make the best use out of it.

Along with supporting the WAN dealing with traffic through specific protocols, the SD-WAN also specializes in providing features like firewalls and gateways for privacy. Apart from this, an SD-WAN proves essential in troubleshooting and redundancy issues.

Get hands-on training on setting up WAN connections

If you are looking to specialize in the growing and highly lucrative field of network management, then there are no professional certifications better for this than the Cisco certifications. Cisco Systems Inc. is one of the biggest, if not the biggest networking and telecommunications equipment and hardware companies, recently scoring a revenue of $49.3 billion, and there seems no better avenue to train for the Cisco certifications than through QuickStart courses.

QuickStart courses are offered and conducted by industry experts who have had their fair share of experience in the field, which means that the students are delivered the most up to date and practical knowledge they would require to clear their certification examinations. So quickly head over to QuickStart to browse through multiple certification training courses, which are guaranteed to give your career a much needed boost.

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