A WAN provides data exchange and connectivity between devices in remote locations. That includes your office network, smart home appliances, vehicle-based smartphone, and doorbell camera.
A reliable WAN depends on the capacity of the connections to react to varying traffic rates, whether steady or peak. The key to this is called traffic management.
The ability of a network to perform its function without interruption defines network reliability. While IT teams measure network availability through metrics like mean time to failure (MTBF), they must also focus on the network’s dependability to understand how well it supports business processes.
Network reliability is essential for distributed organizations with multiple remote locations. So, what is WAN? A reliable WAN infrastructure can enable employees to collaborate effectively and make decisions from anywhere, at any time. Whether your sales team is closing deals from the road or health workers are diagnosing patients in remote locations, a reliable WAN can transform your organization’s operations.
A reliable WAN can ensure data packets are delivered to the right destination. This is a crucial function for retail, manufacturing, and healthcare businesses that must coordinate across locations. It’s essential to measure network reliability using a wide range of metrics, including latency, packet loss, and uptime.
Companies can use router clustering and WAN bonding technologies to improve WAN reliability to combine physical connections into a single logical link. This increases bandwidth and offers redundancy in case one link or component fails. Another option is to use fat pipe technology, which combines multiple WAN connections into a single, scalable solution with minimal hardware costs and complexity.
A WAN is essential for businesses connecting people, devices, apps, and locations across long distances. The infrastructure connects your office network to a public Internet connection, delivering your smartwatch, doorbell camera, and mobile phone data connections to the cloud.
A reliable WAN can grow to support new clients and applications without affecting the quality of the service conveyed to existing users. It uses multiple routes between the source and destination, providing redundancy if a single route fails. It also reduces latency by using multiple paths between the endpoints.
The most important feature of a scalable WAN is its ability to deliver consistent performance and enhanced security across a wide area. This is a critical requirement for business networks that integrate telecommunication solutions like VoIP and ensures consistent application performance for employees across remote locations.
Another aspect of a scalable WAN is its capacity to adapt to changing conditions, reducing network hardware costs and eliminating excess bandwidth. This is possible by implementing technologies that allow administrators to scale up or down their WAN connectivity based on actual demand. These include data compression (shrinking network packets to lower bandwidth consumption) and caching (storing commonly used data closer to the endpoint). It is also possible to use a technique called traffic shaping to prioritize network packets for time-sensitive applications over less sensitive types of network traffic.
A WAN provides a secure way to connect remote locations with headquarters and other offices, even in different geographical areas. This ensures that data remains private and not accessible to outsiders like it would be if sent over the public internet.
Typically, a WAN is set up on a meshed network architecture and relies on various media types to carry data packets. These include MPLS lines, the cellular (3G, 4G, or 5G) spectrum, satellite connectivity, and more. Different connectivity options may be required for specific use cases depending on the type of business and its needs.
A WAN also uses a technique called tunneling to send data. The process breaks up the data into smaller packets and encapsulates them so that they can be transmitted over multiple routes, which can increase reliability. It can also help security by cloaking users’ network activity, especially those on unsecured Wi-Fi connections.
In addition to ensuring that data packets are transmitted securely, a WAN must ensure all users are authenticated and authorized for access. This requires a system that can identify the credentials of users and devices connected to the network and monitor any suspicious or unusual activities that might occur on the network. It must also have capabilities to inspect encrypted traffic to ensure cybercriminals aren’t using it to infiltrate the network or steal data.
A WAN enables organizations to connect to the internet and provides an essential service to communities worldwide. Everyone relies on WANs to communicate with colleagues, access information and services at work or university, and stay connected to friends and family.
Unlike a private LAN, where the network devices are managed by IT staff, a WAN relies on third parties to provide physical connections. These can be as simple as leased data lines or as complex as MPLS, 4G, and satellite connectivity. Each carries its pros and cons, but the one constant is that bandwidth costs are orders of magnitude higher over long distances than in a local area network (LAN).
This makes it difficult to transfer data across the WAN at an affordable rate. The good news is that technologies like SD-WAN enable you to optimize WAN links for data transfer by reducing latency and increasing reliability while making better use of available bandwidth.
In addition, SD-WAN combines monitoring and traffic shaping to establish Quality of Service (QoS) parameters for different data types. This enables IT teams to prioritize network packets based on their requirements, improving performance. This also helps reduce the number of unused network connections, which translates to lower operating expenses.