What is a Wide Area Network? – Advantages, Disadvantages, and More

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wide area network

What is a Wide Area Network?

A wide area network (WAN) is a secluded telecommunications network that intersects multiple geographically distributed local area networks (LAN). A WAN can consist of corporate connections, branch offices, colocation facilities, cloud services, and other facilities in an enterprise.

Typically, a router or other multifunction device use to connect a LAN to a WAN. Corporate WANs allow users to share access to centrally located applications, services, and other resources. This eliminates the need to install the same application server, firewall, or additional help in multiple locations.

Advantages of the Wide Area Network

wide area network

  • It allows the usage of special software so that mini and macro computers live between its network elements;
  • It is not limited to specific geographic areas;
  • And also, it offers a wide range of transmission media, such as satellite links.

Disadvantages of the Wide Area Network

Computers with a large memory capacity must use, as this factor directly affects the speed of access to information; it does not stand out for the security it offers to its users. Viruses and program elimination are two of the most common woes suffered by the WAN network.

There are numerous types of WAN networks, and three of the group under the classification of the switched network (in physics, switching consists of changing the destination of a signal or an electrical current):

1. Circuits

This type of WAN network needs that a call makes and only when the connection makes each user directly link to establish communication.

2. Message

Their switches are usually computers that achieve the task of tolerating the traffic from each terminal associated with them. These teams assess the address found in the header of the messages and can store it for later use. It is worth stating that it is also possible to delete, redirect and reply to messages automatically.

3. Packages

Each message sent by users divide and transformed into some small pieces called packets, which rejoin once they reach the destination computer to reconstruct the initial data. These packets move through the network independently, positively impacting traffic. And facilitating error correction since only the affected parts will have to be forwarded.

Topologies of Wide Area Network

wide area network

Without going into logical subjects such as the description of the devices connected to a WAN or the addressing used, wide area networks can present different physical typologies, depending on how the routers and transmission lines of the subnet arrange:

Point-to-Point Network: Each node attaches with the others through devoted circuits, always available for communication between two points.

A Ring Network: The nodes connected by lines form a ring so that a packet can reach its destination by at least two paths (one in each direction that the ring travels).

Network in Intersection of Rings: Two ring topologies join by one or more nodes.

Tree Network: There is an order of nodes in the form of a tree so that to move from one branch to another contiguous one, the packets must pass through a higher-level node.

Complete Network: All nodes directly connected to the rest.

Star Network: A central node helps as a link to communicate all the other nodes of the subnet.

Irregular Network: In the most significant cases, the wire-area network topology is uneven, without a strict pattern that dominates, sometimes resulting from the amalgamation of subnets with different original topologies.

Types of Wire Area Network

Switched by Circuits: Networks in which, to establish communication, a call must make, and when the connection is set, users directly link through the different segments of the network.

Switched by Message: In this network category, the switch is typically a computer responsible for accepting traffic from the computers and terminals linked to it. The computer examines the address that seems in the header of the message to the DTE that should receive it. This technology allows the information to record to attend to it later. The operator can delete, store, redirect or reply to the message mechanically.

Packet Switched: In this kind of network, user data broke down into smaller chunks. These fragments or packets insert into the information of the protocol and travel the network as independent entities.

Connection-Oriented Networks: There is the idea of multiplexing of channels and ports known as virtual circuits or tracks in these networks. The user seems to have a dedicated resource when sharing it with others because what happens is that of traffic from different users.

No Network Connection-Oriented: Call datagrams to pass directly from the free state to the data transfer mode. These networks do not propose acknowledgments, flow control. Or error recovery is applicable to the entire network, though these functions do exist for each specific connection. An instance of this kind of network is the Net.

Public Telephone Switching Network (PSTN): This network initially design to use voice and analog systems. We are switching to establish the connection after agreeing to have dialed a number corresponding to the numerical identification of the destination point.


WAN is short for Wide Area Network. These networks are spread over large geographic areas and connect smaller networks such as LAN (Local Area Networks) or MAN (Metropolitan Area Networks) networks. For this reason, they only use it in the professional sector.

Internet service providers operate public WANs to allow their customers access to them. The private wide area networks use primarily by businesses, for example, to enable cloud services and networks to connect different company locations.

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