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What is a Wide Area Network (WAN)?

A WAN usually spans a broad geographic area. WAN's often connect multiple smaller networks such as local area networks (LAN's) or metro area networks (MAN's).

A WAN usually spans a broad geographic area. WAN's often connect multiple smaller networks such as local area networks (LAN's) or metro area networks (MAN's).

LAN's are home or office networks, whilst a MAN might encompass a campus within a city, for example a wireless or WiFi network. The most popular WAN is the Internet.

A WAN is an excellent way for businesses to utilise geographically diverse resources such as sites or employees.

A private WAN is usually 2 or more LAN's connected to each other. For example, a business with offices in London, Birmingham and Manchester might have a LAN at each office. Through leased lines or similar connectivity, all three LAN's can communicate with each other.

Many businesses that require a WAN use ADSL access and install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt traffic and ensure security. This is referred to as 'tunnelling' because the WAN is creating a secure channel through a public space.