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What is WAN and Why Does It Matter to Enterprises?

This article was updated on July 6, 2021

What is WAN, and why does it matter to enterprise decision-makers? A wide area network (WAN) is a connected group of computers, devices, and other types of hardware that spans regions — stretching across cities, states, or even countries. The largest example of a WAN is what's enabling you to read this article: the internet itself.

So, how does a WAN for enterprise function, and what are businesses doing with it?

What is WAN and How Does It Work?

Think of a WAN as a connected system of local area networks, also known as LANs. These are the familiar one-campus company setups in which all offices are wired together. Keep in mind there are also MANs, or metropolitan area networks — connected sets of buildings across a city or town. MANs can figure into the WAN system as well.

In this example, your organization has a number of LANs. Imagine they're in Boston, New York, and Chicago. To span the distances between these three cities, your company either engages a leased line between each location — a leased line being a dedicated connection set up by your service provider — or the organization plugs into the public telecommunications network. Security, in these cases, is most often ensured through a virtual private network.

At each endpoint of the connections to the Boston, Chicago, and New York LANs, your business operates a router that allows the LAN to communicate with a hub that's handling incoming and outgoing data on the WAN side. Packets of information start to flow back and forth. Your WAN solution is in place.

SD-WAN is on the rise. Vendors are watching revenue grow at an estimated 59 percent annually, and the market may well reach $1.3 billion within the next three years.

Why Does a WAN Matter to the Enterprise?

WAN matters to business communications because it empowers enterprises to solve for high-speed connectivity while, in most cases, maintaining costs at scale.

If not for WANs, your organization would face the prospect of having to own and install every single mile of hardware when attempting to connect its three LANs in the example above. Instead, WANs take a far less costly approach, leveraging public systems to link one part of the organization to another across large distances.

Beyond the issue of cost, WANs also open a number of new options to businesses looking to make the most of their employees' time, no matter where they might be located. The ability to work remotely while also having secure access to company network assets are among the examples of how WANs benefit enterprises.

All this, however, is just the start of the story. WANs, it turns out, are evolving even further.

What's Next for WANs? The Evolution of Business Communication

When it comes to new technologies in business communication, WANs are just the beginning. Applications that drive even greater usefulness from the technology now include software-defined solutions — giving rise to SD-WAN.

You may already have a software-defined network (SDN) on-premises. One common example is your data center. Now, enterprise IT can help its stakeholders manage multiple types of connections at once by applying the SD concept to the WAN infrastructure, linking users across the spectrum of broadband, LTE wireless, and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) environments. Every aspect of the SD-WAN is controllable through a central interface, and your team can replace old methods — such as on-site installations and manual maintenance — with a largely virtualized, cloud-based, and less-expensive solution than the hardware-intensive scenarios of the past.

According to Network World, SD-WAN is on the rise — vendors are watching revenue grow at an estimated 59 percent annually, and the market may well reach $1.3 billion within the next three years. Within two years, some 25 percent of businesses will connect their component offices with SD-WAN approaches. Enterprise leadership that turns to SD-WAN joins a growing vanguard — one that will define the future of business communications, one network at a time.

Connect with Vonage Business to learn more about how SD-WAN solutions can empower your UCaaS experience and give your teams new tools for progress and collaboration.

Vonage Staff

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