What Is a WAN and Is It Important for My Business?

What is a WAN and Is It Important for My Business?

As businesses start to grow, one of the biggest teething issues they’ve got to overcome is connectivity. Reliable and secure data sharing between faraway locations can make or break any fledgling start-up — and that’s why business owners must prioritize the development and maintenance of a strong network service that will help their teams remain connected at all times.

And if you’re on the hunt for a reliable solution to help improve your company’s connectivity, you might want to check out investing in a Wide Area Network (WAN).

What is a WAN?

Simply put, a WAN is an IP-based network that connects two or more business locations. It’s generally designed to support everything your various teams might need to share — like internal communications, computer systems and your intranet.

There are two types of WANs: Peer-to-Peer (P2P) networks and Virtual Private Networks.

P2P networks are designed to link local sites within a radius of 45 km of one another — so this type of WAN is useful for businesses with multiple branches within the same general area. P2P networks are able to link various business locations by creating a WAN path that goes from one location and through a network provider to another remote site. P2P networks are also sometimes called “leased lines”.

The biggest benefit of using a P2P network is that you don’t have to share bandwidth with other companies, and so these networks are generally faster than ordinary broadband connections.

The other type of WAN is a VPN. This type of network is essential if your offices or branches are sprinkled throughout the country, but you want each location to have access to the same IT systems and sensitive data. VPNs work sort of like ordinary Internet connections that are encrypted. That means all the data you send on your network is completely private, and only people and locations that are invited to connect to your private network can have access to it.

Why is a WAN Important for My Business?

Now that you know the answer to what a WAN is, why would you want to use one at your small business?

If you want to share sensitive data between multiple business locations, it makes perfect sense to invest in a WAN. There simply isn’t a more reliable or more secure way to keep your business connected. But there are quite a few other benefits that come hand-in-hand with developing a P2P network or VPN, too.

First and foremost, a WAN enables you to totally centralize your company’s IT infrastructure. If you’ve got a P2P network or VPN, you don’t need to buy a separate file server or email server for each business location — which will not only keep things simple, but also keep things cheap. WANs can also carry phone calls so that you don’t have to rent ISDN circuits, either.

Companies that use WANs also generally get things done quicker. VPNs and P2P networks are made up of leased lines rather than broadband connections — which means WANs offer much faster upload speeds. Commands are effectively made in real-time, and most corporate WANs come with unlimited data transfer.

At the end of the day, very few growing companies have got anything to lose by investing in a WAN. If your business is growing rapidly, you have multiple branches or offices and you’ve got to share secure data between those offices in order to keep things running smoothly, the benefits of P2P networks or VPNs are staggering.

Just remember to do your homework. Every WAN service is a little bit different, and each provider comes with its own unique setup. That means you should sit down, take stock of your company’s needs and do your homework before jumping into any sort of service agreement.

Network Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “What Is a WAN and Is It Important for My Business?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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