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A computer network that covers a geographically large area is called a wide area network (WAN). A wan comprises two or more local area networks (LAN) or metro area networks (MAN) and is simply a dispersed communication network for transmission of data, voice, image, video etc. The computers in a wide area network are generally connected through public networks like the phone system, satellite systems, and leased lines or with the help of other service providers like cable companies etc. WANs are also built using cheaper packet switching or circuit switching methods. N A WAN can also be privately owned or rented.
A WAN can be compared to a banking system wherein hundreds of branches of a bank in different cities are connected to each other and share information. The functioning of a WAN is similar to a LAN but on a larger scale. WANs uses much more costly networking equipments than a LAN. A TCP/IP protocol is used in combination with switches, firewalls, routers and modems. Segments of the Internet such as VPN-based extranets can also be called WAN. Prime technologies found in WANs include Frame Relay, Synchronous Optical Network (SONET), High Data Link Control (HDLC), Synchronous Data Link Control (SDLC) and ATM. WANs are generally used by business and government entities to transmit data among clients, employees, suppliers and buyers from various geographical locations. WANs need a god firewall to prevent outsiders from entering and disrupting the network. Setting up a WAN network can be slow and complicated and maintaining it is full time job.
The Internet is considered as the largest existing WAN. Recently with the procreation of less expensive internet connectivity, companies like Cisco, Citrix, New Edge Networks and Check Point have switched to VPN (Virtual Private Network) to interconnect their networks, creating a WAN in that sense.