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June 15, 2024
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WANs That Think They're LANs
How to get the same network performance over long distance as you have in-house

By: John Shepler

We take our Local Area Networks (LANs) for granted. Every business has them, but they are seldom seen, except for that network connector on the wall. You plug-in your computer, printer, phone, etc. and it just works. 

Networks vs Utilities
In a way, LANs are now the data equivalent of AC power. You don’t think about it. You just use it. Connections and operations were long ago standardized. You don’t worry about different flavors of Ethernet any more than you stop and think what voltage is coming out of that wall socket.

Now, how about those Wide Area Networks (WANs)? It’s the WAN that gets you out of the building and connected to your other business locations, your cloud services and everyone else in the world. We don’t think about the fact that electrical power is transformed to higher voltages and that there are switching centers between your location and the power generation. It’s just as invisible as the wires running through the walls. If only Wide Area Networks worked the same way (sigh!)

The Difference Between LANs and WANs
The big difference between local and metro or wide area networks is that the local nets tend to be invisible and the longer haul connections may not be. In-house, you probably don’t have to be concerned about bandwidth, jitter, latency or packet loss. Wired LANs, especially, do a good job of keeping these issues out of your way. As you leave the premises, though, those characteristics degrade. Ideally it is not enough to get in your way. Sometimes, though, it’s a major stumbling block.

Where WANs Go Bad
Take the most common WAN we use: The Internet. The Internet is an amazing infrastructure that connects nearly everyone to everyone else. It was designed from the beginning to be extremely robust, so that line cuts and equipment outages are automatically worked around. It’s design philosophy and popularity are it’s limitations. The speed and quality of your connection can vary from minute to minute depending on traffic levels. The least costly connections, like cable and cellular, are shared, increasing the variability even more.

Invisible WANs
If you want the same performance over long distances that you have in-house, you need to order dedicated symmetrical wired, wireless and fiber point-to-point or multipoint services. Yes, a dedicated connection will help Internet performance greatly because most of the issues are in the “last mile” connection to your facility. Dedicated direct lines may make a huge difference in how business critical systems like VoIP telephone and software as a service in the cloud perform. MPLS networks provide similar high performance among multiple business locations, including remote data centers and cloud service providers.

The Almost Invisible WAN
The one sore point with dedicated lines is that can be a bit pricey, especially if you need a lot of bandwidth over very long distances. It’s a cost/benefit tradeoff and dedicated wins for most medium and larger size businesses where productivity losses and poor quality voice services are intolerable. 

For smaller businesses and less critical applications, however, there is a fairly new alternative that makes the Internet perform more like a direct connection. This is called SDN or Software Defined Network, sometimes also referred to as a SD-WAN or Software Defined Wide Area Network. What the software does is combine multiple lower performing connections to produce a composite service that works much better. The SD-WAN monitors each WAN connection packet-by-packet and routes the most critical packets over the best performing links at that instant. It goes a long way toward making very noticeable Internet services more like invisible direct connections.

Are you frustrated by unacceptably poor Internet or other WAN services or have just hit the limit of your current bandwidth? Discover the range of competitive Wide Are Network connections that are now available for your business locations.

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