What is a Wide Area Network (WAN)?

Before we get into managed WAN, we better figure out what WAN is. No, it’s not Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lesser-known sibling. Although WAN is a network of connections, much like the Force it is the energy that flows through all things and binds the universe, wait…

WAN (in our galaxy) stands for Wide Area Network. And it connects your whole business through cabled and wireless connections, plugged into network devices (like private leased lines, broadband and satellite or mobile). Think of it as a network of interconnected tunnels that creates a travel system for your data

Why do companies use WAN?

In a nutshell, companies use WAN to safely and quickly transfer their data, from A to B, across different business locations. So Zaki from the London branch can share literal works of excel artistry with Claire in Manchester, as part of their Excel Appreciation Society. All day. Every day.

When companies manage their own WAN this might involve a private network of branch sites that connect to a data centre, or a server, in your head office. But this can make things difficult if you need to add a new location, or make any sort of change really.

Like every piece of IT infrastructure, WAN comes with it’s challenges. You could even say, there’s a dark side to managing WAN yourself (I can’t stop with the Star Wars, it’s gone too far now).

If your WAN isn’t built the right way, the distance between locations can really slow data transfer. And if you aren’t on top of your bandwidth usage, you’ll be dealing with network congestion that impacts your overall connection. This is why lots of companies outsource their WAN management service to expert providers.

What is a managed WAN for business?

With managed WAN there tends to be a very big connection at the core, managed by a service provider at a data centre. Smaller connections then branch off the core and across your business. Your service provider manages that whole interconnected system for you. So you can get on with the day to day running of your business without worrying about any downtime, or dips in performance.

There are two types of service provider – those who own the core network, and those who just rent a part of someone else’s and re-sell it to you.

What are the benefits of a managed WAN for business?

The core network that connects all of your data and devices needs to be robust. So, ideally, you want a managed WAN service from a provider (like iomart) that has their very own reliable network. It’s cost-effective, ultra-fast and can scale endlessly as your business grows.

iomart offers 24/7 support and maintenance, to organise and optimise all of your traffic, while making updates in line with the latest technological developments. So you can be safe in the knowledge that every bit, byte, email and phone call always gets from A to B securely and efficiently.

What about managed WAN for a hybrid workforce?

Hybrid working has come with it’s pros and cons. We’re now able to work from anywhere, offering us flexibility like never before. But for most businesses the shift has been challenging. Because your business data now exists everywhere. In your office, at home, in the data centre, Azure, even the local cafe…

The days of traditional network architecture are behind us, with many users working outside of your wide area network. So iomart has designed a unique service with a layer of security that extends across every user (no matter where they are, or what device they’re using).

What’s the difference between WAN and SD-WAN?

A traditional WAN usually connects a single high performance ethernet circuit to a business site. But SD-WAN is different. It might be delivered in a physical device, but it’s simply software that dictates how your physical circuits are used. So it can organise all of your data traffic into the right lanes. This means your low priority traffic (like YouTube) uses slower, less expensive circuits. And your important traffic like voice, CRM and office365 use a less congested, speedy circuit. Let’s be honest, SD-WAN is the true hero of this intergalactic connectivity story.

iomart can keep you secure, and connected, so you can get on with doing what you do best at lightning speed.


If you’d like to find out more about how we can help, get in touch.