What Is a WAN

A WAN is, quite simply, a network which covers a large geographical area. It connects several physically remote locations one to the other.

The simplest way to think of a WAN is by thinking of a wide area network we already know: The public telephone system. When you think about it, the telephone system we all know and use in our day-to-day life is simply one huge network, connecting remote geographical locations. I.e, it is a Wide Area Network!

Since this analogy is so simple yet relatively accurate, we will use the phone system as an analogy throughout this text. Let us first begin with two diagrams, showing the telephone network next to a computer WAN (notice the similarities).

The Phone System:



The term PBX stands for Private Branch eXchange. It is the internal phone system of a business. In our diagrams, we refer to the "brain" of the system (the main box from which all lines come out) as the PBX, but in fact, the whole system (including the extensions) can also be called a PBX.

A Wide Area Network:



There is actually another common type of WAN that we all know to some degree -- the Internet. However, the inner workings of the Internet may be unfamiliar to readers who are not already proficient in networking, and so, we will not use the Internet to explain WAN concepts here.


However, rest assured that once you are done reading this text, you will have a much better grasp of the inner workings of the Internet, as well.