The Benefits of a WAN for a Small Business



All businesses are faced with a unique set of telecommunication challenges that need to be met in order to compete at the highest level. However, one of the challenges that is common to all is that today’s small business manager finds himself constantly bombarded with puzzling and perplexing acronyms like LAN, WAN, VPN, SEO, DSL, to name but a few. While the “techies” can seemingly throw these acronyms around amongst themselves without problems, they might as well be speaking a different language to many of us. So it is important for most business managers to have at least a basic understanding of some of these terms in order that the next scheduled office meeting does not require the services of a language interpreter. In this article we’ll look at two closely related acronyms LAN and WAN and determine how the WAN in particular might be useful in today’s business environment.

LAN versus WAN

A LAN is a local area network. It is often found in a school, a home or a business and allows the computers in that location to be networked and share information. Many offices operate one and the chances are that you have one in your own home that uses a DSL router to connect multiple computers to each other and the internet. In contrast, a WAN is a wide area network and allows computers in different locations, cities, and even countries to be networked according to their specific connectivity requirements and share information.




Local reach

Global reach

Internal network

International network

Relatively simple

Relatively complex

Simple to Install

Professional installation required


Beans and WANS

To illustrate, the difference between a LAN and a WAN is like the difference between being able to talk only to the staff in your local supermarket, and being able to simultaneously talk to all the staff in every location the supermarket chain has. It is easy to see then, how the WAN can offer a distinct advantage. To take the analogy further, perhaps you want to buy the advertised special, a can of beans. Unfortunately, the grocery manager in your usual location tells you that he is already sold out. If this environment was operating as a LAN you would now be out of luck as you cannot check outside the current location, but if it was a WAN you could talk to all the grocery managers in every location without even leaving the grocery aisle, until you found one that does have your can of beans. With a WAN, the information can be transferred that quickly and easily, and in an increasingly global business environment, the ability to rapidly and securely transfer packets of information from one location to another is vital for a business that wishes to remain competitive.

Travel by Transfer

It is easy to see then, that the benefits of a WAN for a business are huge. You can transfer information and files between all your locations and even with your business partners from Toronto to New York, from New York to London, from London to Shanghai and from Shanghai to Waterloo, Ontario, all without leaving the comfort of your big, expensive, executive chair. Furthermore, if security is a concern- and it usually is- you can transfer the information by using a VPN, or virtual private network, that allows you to move all that data safely and securely, from one location to another. Generally speaking, the advantage of a VPN is that it allows a business to have a private network over a wide area network.

Work with the Best

Is there a downside to a WAN? Yes, for one thing it can be very expensive to set up. Businesses have unique technology needs that require the help of professionals to put in place and keep maintained. Fortunately, there are many excellent companies to provide these kinds of custom networking solutions. Look for one that will create a solution for your specific need and provide the kind of quality service and support that your business needs. After all, if you want to compete with the best, you need to work with the best!

Ray Marshall is a lifelong learner who writes for Packetworks. In his spare time he is an avid observer of people, cultures and trends in Canadian society and the world in general.