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An introduction to computers and computer systems
An introduction to computers and computer systems

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1.4 Wide Area Network (WAN)

Organisations of all sorts – commercial as well as academic and governmental – have LANs on their premises, and many of them connect their LANs together to create an organisation-wide network referred to as a wide area network (WAN).

Connecting an organisation’s LANs across many sites will involve leased telecommunication lines, in the same way as you lease as a line to connect to the internet from your home hub router.

There are many related acronyms that have been devised over the years to describe various network configurations. One such example is Metropolitan Area Network (MAN), in which a city or district, has a network within its boundaries to provide connectivity. However, whatever acronym is used, they are only variations on either a LAN or a WAN. In the example of a MAN, that is a WAN, one usually operated by the local government of the city or district to enhance the business opportunities in its area.

You should be aware that when we say ‘wires’ when discussing networks, the ‘wire’ may not be wire at all! For the short distances involved in LANS, generally copper wire is used, but for WANS to meet the challenges of greater distance and the greater amounts of data they have to transmit, other technologies are used, such as optical fibres. These technologies are hidden from the user. One network technology, however, is not, and that’s the absence of wires altogether.