What are the differences between WAN, LAN and SD-WAN? - Neos Networks

What are the differences between WAN, LAN and SD-WAN?

  • Neos Networks

What are the differences between WAN, LAN and SD-WAN?

Businesses working with complex networks have complex network needs. These can be around performance, visibility, access, security and more. Today, there are numerous networking solutions available, each with its own benefits and ways of interoperating with the others. However, understanding which solutions your business needs isn’t always straightforward, so here we’ll break down the difference between WAN, LAN and SD-WAN.

Understanding WAN

Simply, WAN stands for Wide Area Network, and is a single geographically distributed private telecommunications network that is made up of Local Area Networks (LAN) in the form of private lines, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), virtual private networks (VPNs), wireless (cellular) and the Internet.

There are various types of WAN technologies, including packet switching, overlay networks, and TCP/IP protocol suites. Today, business often choose to optimise their WAN to alleviate bandwidth, visibility and performance issues. Often with SD-WAN.

Understanding SD-WAN

SD-WAN stands for Software Defined Wide Area Networking. It’s an overlay solution applied to WAN connections using software-defined networking. This provides greater visibility of the entire network estate, helping businesses optimise their networks and become more efficient.

Some of the key benefits of SD-WAN include greater control over networks, built on enhanced visibility of performance and the ability to make informed decisions about traffic and routing. Alongside better integration with cloud services and automation solutions.

It means that businesses can make the right steps to improve network performance, and adapt quickly in times of change or disruption, so networks perform better overall.

Understanding LAN

LAN stands for Local Area Network and operates within a limited, specified geographical area like an office building or a home. Common examples are Ethernet and Wi-fi. A business LAN enables devices to connect to servers (both internal and external), applications, business hardware (like printers) and other LANs. To do this, your business will need to have or have access to a WAN.

Due to the rapid uptake of remote working, the ability to connect multiple LANs together has become increasingly important for IT leaders. Without this, businesses can find workers siloed, suffer from security weaknesses, and experience challenges in collaboration and communication. As such, most large scale organisations will now have a WAN solution alongside their LAN.

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  • MPLS vs SD-WAN


    Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) has been popular for a number of years now and is very good at providing robust and reliable connectivity as well as ensuring critical business information continues to flow, but it’s flexibility has also become a limiting factor. It's important to be aware of what the differences between MPLS vs SD-WAN are in order to make the best choice for your business needs.

  • What is a Wide Area Network (WAN)?


    A single geographically distributed private telecommunications network that is made up of Local Area Networks (LAN) in the form of private lines, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), virtual private networks (VPNs), wireless (cellular) and the Internet. Its architecture, protocols and technologies have evolved to become SD-WAN.

  • What is SD-WAN?


    Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) is a specific application of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) technology applied to WAN connections, which are used to connect networks – including branch offices, headquarters, cloud platforms and data centres – over large geographic distances. SD-WAN distributes network traffic across the WAN which automatically determines the most effective way to route traffic to and from site locations and data centre sites.


  • What is a Local Area Network (LAN)?


    LAN covers a limited geographical area and provides networks within a single office building or campus. A LAN comprises cables, access points, switches, routers, and other components that enable devices to connect to internal servers. Two of the most common LANs are Ethernet and Wi-Fi.


  • What is IP-VPN?


    Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network (IP-VPN) is one of the many types of WAN technology available. Find out more on what is an IP-VPN and the business benefits that could help your organisation.

  • What are the benefits of SD-WAN?


    An SD-WAN service can optimise traffic flows to improve performance and cost at branch sites. This enables businesses to dynamically route traffic across a hybrid-WAN based on the current network status by utilising multiple connections. Learn more about the benefits of SD-WAN.


  • What are the benefits of IP-VPN?


    Aside from the security benefits of using an IP-VPN, this system has various other advantages for organisations. Since it’s based on MPLS, the network traffic can be monitored and managed for quality and efficiency, as well as usage.

    What’s more, IP-VPNs give businesses the ability to adjust the network performance to meet business needs, pushing certain traffic to the front of the queue as required. It’s also possible to access – and learn from – historical reports on usage and bandwidth statistics. Find out more here.

  • The importance of managed WAN services


    With a managed wide area network, your network will be monitored and managed from an operations centre. Your provider will ensure secure traffic management across multiple sites, making certain that your network is performing at its best. Some providers allow you to view your network’s performance in real time. You’ll be alerted when there’s an issue, and kept in the loop while the problem is fixed. Managed WAN services also let you choose between different bandwidth and transport options, keeping your business agile.

  • What is hybrid WAN and what are the benefits?


    Simply put, a hybrid WAN uses two different WAN circuits to transmit traffic between an organisation’s sites and data centres. These circuits can be used in a variety of combinations: a broadband and an MPLS circuit, a broadband and a cellular circuit, an internet and MPLS circuit, and so on.

    The secondary circuit can be used to provide backup in case the primary circuit fails or is performing badly due to congestion. Or the secondary circuit can play a more active part in a network strategy, supplying additional resiliency and reliability. Hybrid WANs do, however, need managing if they are to use the secondary as anything other than a failsafe. Find out more here.