Unfortunately you're using an unsupported browser. Please update it and try again.

Guide to Wide Area Networks (WAN)

When you want to connect two or more sites together so they work as one, you'll need a Wide Area Network …

What is a Wide Area Netowork (WAN)?

A Wide Area Network, often abbreviated as 'WAN', is defined as an IP-based network that extends over two or more sites. It can include everything from your internal communications structure: your computer systems, your internet and intranet, and voice. In fact, just about every aspect of a modern communications network makes up part of a WAN.


Types of WAN

P2P networks, connectivity, or links (through the WAN) for connecting local sites 


A P2P network connects sites within a radius of 45km. It provides a WAN communications path from your premises, through a carrier network such as a managed network service, to a remote network at your satellite sites. P2P lines are also known as leased lines. 

With a P2P line, you don’t share your bandwidth with anyone else. This makes it faster and more consistent than a standard broadband or fibre connection. It also gives you a greater degree of security and resilience. With a P2P WAN service you also get:

  • Direct fibre connections - giving you direct connectivity between your head office and local satellite offices, data centres, or warehouses
  • Lowest possible latency – data is delivered from one point to another quickly, and responses to user queries are almost instant
  • Choice of bandwidths – from 10Mbps-1.6Tbps

Ethernet VPN WANs for networks over longer distances

If your ‘satellite’ offices are dotted across the country or abroad, then you’re going to need something with more reach, which is where Ethernet VPN WANs come in.

An Ethernet VPN WAN allows you to develop interconnected hubs across much greater distances, effectively shrinking the distance between your operations so they can operate as one.

With a latency target of less than 10 milliseconds, commands are effectively real-time. This is ideal for businesses where a split-second time lag can be critical, like financial trading. Low latency is also essential for high-quality video-conferencing. You can choose the amount of bandwidth you need, from 200Kbps to 1Gbps. 

It’s also future-proof – once you have the system in place it’s easy to upgrade as your business grows, adding users to the network without impacting the performance of the rest of the system.


A software-defined WAN

A software-defined wide area network, or SD-WAN for short, is software-based – making it possible to integrate with cloud computing apps such as Office 365. This means managing and sharing files is faster which makes it easier for your team to collaborate.

Also, because this type of WAN is software-based it’s easier to protect your network from cyberattack attempts as they happen.

SD-WANs provide a higher-level of visibility over all of the applications and traffic on your network, which can help spot weak connections slowing things down and give you the ability to customise traffic routing

The features and advantages of WAN

WAN centralises your data

WAN removes the need for multiple servers per office. With a single data centre, a wide area network centralises and simplifies your company’s server management with all your different sites sharing data from the server at head office. Data across multiple branches synchronise with head office whilst also giving the whole company a central IT resource to leverage.


It's got higher bandwidth

Since WAN is powered by p2p leased line networks  or ethernet VPN , your network can operate at a higher bandwidth than broadband allows, meaning you can transfer data faster from site to site.


It'll shore up your privacy

Sending data across a wide area network is more secure than sending it over the internet, meaning any files you share across your company WAN improves your information security and keeps sensitive info out of the wrong hands. With SD-WAN from BT, this means your information is also encrypted for even greater security.

What type of businesses can benefit from wide area networks?

Any business with multiple sites can benefit from a WAN – from small businesses and chains of shops through to national and international corporations. 

For example, a legal firm with offices in several local towns within a 45km radius could communicate effectively between sites using a P2P network. A national car hire company that wants to connect sites beyond 45km would need a VPN WAN. 

What can BT Business offer you?

At BT Business, we provide a choice of WAN and Ethernet VPN options. Delivered over BT's core network, our WANs deliver fast, reliable connectivity - with resilience options - for businesses of all sizes. 

P2P network

  • Connects sites that are 45km or less apart
  • Point-to-point direct fibre connections
  • Low latency
  • Standard bandwidths: 10 Mbps-1.6Tbps

Ethernet VPN 

  • Connects sites nationally or internationally
  • Low latency 
  • Standard bandwidths: 200 Kbps-1 Gbps

A network that grows with your business

Fast and reliable, with the option of adding additional users onto the network later, P2P and Ethernet VPN WAN options future-proof your business communication network, giving you room to expand while maintaining your network. And with the option of customised options specifically tailored for your needs, WAN networks let everyone within a business, including remote workers, access the same systems, data, and applications.

In a nutshell

A Wide Area Network (WAN) is a way of securely connecting multiple business locations, either locally using Point-to-Point Ethernet (P2P) technology, or nationally using VPN. This guide will help you understand what a WAN is, how to use it, and why your business may need one.


To find out more take a look at our networking pages or give us a call on 0800 707 6315.