Wide area networks (WANs) are convenient and cost-efficient ways to connect different parts of your business together, even when separated by physical distance. However, WAN connectivity isn’t a perfect solution, and there are some issues you’ll run into when trying to set up or manage a WAN for your business.
Biggest WAN Issues
These are the four biggest issues you’re likely to face with your WAN:
- Specific application problems. You might experience issues with certain apps misfiring or performing poorly on your WAN. This could be an isolated issue, or an issue related to other problems (such as insufficient bandwidth).
- Insufficient bandwidth. Low or insufficient bandwidth is another common problem for WANs. No matter what your tech specifications are, there will be an upper limit to how much data can be transferred between connections. If you push against or exceed that limit, your traffic will slow down, resulting in delays for everyone involved.
- Network reliability. Ideally, your WAN would provide consistent coverage and speed in all conditions, but it’s more likely that the reliability of your network will fluctuate in response to specific variables. It’s hard to track these variables down, and even harder to eliminate them entirely. No network is perfect, but with the right optimization controls, you can improve your performance in this area.
- Network security. You’ll also need to consider the security of your WAN. Like any network or personal device, your WAN could be vulnerable to cybercriminals looking for potential points of weaknesses. WANs can be exploited by anyone able to cross your security layers, anyone able to guess or obtain your passwords, and in some cases, by anyone in control of a device with access to the WAN.
Fortunately, there are some relatively easy solutions, which can often be used in concert with one another:
- Find the right provider. WANs can be provided as an ‘SD-WAN as a Service’, so if you can find the right service provider, you’ll likely be able to prevent most of these problems immediately. WAN professionals have years of experience dealing with and correcting these problems, so they should be able to find a solution that works for your business specifically. Moreover, they’ll be able to exhaust far more resources and far more options than you’d be able to muster with your own internal staff.
- Optimize your network connections. There are many steps you can take to “optimize” your WAN, some of which require in-depth technical knowledge, and some of which can be adopted and used by almost anyone. For example, you can employ deduplication processes to prevent the transfer of identical data multiple times, or you can use compression to make packets of data easier to transfer.
- Implement caching. WAN caching works much like caching in any other technical application; you’ll store data locally to prevent it from needing to load upon subsequent requests. It’s a small step, but it could greatly optimize your system.
- Reduce bandwidth loads. If bandwidth is a common problem, you can work to reduce total bandwidth loads. You can do this by allowing or disallowing certain apps to access data throughout your organization, or use methods like traffic shaping to better optimize the flow of that bandwidth.
- Use WOCs. WAN Optimization Controllers (WOCs) are commercial products that are designed to optimize WANs. Using one can help you automate and improve the optimization of your current network without adding new complexity to your system.
- Leverage existing security tools. Finally, use your existing cybersecurity tools and resources to improve the security of your network. Firewalls and more secure protocols can help, but it’s better to train your IT staff on best practices for higher security, including the basics (like password optimization).
WANs are designed to make your business more efficient, so don’t let them interfere with your productivity or access. Almost every problem with WAN implementation has some solution available for it, so if one solution doesn’t work, keep looking for an alternative. Working with a professional on the subject is one of the most reliable ways to ensure your success, so make sure you hire or partner with the right people.