A Quick Guide to Everything WAN Related

Bamboozled by different network terminologies? Fret no more, in this article we are listing out, in brief, all networking related terms with short and precise explanations so that whenever the network guy or a blog throws a technical term on you, just open our site and stay informed.

There's no getting around it, networking is an area of IT that's full to the brim with jargon and acronyms. In fact, it can be difficult to even read about simple networking concepts without running into terms that are second nature for network engineers – but alien to the rest of us.

With this in mind, we've created a quick guide that covers some of the most frequently used Wider Area Network (WAN) terms – so if you don't know PaaS from your SaaS or your bandwidth from throughput, bookmark this page and keep coming back when the going gets technical…


4G is the 4th generation of cellular data communication. Most commonly used when referring to the connectivity of mobile or cellular phones but can also be used to connect devices to a WAN. For more on 4G, click here.


Bandwidth is the term used to describe the amount of data that a WAN connection can handle.


'Bring your own device' is a term that's used when companies allow employees or guests to connect to their WAN with a device that doesn't belong to that organisation. BYOD can represent some security and data management issues.


'Class of Service' is a function that organisations use to prioritise some types of traffic over others. Normally seen when a specific application is vital to the company's service is being run on a WAN alongside less important applications.


Ethernet is the name given to the wired network technology that's the norm when connecting devices on a network. Ethernet cables come in a variety of speeds and generally provide a greater speed versus wireless technology.


A firewall is an important network security feature that can be either hardware or software-based. A firewall prevents certain types of traffic or data from entering the network when connected to the Internet.


A gateway is a device that connects networks so traffic can move between them. A typical gateway would be your home router, as it provides a point through which your connected devices can access the internet.

Hybrid WAN

A hybrid wider area network is one that is made up of multiple connection types, for example, MPLS circuits, internet, Ethernet – and so forth) – and can be particularly useful when delivering your network over a number of locations.


'Infrastructure as a Service' is the term used to describe a method of procuring networking infrastructure. Where traditionally an organisation would be required to buy and configure servers and other devices on-site, IaaS allows you to buy into these services with providers off-side and on a 'pay as you use' style arrangement.

IP Address

An IP address is a unique string of numbers that identifies each device on a network.


Your 'internet service provider' is the company who provides internet connectivity to your organisation or home.


Jitter is related to packet delay and describes the impact that irregular packet delivery has on an application which is sensitive to this irregularity. Often seen in 'real time' applications, such as voice-over-IP and video conferencing.


A LAN is a 'local area network' – a series of computers of devices that are connected locally – but don't necessarily need to be connected to a WAN or the internet. Examples include BT and AT&T.


Latency is the time that is taken for a data packet to be delivered from point A to point B on a network. The higher the latency, the greater the delay. Latency, when other factors (such as bandwidth and throughput) are involved, can represent delays and connection issues.

MAC address

A MAC address is your device's specific identification number on a network. While this might sound similar to an IP address, it's helpful to think of the IP as an 'address' which can be moved and reconfigured – and a MAC address as a name, permanently attributed to that device.


MPLS, or 'multiprotocol label switching' is a type of data-carrying circuit for high performance communications networks. MPLS connections are traditionally the most costly, but fastest, method of connecting a WAN.


'Platform as a Service' is a way of procuring 'platform' services that would traditionally have needed to be built and administered in-house. Such platforms allow developers to build applications and services for deployment in their organisation – but on a 'pay as you use' style of agreement.


A packet is a tiny amount of data that is transmitted over a WAN connection. A shared understanding of the protocol used to break a larger amount of data down into these 'packets' allows the receiving device to reassemble the data to create an understandable file.

Packet Delay / Packet Loss

Packet delay is what happens when bottlenecking occurs on a network connection. If more data is being sent than the network's bandwidth can handle then the data packets back up and are held. If this continues, services can be interrupted. Packet loss occurs when a network tries to ease this congestion by removing pieces of data.

Both packet loss and packet delay can be handled by most applications – but too much of either could cause a connection to be lost.


A port is a point at which a connection is created between a device and the network. Ports, like devices, are given a unique identification number on the WAN.


A protocol is shared language between two devices on a WAN. To send data between devices it needs to be broken down into 'packets' – the protocol is a shared understanding of how this data is broken down by the sending device and reassembled by the receiving device.


A router is a device that selects a path for network traffic – potentially to and from many devices.


Software as a Service is a way of procuring software on a 'pay as you use' basis. In the past, a software was often bought on a 'per license' basis and required a new purchase when an updated version of the software was released. SaaS makes it possible to pay for just the number of users or packages you need, letting you quickly scale up or down.


SD-WAN or 'software-defined wider area networking' is a software 'overlay' that allows the control mechanism of network devices to be administered by one central piece of software (and therefore location). SD-WAN allows multiple transport methods (i.e. internet, MPLS, cellular) to be bonded together, giving an organisation enhanced flexibility and control over its network. Click here for more about SD-WAN.


A network's throughput is the measure of exactly how much data is being transmitted across a connection at any one time.

I guess I have covered all the terms that you will find related to networking in the real world. Bookmark us for future reference and if we have missed any term let us know through the comments section.


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