Most business networks consist of a LAN, WAN, and Internet edge, and potentially a data center. These architecture segments include several options for interconnecting various network components and transporting data to all parts of an enterprise network.
Here is an overview of some of the most common types of network connections used in the Internet edge, LAN, and WAN segments.
Internet Device Connections
The Internet edge is the demarcation point that separates a private corporate network from the public Internet. Connectivity within this part of a corporate network is often referred to as the Internet broadband.
Depending on physical location, available ISP options, and business requirements, popular Internet edge connectivity options include the following:
- twisted pair
Twisted-pair Internet connections are often supplied as standard eight-pin Cat6 or higher twisted-pair cable. Other options include DSL or Integrated Services Digital Network, which uses traditional telephone wiring that converts to an RJ-45 port through a DSL or ISDN modem. Speeds for ISP twisted pair connections often top out at 1 Gbps.
Cable companies often provide high-speed Internet access through coaxial cables. Like DSL and ISDN, a cable modem converts the coaxial connection to an RJ-45 port at the customer demarcation point. Data over Cable Service Interface Specification, or DOCSIS, the technology behind cable broadband has grown steadily over the years, to the point that speeds can reach 2 Gbps.
Fiber is often used as a transport medium for large enterprises that require higher broadband Internet speeds than twisted pair or coaxial cables can provide. With fiber, high-speed Internet services can reach 10 Gbps or more.
Some wireless broadband options are used as primary or secondary backup connections to the Internet edge. In most cases, businesses will opt for wired connectivity for Internet access, as wired is generally more reliable and less susceptible to outages or interference. In some situations, however, wireless may be the only option for a business.
Point-to-point Wi-Fi, public LTE or 5G, and satellite broadband are common ways to connect a remote business or office to the Internet with relative ease. Keep in mind that wireless speeds are significantly lower than wired alternatives. Expect speeds well below 100 Mbps.
LAN and data center connections
Ethernet and wireless connectivity options are the main types of network connections for LANs.
From an Ethernet perspective, twisted pair and fiber optic cables interconnect terminals and uplinks. Twisted pair, fiber, direct-attach cable, and Fiber Channel remain popular options in private data centers. Each type of connection varies depending on the types of devices connected, the speed required, and the distances the connection must travel.
Wi-Fi is one of the most popular options for wireless LAN connectivity, as all modern laptops, smartphones and tablets are fully integrated with Wi-Fi chips and antennas. The latest Wi-Fi 6 standard offers increased speeds and improved efficiency, among other benefits.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is another form of wireless connectivity that is gaining traction in LAN. BLE has several use cases, including propagating message notifications to remote workers and clients, as well as real-time tracking of business-critical mobile equipment moving around a facility.
Companies are starting to look at private 5G connectivity. Due to the recent availability of freely accessible spectrum in the citizen broadband radio service frequency range, companies can design and deploy their own 5G networks for private use.
Organizations use private 5G in situations where Wi-Fi has technical shortcomings that private 5G can overcome. Wi-Fi might just be a best-effort medium, while private 5G may guarantee improved performance and reduced latency.
The WAN portion of the overall business infrastructure is where the corporate LAN branches out and interconnects various secondary locations or branch sites to create a single unified network spanning a wide geographic area. Depending on the connectivity options available and the bandwidth required, WAN connections are either sourced from a network operator or privately deployed by the network owner.
Carrier WAN connectivity
Some types of network connections for WAN connectivity options leased through a carrier include the following:
- Metro Ethernet
- leased lines
- Synchronous optical network or synchronous digital hierarchy
In these situations, the carrier is responsible for maintaining the maintainability and usability of the connection between two or more locations. Some carriers may also offer wireless WAN connectivity services using point-to-point Wi-Fi, microwave, LTE or 5G, and satellite backhaul.
Internet broadband is also commonly used in conjunction with point-to-point VPN connections to provide a logically created, encrypted tunnel between two or more business locations. Any type of Internet broadband can work, as long as it meets the necessary throughput and latency requirements.
Private WAN connectivity
Sometimes businesses want to interconnect two or more buildings, but don’t want to hire a third party for WAN interconnect services. In these situations, dark fiber, microwave, and point-to-point Wi-Fi are options that allow full control and data protection as traffic traverses the WAN.