Many of today's network environments are not restricted to a single location or LAN. Instead, many of these networks span great distances, becoming wide area networks (WANs). When they do, hardware and software are needed to connect these networks. This section reviews the characteristics of various WAN technologies. Before we go on to discuss the specific WAN technologies, we must first look at an important element of the WAN technologies switching methods.
In order for systems to communicate on a network, there has to be a communication path or multiple paths between which the data can travel. To communicate with another entity, these paths move the information from one location to another and back. This is the function of switching. Switching provides communication pathways between two endpoints and manages how data is to flow between these endpoints. Two of the more common switching methods used today include:
- Packet switching
- Circuit switching