A WAN diagram is used in project management, system documentation, and information technology architecture documents to provide a visual representation of the network. Wide area networks (WANs) cover a large, physical area. Many WANs cover entire buildings, cities, states, or regions. The primary purpose of a WAN is to link together local area networks, or LANs. A LAN is typically a network that is restricted to a specific business, floor, or home.
Networks are used to connect multiple computers together, either to each other or to a central computer server. In the initial design, the computers were connected to each other. This allowed users to share files and printers. However, this design is limited to a very small number of computers and presents unique challenges in identifying who accessed specific documents, file sharing permissions, and related operational issues.
The most common type of network is a LAN that allows multiple computers to connect to a single server. The server holds all the programs, files, and drivers for the different printers and related equipment. Each user logs into his or her computer and is able to access shared programs and files based on his or her profile. This type of system provides a much more robust audit trail and can be backed up on a regular basis with ease, since all the data is on one computer.
A WAN diagram typically includes multiple connections to LANs, both hard-line and wireless. When creating this type of diagram, it is very important to clearly indicate your scope and legend. The scope indicates what will be included in the diagram. For example, a WAN diagram for a specific company is usually limited to the equipment purchased and managed by that firm. However, a WAN provided by an Internet service provider may cover a larger geographical area, and should include the competition's network.
The legend is very important, as specific information about each network should be provided for clarity. Common information to include in the legend is the signal strength, type of cable, power connections, outer bounds of the network access, outlets, and dead lines. Many firms also include an indication of the ownership status of the lines: leased or owned. This is very important in a WAN diagram, as this information is used to justify the lease costs.
The most common way to draw a WAN diagram is to use architecture software. This type of tool is best used for complex drawings that need to indicate the physical location of multiple items and the physical relationship between one item and another. For example, the WAN diagram must include indications of power outlets, although they are not directly related to the WAN itself.