LAN, MAN, WAN – What are They?


LAN, MAN, WAN – What are They?

Networking and linking computers and other devices for sharing information and data is an important feature of the IT world. Different types of networks are available and here you get a glimpse of the features of the three main types of network: LAN, MAN, and WAN.

LAN (Local Area Network)

LAN is a communication path between two or more computers, file servers, terminals, workstations and other devices or hosts which are located within a localized group of buildings and administered by a private owner. Several users on the LAN are connected and can access and share the different devices on the network. The technology for Local Area Networks (LANs) was developed in the 1970s by minicomputer manufacturers to link widely separated user terminals, say for connecting computers located in different office buildings. This made sharing of expensive equipment and software possible which earlier was perhaps available in one physical location.
VLAN or Virtual LAN is a network of computers, hosts, or network devices that appear to be on the same LAN though they are geographically distributed over a wide area. With VLAN a network of computers and users to communicate appear to be sharing a single broadcast and multicast domain. VLANs are configured through software rather than hardware and this gives flexibility and scalability during any restructuring and configuration changes. It is also easy to move a computer from one VLAN to another without any hardware changes. VLANs are created to provide segmentation and they assist in issues like security, network management and scalability.

MAN (Metropolitan Area Network)

MAN is an intermediate type of network that operates typically at 100Mbps. MAN is a larger network than LAN and spans over several buildings in the same city or town, but is smaller than WAN. Different branch offices of a company in a city can be connected through MAN. MANs use fiber optic technology to communicate over distances of up to several hundred kilometers. They are normally used by telecommunication service providers or utilities within or around cities.

WAN (Wide Area Network)

Wide Area Networks (WANs) are used to link LANs or devices which are separated by large distances that range from a few tens of meters to thousands of kilometers. WAN is used to connect different branch offices of a company which are spread over different cities and towns. Internet is the example for world’s largest WAN. WANs normally use the public telecommunication system to provide cost-effective connection between LANs and use the internet for connectivity. WAN operates with the TCP/IP protocol and is setup with devices such as routers, switches, firewalls and modems. The WAN setup helps network administrators to consolidate their IT resources and configure in a centralized environment. Applying additional security, expanding, and relocating all become much easier if a WAN is implemented. WAN increases network efficiency by reducing network traffic and response time.

Depending on the networking requirement and considering factors such as distance to be covered, speed of operation, applications, scalability requirement, cost and efficiency, one has to decide which type of network configuration is suitable for the company.

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