Types of Networks Explained: VPN, LAN & More

CategoriesNetworking

Used for everything from accessing the internet or printing a document to downloading an attachment from an email, networks are the backbone of business today. They can refer to a small handful of devices within a single room to millions of devices spread across the entire globe, and can be defined based on purpose and/or size.

We put together this handy reference guide to explain the types of networks in use today, and what they’re used for.

5 Types of Networks in Use Today

1. Personal Area Network (PAN)

The smallest and most basic type of network, a PAN is made up of a wireless modem, a computer or two, phones, printers, tablets, etc., and revolves around one person in one building. These types of networks are typically found in small offices or residences, and are managed by one person or organization from a single device.

2. Local Area Network (LAN)

We’re confident that you’ve heard of these types of networks before – LANs are the most frequently discussed networks, one of the most common, one of the most original and one of the simplest types of networks. LANs connect groups of computers and low-voltage devices together across short distances (within a building or between a group of two or three buildings in close proximity to each other) to share information and resources. Enterprises typically manage and maintain LANs.

Using routers, LANs can connect to wide area networks (WANs, explained below) to rapidly and safely transfer data.

3. Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)

Functioning like a LAN, WLANs make use of wireless network technology, such as WiFi. Typically seen in the same types of applications as LANs, these types of networks don’t require that devices rely on physical cables to connect to the network.

4. Campus Area Network (CAN)

Larger than LANs, but smaller than metropolitan area networks (MANs, explained below), these types of networks are typically seen in universities, large K-12 school districts or small businesses. They can be spread across several buildings that are fairly close to each other so users can share resources.

5. Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)

These types of networks are larger than LANs but smaller than WANs – and incorporate elements from both types of networks. MANs span an entire geographic area (typically a town or city, but sometimes a campus). Ownership and maintenance is handled by either a single person or company (a local council, a large company, etc.).

Used for everything from accessing the internet or printing a document to downloading an attachment from an email, networks are the backbone of business today. They can refer to a small handful of devices within a single room to millions of devices spread across the entire globe, and can be defined based on purpose and/or size.

We put together this handy reference guide to explain the types of networks in use today, and what they’re used for.

6. Wide Area Network (WAN)

Slightly more complex than a LAN, a WAN connects computers together across longer physical distances. This allows computers and low-voltage devices to be remotely connected to each other over one large network to communicate even when they’re miles apart.

The Internet is the most basic example of a WAN, connecting all computers together around the world. Because of a WAN’s vast reach, it is typically owned and maintained by multiple administrators or the public.

 

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