Local Area Networks (LANs) and Wide Area Networks (WANs)

GCSE Networking Resources (14-16 years)

  • An editable PowerPoint lesson presentation
  • Editable revision handouts
  • A glossary which covers the key terminologies of the module
  • Topic mindmaps for visualising the key concepts
  • Printable flashcards to help students engage active recall and confidence-based repetition
  • A quiz with accompanying answer key to test knowledge and understanding of the module

A-Level Network Protocols and Layers (16-18 years)

  • An editable PowerPoint lesson presentation
  • Editable revision handouts
  • A glossary which covers the key terminologies of the module
  • Topic mindmaps for visualising the key concepts
  • Printable flashcards to help students engage active recall and confidence-based repetition
  • A quiz with accompanying answer key to test knowledge and understanding of the module

The computer network is a series of interconnected computers. Computers are also named as “nodes” in the networking domain. There exist various tracks to enable communication among computers, such as cables, most usually Ethernet cable, or optical fiber. Connections may also be wireless; you will hear the word wi-fi to explain knowledge sent by radio waves.

Connected computers provide leverage to share services that include internet connectivity, printers, file servers, and more. A network is a multipurpose link that enables a single device to do more than without a connection (think of your computer without the internet connection; activities become bound).

There reside various forms of computer networks in operation. However, it is quite challenging to understand the distinctions between them, especially those with very similar-sounding names. For the sake of knowledge, we are going to illustrate all kinds of computer network protocols as below:

  1. Local Area Network (LAN)
  2. Wide Area Network (WAN)
  3. Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)
  4. Personal Area Network (PAN)
  5. Campus Area Network (CAN)
  6. Storage Area Network (SAN)
  7. Enterprise Private Network (EPN)
  8. Virtual Private Network (VPN)
  9. Radio Access Network (RAN)
  10. Internet Area Network (IAN)

This article will deeply explain the structure and functionality of the first two significant classes of computer networks: Local Area Networks (LANs) and Wide Area Networks (WANs).

Local Area Networks (LANs)

LAN operates in a limited area where a group of computers, peripheral devices, and storage devices are connected and share their resources. LANs use a standard communications line or a wireless link to a server.

The limited area includes home, office, hospital, school/college, or a laboratory. The primary aim of LAN is to share resources like transferring files, getting prints from a printer, playing games, and utilizing different applications. One of LAN’s simplest examples is the connection of a computer with a printer at home or office. Usually, LAN is used for a single sort of transmission medium. In general, the network considers less than 5000 connections for different machines.

Local Area Network (LAN) Working:

Earlier LANs were based on the interconnection of computers to a server via coaxial cable. The cable is used to carry radio signals with less dissipation.  LAN is established when two or more than two computers/peripheral devices are interconnected, employing a physical connection to share files and data over time. The purpose of the coaxial cable is to connect radio transmitters with the relevant antenna. However, the line can also be used to develop internet connections. The most common type of Local Area Network (LAN) is Ethernet. Ethernet is a powerful medium for Internet protocols to transmit data. The advanced LANs use twisted-pair cables, optical fiber cables for fast transmission of data throughout the network.

LAN is a private network that is confined to a building. Each wireless router contains four LAN ports used to build a local network in the home or office. “Clients,” the LAN users, may have similar or different operating systems on their computers, including Windows, Mach, or Linux. However, the servers contain programs and data that is to be retrieved by the clients. Sever can either be a PC or a mainframe depending upon the properties of LAN. Laptops and smart devices connect with the network without any cable using wi-fi or Ethernet’s wireless counterpart.

Beyond the cables LANs also use switches. These switches are then connected to a router, coaxial/optical fiber cable, or an ADSL modem to access the Internet. The advanced LAN systems also require multiple devices that include firewalls and load balancers. For enhancing the quality of services (QoS), networks are characterized by redundant links along with switches to prevent loops. This approach also assists in segregating traffic with VLANs.

Local Area Network (LAN) Examples

LAN empowers the users to store required data in a computer declared as a server. The data can then be shared with the whole organization from that server. Ease of recovery and transferring of a file is much more comfortable as the entire data is secured in the single server. Therefore, LANs are mainly used in the below-given scenarios:

  1. Home or office networking
  2. School, college, university, or laboratory networking
  3. Interconnection of two or more computers
  4. Interconnection of peripheral devices with one or more computers
  5. Wi-fi networking (while considering Wireless LAN)

Local Area Network (LAN) Characteristics

The most significant characteristics related to LAN are as given below.

  1. LAN is a private network; therefore, a regulatory body residing outside the network has no access to control or access the data.
  2. It has a higher speed of operation as compared with WAN systems.
  3. Token ring & Ethernet are the approaches used for controlling media access.

Local Area Network (LAN) Advantages

The most efficient advantages of LANs are as given below.

  1. LANs are helpful to minimize the peripheral devices purchasing as storage devices, and printers can be shared efficiently by the accurate implementation of the network.
  2. The same software can be used in a single network instead of purchasing the software’s license for each user residing in the network.
  3. Communication (that involves messaging and transferring of files) among different systems is much more accessible over LAN connected computers.
  4. LANs provision for securing real data from different systems on a single server’s hard drive.
  5. Transferring files and the recovery process is comfortable in the network as backup resides in a single system declared as the server.
  6. The data becomes more secure as the storing place is the only server.
  7. A single internet connection can be shared among all the users of LAN connected systems.

Local Area Network (LAN) Disadvantages

Few drawbacks of LANs are listed below.

  1. Although the network facilitates saving the budget by purchasing fewer peripheral devices, the installation cost of LAN is relatively high at the initial level.
  2. The network admin has access to LAN users’ data, so the privacy setting is not secure.
  3. In the connected systems, all the users can access the organization’s data, either it is relevant for him/her or not.
  4. There is a constant requirement of a LAN admin that can look after hardware and software failures in the setup.
  5. LANs are limited up to a specific area.

Local Area Network (LAN) Types

1.      Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN):

WLAN assists in linking one or more devices using wireless communication in a limited area. It provides feasibility to the clients to move around within the local coverage area when connected to the network. Nowadays, most of the WLAN systems are performing work based on IEEE 802.11 standards.

2.      Passive Optical Local Area Network (POLAN):

It is a networking methodology that assists in synthesizing structured cabling. It helps resolve the issues related to supporting Ethernet protocols and networking applications. The approach facilitates the clients to utilize an optical splitter to separate optical signals from a single-mode optical fiber. POLAN can converge a single signal into numerous signals.

Wide Area Networks (WANs)

WAN is also a significant telecommunication network that is spread over a large geographic area. WAN network is based on LAN networks interconnected with each other employing telephone lines or radio waves. It works for enterprises, organizations, cities, states, or countries. WANs are planned in different manners and their operation is also distinct, while WANs perform operations close to local area networks (LANs). Typically, a WAN user doesn’t own a communication module that links the remote computer systems; however, a communications operator contributes to a service. WANs usually do not connect individual devices, unlike LANs, but are used to link LANs instead. WANs eventually communicate on a slower rate as compared with LANs. In structure wise comparison, WANs are similar to Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs), except for distances larger than 50 km, they have connectivity connections.

For decades, WANs have existed; however, innovative technology, services, and apps have been created to improve their market effectiveness significantly over the years. WANs were created for speech services, but nowadays, they are also used commonly (such as video conferencing) for data and picture sharing. Due to the rise of LAN connectivity to broader networks, these added apps have sparked substantial growth in WAN usage.

Wide Area Network (WAN) Working

WANs sometimes involve direct connection among two sites or perform functioning across packet-switched networks. Data is communicated in packets on the shared circuits. The modem is used for connection with the computer in analog dial-up lines. Then connectivity is proceeded either by telephone lines or by private lines, also known as dedicated leased telephone lines. The analog telephone lines may be the element of the public switched telephone network. However, dedicated digital telephone lines allow uninterrupted, secure communication at a specific cost.

Telephone enterprises and long-distance carriers provide the facility of point-to-point vast area network (WAN) services. Organizations mostly choose packet-switch networking services as they have a low volume of data residing at various locations, where a dedicated line consumes plenty of budgets. 

WANs can be utilized for any of the data sharing objectives where LANs are used based on services. Although WANs have a slower rate of transmission. The key aim of WAN is for email and transferring of the file. Still, WANs also facilitates the clients to access the central databases from remote places and enter the data instantaneously for record purposes. An advanced version of WANs authorizes to track productivity and production as they are software-based. Work-flow automation and groupware can also be applied over WANs. Groupware facility allows the various clients in remote places to collaborate efficiently on the projects and discusses the milestones. WANs provide data communication services for remote offices connected to their central offices and give the Internet.

Wide Area Network (WAN) Examples

LAN systems are interconnected, employing routers. In the case of WANs, numerous routers are used to connect LANs. One of the significant examples of WAN is the “internet.” The Internet gives us the provision to communicate with other systems and transfer files from one device to another. The protocols used are FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and HTTP/HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol/Secure). All the examples related to WAN are given below.

  1. The Internet
  2. The network used by bank cash dispensers
  3. LANs connected to WAN (whole schooling system at different locations)
  4. WANs’ connection can be created either by Internet, leased cables/lines, or by satellite links.

Wide Area Network (WAN) Characteristics:

  1. WANs give a provision to connect the devices placed at a broader geographical area, where LANs are unable to serve.
  2. For WANs’ flawless operation, enterprises use telephonic organizations, cable enterprises, satellite systems, and various network providing companies.
  3. To give access to bandwidth in an extended geographical area, WANs use different kinds of serial connections.
  4. For quick exchange of data related to employees, suppliers, vendors, clients at various geographical sites, enterprises, and government entities realistically implement the usage of WANs.
  5. The software files are shared between all the clients; so, anyone can access the latest files.
  6. Any enterprise can build its global synthesized network employing WAN.

Wide Area Network (WAN) Advantages

The most efficient advantages of WANs are as given below.

  1. WANs assist in covering a broad geographical spectrum. So, enterprises having offices at longer distances can interact easily for official communication.
  2. WANs entirely operate on smart phones, computers, laptops and gaming consoles, etc.
  3. The WLAN connections operate based on the transceiver embedded in the client device.

Wide Area Network (WAN) Disadvantages:

Few drawbacks of WANs are listed below.

  1. The initial installation of the WAN setup requires high revenue.
  2. Skilled technicians and networking administrators are required to maintain the WAN network.
  3. WANs are providing coverage for the wider area; therefore, the error and issue rate is higher.
  4. Troubleshooting takes more significant time to resolve issues whenever it occurs in the WANs due to a broader perspective.
  5. The security level is low as compared with the other network types.

Wide Area Network (WAN) Types:

1.      Switched WAN Networks:

A switched WAN is used for the connection of multiple endnotes via a single WAN network. End nodes link to the switched WAN network to access other nodes connecting to the switched network or to connect to the general Internet.

The famous examples of switched WAN are X.25, Frame Relay, and MPLS.

2.      Point to Point WAN Networks:

The point to point WAN networks utilizes a leased cable/line by two end connection. In the usual configuration, the WAN router is connected to the V.35 serial transmission interface with Channel Service Unit (CSU). A unique setup is configured on the remote customer end as there are just two nodes on each end in point to point WAN. Therefore, there is no requirement of addressing the endpoint at the data link layer.

Local Area Network (LANs) Vs. Wide Area Network (WANs):

Local Area Network (LANs)Wide Area Network (WANs)
For a Restricted area that includes schools, office buildings, home, etc.For a broader geographical area that includes cities, states, etc.
Higher communication rate (1000 Mbps)Lower communication rate (150 Mbps)
The data transfer rate is higher.The data transfer rate is lower comparing LAN.
The network in an office is LAN.The Internet is WAN.
Connectivity technologies are Ethernet and Token Ring.Connectivity for longer distances applies Frame Relay, X.25, MPLS, and ATM.
Telephonic cables or radio waves interconnect LANs.For achieving wider distance dedicated lines, telephonic systems & satellites are used.
Layer 1 of LAN: Hubs & RepeatersLayer 3: Routers & Multilayer Switches
Layer 2 of LAN: Switches & Brides
Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) is lowerMTBF is higher
Data transmission errors are rareData transmission errors are common as compared with LAN.
Usually, controlling and managing the network is single-handed or an organization.Collective or distributed management for covering long distances.
The limited network, therefore no need for dedicated communication cable/lines.A broader perspective, therefore, required dedicated communication lines.
It’s easier to maintain, relatively on a lower budget.Due to its wide area, it requires higher revenue to maintain its serviceability.
Congestion is lessMore Congestion

Significance of LANs and WANs

Both the approaches have a key significance at their own place. Networking at small organizations, restricted buildings, schools, universities and laboratories require a LAN network that can be easily accessible by their clients to fluently run the process of business. On the other hand, WAN is a synthesized connection of multiple LANs that is a requirement of businesses processing remotely. The Internet is a fine example of WAN. Just imagine that if we don’t have the internet connection at the current scenario. How can we communicate with the world? How businesses can run? How e-commerce websites can pursue their sales? How can one interact with the social media platforms? Therefore, both the concepts have key impacts and organizations, even individuals can’t move towards advancement without the involvement of these techniques.

Summary and Facts:

Communication is one of the most fundamental elements nowadays for individuals and businesses. Therefore, a variety of evolution became part of networking. In the article, we have discussed the significance of networking and then briefly described the two major networking classes: local area networks (LANs) and wide-area networks (WANs). Beyond, the introduction, working, characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of both the techniques, we have also discussed the comparison of both the techniques (LANs and WANs). Moreover, the significance of both approaches are discussed.

What do you understand by the term LAN?

LANs operate in a limited area where a group of computers, peripheral devices, and storage devices are connected and share their resources, including home, office building, school, university, or laboratory.

LAN Examples:

LANs are generally used for the below-given scenarios:

  1. Home or office networking
  2. School, college, university, or laboratory networking
  3. Interconnection of two or more computers
  4. Interconnection of peripheral devices with one or more computers
  5. Wi-fi networking (while considering Wireless LAN)

LAN Characteristics:

  1. It has a higher speed of operation as compared with WAN systems.
  2. Token ring & Ethernet are the approaches used for controlling media access.

LAN Advantages:

The most efficient advantages of LANs are as given below.

  1. Reduces the cost of purchasing lessen peripheral devices.
  2. A single licensed software works for all connected clients.
  3. File transferring and communication among systems and clients is easy.
  4. Secure communication and file transfer.
  5. Recovery and maintenance of the system are easy.
  6. A single internet connection can be shared among all the users of LAN connected systems.

LAN Disadvantages:

Few drawbacks of LANs are listed below.

  1. The installation cost of LAN is relatively high at the initial level.
  2. The privacy setting among connected clients is not as secure.
  3. LANs are limited up to a specific area.

What do you understand by the term WAN?

WAN is also a significant telecommunication network that is spread over a large geographic area. WAN network is based on LAN networks interconnected with each other employing telephone lines or radio waves. It works for enterprises, organizations, cities, states, or countries.

WAN Examples:

  1. The Internet
  2. The network used by bank cash dispensers
  3. LANs connected to WAN (whole schooling system at different locations)
  4. WANs’ connection can be created either by Internet, leased cables/lines, or by satellite links.

WAN Characteristics:

  1. Accessing the latest files among the clients is easy.
  2. Any enterprise can build its global synthesized network employing WAN.

WAN Advantages:

The most efficient advantages of WANs are as given below.

  1. Covers broader area for communication and transferring of data
  2. WANs entirely operate on all kind of devices (smartphone, PCs)

WAN Disadvantages:

Few drawbacks of WANs are listed below.

  1. The initial installation of the WAN setup requires high revenue.
  2. The permanent requirement of staff to maintain the WAN network.
  3. Error and issue rates are higher.
  4. Troubleshooting takes a more significant time.
  5. The security level is low as compared with the other network types.

References:

  1. https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-a-computer-network-types-definition-quiz.html#:~:text=A%20computer%20network%20is%20a,be%20considered%20a%20computer%20network.
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coaxial_cable
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_area_network
  4. https://www.yourdictionary.com/wan
  5. https://www.router-switch.com/faq/what-is-lan-examples-of-lan.html
  6. https://www.guru99.com/types-of-computer-network.html
  7. https://www.referenceforbusiness.com/small/Sm-Z/Wide-Area-Networks-WANS.html#:~:text=WANs%20are%20either%20point%2Dto,in%20packets%20over%20shared%20circuits.&text=Depending%20on%20the%20service%2C%20WANs,which%20LANs%20can%20be%20used.
  8. https://www.inc.com/encyclopedia/wide-area-networks-wans.html
  9. https://www.router-switch.com/faq/wide-area-network-examples-of-wan.html
  10. http://computernetworkingsimplified.in/category-1/overview-switched-wan-networks-2/
  11. https://networkencyclopedia.com/point-to-point/
  12. https://www.diffen.com/difference/LAN_vs_WAN

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