Understanding LAN and WAN Networks

Did you check your email today? Perhaps you printed a document to your work printer but had a brief wait while your co-worker’s documents printed first. Or maybe you just went online to update your social status. If you did, you just accessed a network. Whether from home, school, or work, most of us access a network at least once a day. Essentially, a network is a series of connected computers and computing devices that share information and resources. There are a variety of network types, but the most common of these are Local Area Networks (LAN) and Wide Area Networks (WAN). For individuals or businesses wishing to develop a networking strategy, understanding the differences and similarities between the two is vital.

Just as its name implies, a Local Area Network (LAN) is a network encompassing a smaller physical area. Typically, you will find LANs inside homes, or within a single business or school location. A LAN allows multiple computers to do such things as share peripherals like printers or faxes, and/or share and store information such as files and databases. This ability to share resources is particularly attractive to the home-user or small organization as it allows them to save both money and time by reducing hardware and software costs. Thanks to their limited geographic area, LANs are simpler and cheaper to maintain due to easier access to all network components. LANs also typically enjoy higher bandwidth, or data transmission rate, as a result of lower traffic. While LANs may be connected in a variety of ways, they trend more towards physical connectivity using cables.

Wide Area Networks (WAN) connect much larger geographic areas, from locations separated by a few blocks to ones around the world. In fact, the largest WAN in existence is the Internet itself. Essentially, a WAN is formed when you connect two or more LANs together. While WANs may be utilized by large companies, often with global offices, WANs are more often not owned by an individual entity, but shared (such as the Internet). Whereas LANs are often restricted to specific users, WANs are typically more open and available. As such, they are less likely to be used for sharing hp hardware resources and more often used for communicating and sharing information. For large businesses with multiple locations, WANs are useful in providing ease of access to information on Sun servers, for sharing database software/resources, as well as providing private internal email communication to even global workers. Given the open nature of WANs, its higher traffic and usual need to transfer data via telephone networks or leased lines, not only is bandwidth lower on WANs, but they are more vulnerable to security issues. Additionally, WAN can be more expensive to maintain due to its size and scope.

While both networks have already greatly helped individuals and organizations to save time, resources and money, the process continues to improve. Now, the trend for both networks is wireless LANs and WANs, which allow remote access with even less need for physical connections. With this technology, individuals and organizations find that their ease-of-access and sharing is even greater, as well as their ability to do work and communicate from almost any location, at any time.

About the Author: Steve Oono is the VP of Sales for Mojo Systems. They are the leading industry provider of Sun servers, HP servers, IBM, Oracle, and Fujitsu hardware and servers. For more information, please visit http://www.gotomojo.com.

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