If most of us were asked to explain what is WAN or what is WLAN and LAN a large percentage would have no idea what these are even though most of use use one or all of them on a daily basis. All three of these terms are terms used in the networking of computers and each term categorizes a computer network by its scope and scale.
There are many other network types apart from the 4 we are going to look at but these are the four primary network types that are most commonly seen by the average user. So lets look at the smallest computer network (LAN) to the largest (WAN) and hopefully help you understand what these networks are.
What is LAN?
LAN stands for Local Area Network and is still probably the most common network type and if you are sat at a desktop computer or wired computer connected via an Ethernet cable you are likely connected to a LAN. A LAN tends to only cover a short distance, for example your home or an office. It can on occasions span further into nearby buildings when it is a large business or they may split their network into multiple LAN’s.
Speeds for a LAN can vary depending on the network cards but it is generally considered faster than wireless connections.
Simplify what is LAN… LAN is a small group of networked devices typically connected via Ethernet. An example of a LAN is the devices in your home. All your devices connect to the LAN and that in turn connects to the router and the outside world.
What is WLAN?
WLAN stands for Wireless Local Area Network and is the same as a LAN apart from the fact that the devices connected to the network are wireless and do not rely on Ethernet connections. A WLAN can work alongside a LAN with no issues.
Most of our newer devices such as laptops, tablets and even mobile phones are designed to work on a WLAN.
WLAN is obviously considered less secure than a LAN as it is broadcasting a signal that can be intercepted (although difficult with the latest encryption). It is also slower than a LAN connection but wireless speeds are always improving with current speeds up to 600Mbps.
Simplify what is a WLAN… WLAN is a small group of networked devices connected wirelessly. An example are your tablets and mobile phones connecting to your home network via WiFi.
What is MAN
MAN stands for Metropolitan Area Network and it is a network that tends to span cities and towns or large developments such as university campuses. A MAN usually consists of many LAN networks all usually interconnected using fiber optic connections.
Simplify what is MAN… A MAN falls between a LAN and WAN in terms of its size. A MAN is most commonly seen in cities and towns.
What is WAN
WAN stands for Wide Area Network and is not restricted like others to a particular location. The best example of a WAN is the internet which is a network that spreads the whole way around the planet.
Other examples of a WAN are corporate networks that can span over countries and continents. These types of networks are usually very fast but also very expensive in terms of infrastructure.
A typical WAN combines multiple LAN’s or other networks.
Simplify what is WAN… A typical WAN is the internet which is not restricted by countries or continents and covers a vast area.