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LAN, WAN, MAN, and More: Glossary of Computer Network Types

July 25, 2012 IADT Orlando, IADT General, Web Design and Development 0 Comments

computer-networks.jpgWhen computer networking first became a way to connect computer devices, there were only two categories of networks: local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs). Networks that spanned short distances were LANs, and networks that spanned long distances were WANs. That seems simple enough to categorize, right?

As computer networks developed, more categories grew out of the original LANs and WANs. Now, there are several basic computer network types. Read our simple glossary to improve your computer networking knowledge. The following networks are organized from the smallest network type to the largest network type.

  • Local Area Network (LAN): connects network devices over a relatively short distance, usually ranging from as small as a room to as large as a few buildings.
  • Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN): uses WiFi wireless connection to create a LAN
  • Personal Area Network (PAN): connects an individual’s personal devices, such as mobile computers, phones, tablets, PDAs, etc.
  • Home Area Network (HAN): creates a residential LAN, usually within the confines of a home. This can include personal devices such as computers, printers, mobile devices, televisions, or game systems.
  • Campus Area Network (CAN): connects networks smaller than a metropolitan area network (see below) but including multiple LANs. These are typically used on university or business campuses.
  • Metropolitan Area Network (MAN): provides a network connection covering a distance in between the spans that would qualify as LAN or WAN, such as a city. These are usually owned by a government or corporation.
  • Wide Area Network (WAN): creates a connection for network devices over a relatively large, dispersed distance, such as the Internet. It can be thought of as a spread-out collection of LANs.

Some types of networks don’t neatly fall within the same relative distance categorization of LANs and WANs. Below are a handful of these connections:

  • Small Area Network (SAN): creates a connection between master and slave devices in a telecommunications system.
  • System Area Network (SAN): connects high-performance devices in a cluster grouping through high-speed connections.
  • Storage Area Network (SAN): connects servers to devices that can store data.
  • Desk Area Network (DAN): uses asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) connections to directly connect devices in a multimedia workstation to a network.
  • Backbone Network: provides part of a network connection that creates a path for communication between LANs and can function over a wide area

Remember, different kinds of networks develop as needs for new kinds of connections arise. Look out for changes as computer technology continues to meet new networking needs.


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