An area network is simply a way of connecting two or more different computers or devices and allowing them to exchange and share data.
Two common examples of different types of area network are the networks in your home or office and then the internet itself.
Of course, these two networks differ vastly in their size, use and the distance they cover.
Because of this, there are different types of area networks we can use depending on the specific needs of the network. Three of these are LAN, WAN, and MAN.
This article will explain what each network is, what it is generally used for and what the differences are between each type of network.
Firstly, let’s take a look at each type of network.
What Is A LAN (Local Area Network)?
A Local Area Network is a simple network that connects computers and devices over a small distance. Examples of LANs are your home and office networks. They allow computers that connect to the network to transfer data and share devices such as printers.
They usually are controlled by one administrator and computers and devices can either be connected wirelessly through a wireless router or through a wired Ethernet connection.
The most common use for a LAN is generally to get multiple computers connected to one internet connection.
What Is A WAN (Wide Area Network)?
A Wide Area Network allows computers to connect, communicate and share data over a much larger (wider) distance. As such WANs are much more complex than LANs.
The most well-known example of a WAN is the internet itself as it allows computers all over the world to connect and communicate together.
WANs are generally far too large to be controlled by just one administrator so they usually have collective or public ownership.
As with LANs computers can connect to WANs through either wired connections or wirelessly.
Ok...So What's A MAN (Metropolitan Area Network)?
A Metropolitan Area Network falls somewhere between a LAN and a WAN. It is a network that connects computers and devices and allows them to communicate in a specific geographical area or region. As you may guess by the name, they are often used in cities and other similarly sized locations.
They are often used to build high-speed networks in cities and towns and they allow LANs to connect to this high-speed network.
As well as LAN, WAN and MAN there are also CAN (Campus Area Network) and TAN (TIny Area Network) networks. It's getting a bit silly now...I mean how many more words can we rhyme!?
Here is a pretty cool video on different network types. They go into waaaay more different network types than we have covered. It's pretty amusing!
LAN vs WAN vs MAN: What is the Difference Between These Types of Networks?
There are essentially four main differences when it comes to the three types of area network. These are:
- Distance covered
- Transfer speed
- Technologies used
- Use of the network
This comes down to the type of network and what it is being used for. Let’s take a look at the four main differences below.
LANs cover the smallest distance followed by MAN and the WAN. LANs are generally used in one building and connect a fairly small number of computers and devices.
MANs are much bigger and are large networks that connect multiple LANs and computers in a specific area such as a city.
WANs are by far the largest type of network and they connect computers over huge geographical area.
LAN and MAN networks usually use high speeds to connect to each other. LANs typically connect over at 100 or 1000Mbps although they can go even faster.
MANs also have high transfer speeds, typically about 100Mbps.
As they generally cover a much larger distance, WANs are usually much slower than the other types of area network. While they can transfer at over 1Gbps, it is very expensive to set up a WAN with these speeds.
LANs usually connect using locally installed Ethernet cables or a wireless router. MANs connect using a locally installed common carrier. This can be something such as fiber optic cables although it depends on the specific MAN.
WANs connect using a range of technologies including cables, wireless networks and cellular based networks to allow them to connect over a large area.
Use Of The Network
LANs are used in homes and offices to transfer data and share devices.
MANs are used to connect large areas and are usually connected to by smaller LANs or individual devices.
WANs connect LANs to a larger overall network.
To wrap up the main difference between LAN, WAN and MANs come down to the size and distance covered by the network.
If you are simply looking to create a network for your home or business, you really only need to focus on LANs as that is what you will be creating in your home.
Of course, it is worth knowing that your LAN will connect to a WAN and also potentially even a MAN (although this is rare).
Hopefully, this article will have cleared up any questions you may have had about the different types of area networks. If so please share the article and if not please leave a comment below!