Photo of author

By Vijay Singh Khatri

Nowadays, we manage most of our tasks through different computer networks. Computer networks interconnect multiple gadgets or devices using transmission mediums such as wires and cables or even new generation wireless connections.

Now, these computer networks are of various types, such as LAN (Local Area Network), MAN (Metropolitan Area Network), and WAN (Wide Area Network). Among these, the most common types of Computer Networkings are LAN and WAN. However, without the proper knowledge of the features of these networks, installing and utilizing them can be complicated. In this article, we are going to discuss both LAN and WAN in detail, and even give you an appropriate comparison between LAN and WAN.

What is LAN?

LAN or Local Area Network is a type of computer networking that helps to interconnect various computer devices within a small, localized area such as home, school, college, small workplace, or business places. They mostly use Ethernet services to connect.

Applications of LAN

  • LANs offer a higher speed. They are connected to some slower networks but only locally.
  • LANs are used for school, college, hospitals, work environments, etc., as a networking source.
  • While one of the devices can work as a server, it coordinates with other computers working under the same LAN.
  • Several workstations can connect and work together without any Internet access.
  • The devices can share various resources such as data, the Internet, scanners, and printers.
  • A LAN can also serve as a home network.

Advantages of LAN

  • It is maintained over a local area which makes it easier to manage and provides more data security.
  • LAN provides a medium to transfer files and messages more efficiently within a shared network due to the proximity and high-speed data.
  • You can use identical software on each device instead of purchasing licenced software for every computer or workstation.
  • A single hard disk on the server computer can be used to store the data of all users of the network.
  • The cost of hardware expenditure will be significantly lower as all the network users can pool devices such as Hard Disks, DVDs, Printers, Scanners, etc.

Disadvantages of LAN

  • The cost of installation of LAN is very high.
  • It offers a lack of privacy as the server admin has access to all the network data, including the personal ones of the clients.
  • The LAN admin should have advanced technical skills because the whole functioning and security of the network depends on them.
  • LAN network is not scalable into a wide area.

What is WAN?

WAN or Wide Area Network is a type of Computer Networking that can spread over a large geographical area. At times, a WAN can just be an integration of LANs over a close geographical area. They mostly belong to big enterprises or organizations. The Internet connection is an example of WAN.

Applications of WAN

  • Though WANs have a purpose similar to LANs only, they have a wider reach and less controllability.
  • They connect delocalized workplaces through centralized nodes.
  • It is used for highly secured government departments like the defense, railways, and airlines.
  • All local nodes can communicate (share or transfer data) without the need for an Internet connection.
  • Different departments of a business can work and coordinate together by using a WAN.

Advantages of WAN

  • It aids companies or organizations to integrate and communicate over long distances as it can be spread over a larger geographical area.
  • The radio transmitters and receivers that connect the devices are just inbuilt into the client’s system.
  • WANs can even include new generation devices such as mobiles, tablets, laptops, gaming consoles, etc. along with your computers.
  • It allows you to share information, software, and even hardware over large distances.

Disadvantages of WAN

  • Since it has a wider reach, the initial setup cost is excessively high.
  • Because it allows you to connect a large number of devices, the speed is relatively low.
  • It requires very skilled technicians and network administrators to maintain and secure a large network like WAN.
  • WAN issues take plenty of time to resolve, and you may suffer huge losses over small troubles because of the intricacies of the number of devices, resources, and places involved.

Features of WAN and LAN

Now that we have a clear idea of what a Local Area Network (LAN) and a Wide Area Network (WAN) are, here are some of the features of WAN and LAN:

1. Ownership


The ownership of LAN can only be Private, and a LAN network can be owned and managed single-handedly by a person.


WAN ownership can be Private or Public depending upon the type of use, but it is mostly Public as it is used mainly for official purposes. WANs also consist of vast amounts of space and involve more than one workplace. Therefore, WANs are typically owned and managed by people or have specific admins for each node.

2. Other Troubles


LANs are more fault-tolerant as they are made of fewer computer devices and hence, have smaller issues that can be fixed with the consultancy of the LAN administrator.


When a WAN network faces an issue, the whole network that consists of many systems crashes. Therefore, in this case, fault tolerance is less, and the cost of repair is more.


LAN is more secure than WAN because it uses a more trustable way of connecting situated in the same locality. The more people, devices, and resources you include in your workspace, the more the threat to your security and the chance of malfunctioning inside the system. WANs need to use extra security measures to be safer.

4. Setup and Maintenance


LANs have a very low cost of set up or installment compared to WANs, as you just have to add a few other computers to convert it into a LAN and add the cables and other common hardware to make it work. Similarly, the maintenance cost for a WAN is a lot more than that for a LAN.


WANs comprise thousands of devices set up on different terrains several miles apart. Henceforth the setup cost is high. But if you own a public WAN network, the cost can be reduced voluntarily.

5. Speed


LANs are comparatively faster than WANs. LANs use modern cables like Ethernet, Cat5e, and others or a simple router. They constitute a smaller space than WANs. They can be physically connected to these sources and hence, have a higher data speed.


The speed of a WAN network depends on various reasons. A broad range of devices and cabling can be supported inside a WAN network, and the speed of the entire network varies according to the devices included and the type of cabling.

WANs can also be a bit slower due to the distance separating the ends of the network. You can always use high-quality networking cables like Copper Submarine Cables if the network speed is troubling you while data transfers.

Detailed Comparison: LAN vs WAN

LAN (Local Area Network)WAN (Wide Area Network)
Geographical SpreadCovers a small Geographic AreaCovers a broader Geographic Area
Set Up CostCost is low because of the need for fewer devicesCost is high due to the huge number of devices used
ComponentsLayer 1 devices as repeaters and hubs and Layer 2 devices as bridges and switchesIt contains Layer 1 and Layer 2 devices along with Multilayer Switches, Routers and Technology specific devices like Frame-relay Switches, ATM, etc. as Layer 3
ConnectionVarious LANs can be connected over Telephone lines and Radio WavesWANs are connected through Telephone lines, leased lines, or Satellites
OwnershipLAN ownership is PrivateWAN ownership can be Public or Private
Maintenance CostEasy MaintenanceDifficult Maintenance
BandwidthHigh bandwidth is available for transmission.Low bandwidth is available for transmission.
SpeedHigh speed (1000 Mbps)Low speed (150 Mbps)
PurposeFor home, office, or group of buildingsConnects cross-regional boundaries over large distances
Transmission ErrorsFewer data transmission errorsMore data transmission errors
Fault ToleranceHigh fault toleranceLow fault tolerance
TechnologyConnects through using of Token ring-like and Ethernet technologiesUse technologies like ATM, Frame Relay, and MPLS.
CongestionLess CongestionMore Congestion


To conclude, both Local Area Networks (LANs) and Wide Area Networks (WANs) have their pros and cons. While LANs offer a lower Installation and maintenance cost, higher speed (due to wired technology), fewer errors and more fault tolerance, and lesser complicated connections, they are incapable of being used in a wider area and more expanded businesses.

Consequently, WANs can be used over larger and expanded areas in a more professional way using innumerable and diverse devices, but in matters of installation, maintenance, and connections, it is far more complicated to deal with. WANs have a slower speed and low bandwidth transmission. Though a WAN provides more privacy, LAN provides more security. Therefore, the type of network you choose solely depends on your profitable options among all the features of a network.

People are also reading: 

Leave a Comment