Types of Computer Networks

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By Vijay Singh Khatri

The way businesses, companies, and even individuals are using the Internet is transforming how people connect. Over the years, the growth in networking has led to the development of various networks. More and more network topologies are likely going to emerge with the advancement in the field of networking. In this article, we have created a list of standard network types and will discuss the differences between each of them.

Types of Computer Networks

1. Local Area Network (LAN)

When you want to connect to the home or office network, you open your WiFi connection and type in the password of the network. A LAN is a proprietary computer network that provides users with exclusive access to the same system connection from the standard connection. The LAN covers an area of less than a mile. In most cases, the LAN works in the same building. With this, you can share different devices on the same network. Besides, the LAN network can be used for sharing information and computer resources like printers and scanners. All of them will work in harmony and will look like they are working from the same system.

During the initial years, LAN was used in universities and research labs. Right now, LAN is everywhere in the world. You can find it in your homes and offices as well. It uses coaxial cables. The use of LAN can come quite handy when you need to connect with a single location — at the same time, having several systems.

2. Personal Area Network (PAN)

With the help of PAN, you get to connect to a network using your personal devices within the immediate area. The size of the PAN could range from a few centimeters to a meter. One of the most common PAN networks can be found in the working of your Bluetooth connection. The PAN network could be wired or wireless. A wired connection will include a USB or a FireWire. The wireless connection has Bluetooth, WiFi, IrDA, NFC, and more. PAN does not have any router in between the network to send and receive data. As a result, with the help of PAN, a device can’t make a connection with the Internet directly.

The latest version of PAN comes with a wireless connection. Where the range of the PAN network is no more than 5 to 10 meters. Most of the PAN networks are wireless. PAN is also used in the development of wearable computers like a smartwatch, medical devices, and more. With the wearable computing device, there is a nearby computer from where the device you are wearing exchanges the information via electrical conductivity of the human body as a data network.

3. Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)

Wireless networking has been a significant breakthrough in the world of networking. The wireless connection to the Internet has led to many possibilities in the field of communication and personal connectivity. We cannot think of our future without WLAN. WLAN should not be confused with WiFi networking. Many people do use the WLAN and WiFi as one, but there are lots of semantics that play their part differently. Let’s start with the access points in WLAN. Every component present in WLAN is considered to be the station. Then it falls into one of the categories. It could be the access point that is used for transferring or receiving the radio frequency signals with the devices. They are more likely to work as a router in a network.

Clients, on the other hand, could be a bunch of devices that include desktops, computers, workstations, IP phones, and other cell phones that are connected to the network. Every station in WLAN can communicate with each other. When they are together, they are called basic service sets (BSSs).

4. Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)

MAN is the network that makes it possible for the computers to connect with each other and with the network within a metropolitan area. A metropolitan could be a single large city, or it could even spread to multiple cities and towns as well, depending on the usage of the network. MAN is made by interconnecting several LAN networks. The MAN network is a bit smaller when compared to WAN, but they are pretty efficient. This is because data does not have to travel a long distance. With MAN, you are combining networks of multiple organizations. So no single organization is in control of the network.

Most of the MAN connections use fiber optic cables to form a connection between different LANs. You will find that the MAN is working on dark fiber, which is nothing but the network of optical cables which are made to carry traffic. You can lease them from the private-sector Internet service providers. The MAN works by the city government, building it up and then leasing it out to the private companies in the form of dark fiber.

5. Wide Area Network (WAN)

WAN is a network that is not tied to a single location. It means, it could facilitate the communication and sharing of information between two or more devices from around the world with the use of a WAN provider. WAN could be critical when it comes to doing business offshores. It might come as a surprise, but even the World Wide Web is also known as one extensive WAN network. A WAN network is established by the service providers, and then they will lease it to businesses, schools, and even governments. The customer will be able to use the relay of the network for storing the data or communicating with the other users present in the network. For this, the user doesn’t have to worry about the location of the receiver or the other user as long as they are connected to the established WAN connection. Access to the network can be done using different links. Such as, you can use Virtual Private Network (VPN), lines, wireless networks, and the cellular network to connect with WAN.

With the use of WAN, international businesses can carry out their essential daily activities without any delays. Employees who are sitting on the other side of the world can share the data with ease and communicate with their coworkers. Besides, coworkers can also stay connected to the much larger data resource center which is developed by the organization. WAN can exist without any physical ties to the location with the implementation of a leased network provider. The same cannot be said for the LAN, as it is limited to the area.

6. Storage Area Network (SAN)

SAN is a dedicated high-speed network that is used for interconnections and presents the shared pools of storage devices to multiple servers. When it comes to giving out the availability and accessibility of storage. Enterprise computing has to do a lot of work to keep the SAN secure. There used to be a traditional way of attaching a disk deployment within the individual servers. It was an inexpensive and simple process to perform in comparison to enterprise-level applications. But the problem here is that the disks and the vital data present in them are tied to the server, which has its own dedicated interface known as SAS.

Modern enterprise computing right now demands a much better form of organization, flexibility along with higher control. This causes the revolution in the working of SAN. The current generation of SAN provides a separate, dedicated, highly scalable, high-performance network. That can be used for connecting a multitude of servers with one another. So they can form an array of storage devices. Once all of them are connected, these storage devices can work as a cohesive pool of tiers depending on the need.

With the implementation of SAN, organizations can now treat multiple storage resources as one single device, which can also be centrally replicated if required. The different technologies like RAID, and data duplication, helps in optimizing the storage capacity and increasing the storage resilience.

7. System Area Network (SAN)

SAN is one of the essential terminologies in the field of networking; it is a separate network that works by storing and performing the backups of a shared number of resources along with the data. With the use of SAN, a user registered on the network has complete freedom to access all the files that are present in storage devices no matter where they are present in the network. It performs the backup of the files and data through an alternate network of storage devices such as disk storage. This allows SAN to provide the storage location on the servers of WAN and LAN based on the requirement.

One of the most significant advantages of using SAN is that it provides users with additional capacity. The SAN does not remain on the central network server. This results in users having a different capacity on the server, which they can use according to their needs. On the other hand, it also avoids the misuse of data. What this means is that the servers on the network can access the same data stored in a SAN. As a result, they can avoid data and information misuse over the network. Lastly, SAN helps in the prevention of LAN clogging and diminishing the speed.

8. Campus Area Network (CAN)

A CAN is a network that is limited to a specific geographic area. CAN is made from the interconnection of multiple LANs that are present within an educational or corporate campus. Most of the CAN networks that are in use right now connect to the public Internet. The area covered by CANs is much smaller than that of MAN and even WAN. The organization that owns the campus is the one that is in charge of handling the networking equipment and infrastructure for the CAN. In colleges, universities, and even schools, CAN is the preferred network that provides both the students and the faculty with Internet access. With CAN, two users can share the files and data over the network quickly. Because data sharing does not require data to leave the CAN network, users will experience far less latency.

CAN is managed by the internal team of the IT department. Here, the IT team is given higher control over the network. They are free to apply the security policies over the network at a much more rapid speed, even if the campus is using multiple disconnected networks. There could be firewalls and limited access for installing programs. To protect the data which is present in the CAN. Likewise, it can also provide users with the unique ability to manage the access of other users who are connecting to the network via setting up the login requirements.

9. Enterprise Private Network (EPN)

With the use of EPN, companies can make a safe and secure connection with their disparate offices. The primary benefit of EPN is to provide a network where connected users can share computer resources. The EPN can be made in different ways, and it could include VPN, LAN, WAN, and even cloud-based networking. EPN provides high-speed Internet and data sharing within the organization. EPN can work with the WiFi connection to share the Internet and other forms of resources. Moreover, different forms of network devices are used, such as switches, fiber optics, virtual devices, and modems for the creation of this network.

Security is one of the biggest reasons why companies go with the EPN. With the implementation of EPN, you can put up a firewall near the access points. That way, the network becomes more secure to transfer data among different computers present in the network.

10. Virtual Private Internet (VPN)

Last on our list is VPN, and this network gives you endless possibilities. It helps you secure the data which might not be opened for your region. VPN makes it possible for you to encrypt the data and makes your online behavior safe from the third parties that are trying to get some extra information from your browser. When you visit the website, your computer will be connected to the server where the site has been hosted. The website gets to see a certain amount of data from the browser you are using and the details of the computer. With the use of a VPN, you can make a connection with the private server first. It will help in scrambling your data and makes it difficult for the websites to track you down.

Being able to browse the Internet securely is the biggest advantage one gets when using the VPN. However, VPNs can also be used by small-scale businesses. So it can provide remote access to the user to his business network. It is pretty easy to set up a VPN at home. This will allow you to access the computers and files from your local area network while still sitting at the remote location.

Regardless of what purpose you are using it for, VPN will send the Internet traffic to the private network. That means there will be no risk of accessing files without risking them on the public Internet. A VPN changes your IP address. As a result, it can do a lot of things. Each computer has its own unique IP address when it connects to the Internet. This helps in locating the computer. With the use of a VPN, you are connected to another computer, and the data is sent to that computer first from the website. After that, it is sent to you. This will show the website that you are in a different location.

For personal use, it can be used for streaming Netflix when you want to browse content from a different part of the world. VPN also bypasses any form of censorship. Some governments use geo-blocking. That way, the government can maintain a region locking based on the IP address. VPN can help you in getting around this issue and browsing the Internet freely.


So these are the types of network that makes the Internet and the network around you. The network types are pretty different in their range and applications. As a result, finding the best network for your business needs could be a task. It depends on the long-term outlook and the physical realities of the devices that you want to use in the network. No matter what type of network you want to choose for your work, always make sure it comes with some extra space for scalability.

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