A local area network, or LAN, is a network that connects a group of computers in a relatively small area, for example a single building or group of buildings. A school or office (or a home with several computers) would use a LAN to connect their computers.
A LAN will often connect to other devices, such shared printers, or a modem to access the Internet.
A LAN is usually owned and controlled by a single organisation. So, for example, if two different companies had an office in the same building, they would each have their own separate LAN.
A LAN doesn't have to be small - an office might contain hundreds of computers but would still be classed as a LAN if all the computers are on the same local network.
A typical small LAN, such as a home network, might consist of a few connected devices. This might include:
The devices might be connected by network cables, or in many cases might use wireless connections.
A school or office would be larger and might use different types of computers:
An larger office network will usually use wired connections, perhaps with a wireless access point for portable devices.
There are many benefits to networking. The main benefit is that it allows resources to be shared by different users, including:
There are other benefits:
There are a few downsides to running a network:
By contrast, a wide area network (WAN) is used to link compute that are much further apart. For example, if a company had offices in different cities (or even different countries), they would need a WAN to allow all their computers to talk to each other.
On a LAN, the computers and devices are usually connected by Ethernet cables, or Wifi, which have quite a short range (typically less than 100m). A WAN uses other technologies to communicate over much greater distances.
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