What are four Types of Networks? – [LAN, WAN, MAN and PAN]

Hi my dear readers. A lot of you sometimes feel problem in distinguishing between various Types of Networks. Some of you may even have no knowledge regarding some basic types of computer network. So, in view of these problems, I am writing this blog post to give you answer to these questions. As, in my previous blog posts, I will try to explain these basic concepts with the help of examples from real life.

types of network

What are Basic Types of Computer Network?

A computer network is basically a collection of computing and communication devices. We are using computer networks for a variety of purposes in our daily life. These networks can exist anywhere in the world. For example, most of the mobile phone networks are mostly country wide. Similarly, different industries have dedicated networks at office sites. In other words we can say that each computer network has a defined geographical area.

Four Basic Types of Computer Network

On the basis of geographical area, we can define four different types of computer networks. Each of these can be distinguished on the basis of area covered by each type. Here, I will only be providing listed names. However, in the coming sections I will provide you with all the necessary details on each of these.

  • Local Area Network (LAN)
  • Wide Area Network (WAN)
  • Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)
  • Personal Area Network (PAN)

Network Types – What is?

Whenever we are talking about computer networks geographical area is always involved. This is because of a simple reason and that is organization`s suitability and needs. Obviously, every organization doesn`t exist at the same level. Some organizations are local while others are nation-wide, international and multi-national. For facilitation in sharing, each organization has its own requirements. Such requirements are strictly in accordance with the geographical span of the respective organization.

What is a Personal Area Network (PAN)?

A Personal Area Network (PAN) covers the least possible area. As name suggests, it is established, used and terminated for personal use. So a PAN network is basically an adhoc network. An adhoc network is mostly temporary in nature. It doesn`t have any permanent infrastructure. However, a user can save its configuration on various devices so that establishment of such a network takes a very less amount of time. You can have both wired and wireless configuration in a PAN. Most of the times, it is established inside a room. In other words, we can say that average area of operation in PAN is about 15 to 20 meters.

For those who are still feeling confusion in understanding the answer of question that “what is a PAN network?”, carefully observe the diagram given below. This is actually a typical PAN diagram. However, the signals in the picture indicate that this is actually a Wireless PAN (WPAN) as there is no cabling involved in this example.

what is a personal area network (PAN)

Example of PAN

  1. One of the finest example of PAN network is Bluetooth Personal Area Network. At a lot of occasions, some of our friends connect their mobile phones via bluetooth for file sharing. Similarly, we often connect our mobile phones to our laptop computers for sharing data.
  2. Another finest PAN example is the use of wireless keyboards and mice. In such a scenario, we have a receiver plugged into our computer. On the other hand, wireless input device like wireless keyboard or wireless mouse has radio wave transmitter.

What is a Local Area Network (LAN)?

A lot of people ask a question that What is a LAN? You can give Local Area Network (LAN) definition in just a single word and that is “Local”. LAN is basically a type of network that has limited geographical area of a building and group of buildings. However, it can exist inside a room as well. But at most of the times it exists inside a building or couple of buildings. Operating area of a Local Area Network range is from a single building to a group of buildings.Have a look at the following Local Area Network diagram for a better understanding.

what is local area network (LAN)

Types of LAN

  • Wired LAN: This type of LAN uses wires for connecting computing and network devices. Twisted Pair cable is mostly preferred for establishing such a computer network.
  • Wireless LAN: Alternatively it is referred to as Wireless Local Area Network or simple WLAN. W-LAN uses wireless technology for connecting network nodes. This saves a lot of floor space and complexity caused by extensive use of cabling. Most of us prefer to use wireless LAN instead of wired LAN. However, it provides lower data transfer rates in comparison to wired LAN.

Examples of Local Area Network

  1. A variety of multi-purpose shopping malls and stores use LAN for billing and security purposes. Point of Sale (POS) terminals at checkout counter are connected to central server computer for data storage and management. Similarly, security cameras are connected to provide real time visuals to security staff sitting inside security room.
  2. Internet cafe have a really strong LAN established for the purpose of sharing the internet facility.

What is a Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)?

A Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) is comparatively large in terms of geographical area when compared to LAN network. MAN network type covers a geographical are of 5KM to 50KM. So, you can say that it can connect different cities with each other. You can think of it as a type of network spanning across a single or multiple cities. However, its geographical area is much lesser than Wide Area Network. Various LAN networks or PAN networks combine to create a MAN network.

what is metropolitan area network (MAN)

If you ask me about the speed and performance of a Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) then my answer is “Speed of MAN network is less when compared to LAN or PAN“. However, for speeding it up, fiber optic cable is used. Both speed and geographical bound makes it an ideal choice for establishing a small sized network.

Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) Example

  1. MAN network is mostly used by organizations like Internet Service Providers (ISP) for providing internet facility to users across a region.
  2. A university running multiple campuses across the country can implement this type of network for sharing resources belonging to it. It will help students as well as faculty for sharing their data with other campuses.

What is a Wide Area Network (WAN)?

A Wide Area Network or WAN covers a large geographical area. This geographical area can be large enough to cover a group of countries, continents and even whole world. However, a WAN is created by the collection of various LAN, PAN and MAN. This makes it easier for computers at one location to communicate with computers on a remote location. You can connect to WAN using different devices including laptop, desktop, tablet PC, smartphone and even televisions. If you compare WAN with other types of networks in terms of speed then probably WAN is the slowest.

what is wide area network (WAN)

You can clearly see in above wide area network diagram connecting different cities like London and New York. Each of these cities may contain their own Local Area Networks, Metropolitan Area Networks and Personal Area Networks. But collectively all these network types join to create a massive computer network known as Wide Area Network (WAN).

Wide Area Network (WAN) Example

  1. A multi-national firm has regional offices in different countries. However, all these offices are working in a coordinated manner to operate in the world. For proper coordination, all such regional offices need access to information stored in company`s server computer. For facilitating operation all these offices need to connect to a Wide Area Network.
  2. The Internet we use today is probably the best example of this WAN network. A lot of us define the Internet as huge source of information. Information is placed on different server computers. We don`t know about the location of any server computer alternatively known as Web Server. But we can remotely connect to these web servers and gather information that we need.

Bottom Line

It is really critical to understand four basic types of networks. All of these are categorized on the basis of area involved. I have tried to explain some necessary and basic details about different network types like PAN, LAN, MAN and WAN. I hope that you will like this too. That`s all for now. Stay active for more.


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