A network is defined as a system in which two or more computers are linked in order to share resources and information. There are many different types of computer networks, each with its own characteristics and uses.
If you’re having a difficult time understanding the differences between them, don’t worry. In the coming paragraphs, you’ll learn about the most popular networks in use today, including LAN, WAN, CAN, MAN, and VPN. (Say what?)
Without further ado, let’s dive in:
Different Types of Networks
As mentioned above, there are several network types in existence. These can be divided by size as well as purpose.
Networks can be made up of anything from a few devices in a single room to a sea of devices spread across the world.
Some of the most common size-based networks are:
- Personal Area Network (PAN)
- Wide Area Network (WAN)
- Local Area Network (LAN)
- Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)
While most networks are general-purpose (meaning they can be used for everything from accessing the internet to printing a document), others serve a specific purpose.
Some of the most common purpose-based networks are:
- Virtual Private Network (VPN)
- Storage Area Network (SAN)
- Enterprise Private Network (EPN)
Now that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at each type of network in a bit more detail.
1. Local Area Network (LAN)
A LAN, also called Local Area Network, is a network at a single site, such as an office or commercial establishment. These networks can be built using relatively expensive hardware (Ethernet cables, network adapters, hubs, etc.) and are ideal for sharing resources like printers and data storage. The smallest LAN can consist of only two computers, whereas larger LANs manage thousands of computers.
2. Personal Area Network (PAN)
A PAN, also called Personal Area Network, is a network that revolves around an individual in a single building, which could be inside a residence or small office. PANs are typically made up of one or more computers, peripheral devices, phones or tablets, and game consoles. However, if multiple people are connecting to the same network within a residence, this type of network is referred to as Home Area Network (HAN).
3. Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)
A WLAN, or Wireless Local Area Network, functions much like a LAN and relies on wireless network technology like WiFi. These networks support the same applications as LANs and don’t require physical cables like Ethernet, making them relatively easier to set up.
4. Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)
A MAN, also called Metropolitan Area Network, is a network spread across a large geographical area, such as an entire town or city. This kind of network is larger than a LAN but smaller than a WAN and incorporates elements from both network types. MANs are typically used to connect multiple LANs together to create a bigger network.
5. Campus Area Network (CAN)
A CAN, also called Campus Area Network, is a network typically seen in school districts, college campuses, and universities. These types of networks are larger than LANs and smaller than MANs. CANs cover several buildings in close proximity to each other and allow them to share information and resources.
6. Wide Area Network (WAN)
A WAN, also called a Wide Area Network, is a network that spans very large geographical areas, such as countries, regions, or even the world. WANs connect multiple smaller networks like LANs and MANs, ensuring computers in one location can communicate with computers in other locations. The internet we use every day is the best example of a WAN.
7. Enterprise Private Network (EPN)
An EPN, or Enterprise Private Network, is a network built by businesses that want to securely connect their geographically dispersed locations with one another. This type of network is a cost-effective and scalable way to protect data and share resources.
8. Storage Area Network (SAN)
A SAN, or Storage Area Network, is a specialized and high-speed network that provides multiple servers access to block-level storage. These networks are typically composed of switches, hosts, storage devices, and storage elements, which have been interconnected using various protocols, technologies, and topologies. Some popular types of storage area networks include unified, converged, and virtual SANs.
9. Passive Optical Local Area Network (POLAN)
A POLAN, or Passive Optical LAN, is an alternative to switch-based LANs. Integrating POLAN technology into structured cabling, POLANs solve concerns related to supporting traditional Ethernet protocols and network applications like PoE (or Power over Ethernet).
10. System-Area Network (also called SAN)
The term SAN is also used to describe a high-performance and connection-oriented network that links a cluster of computers. These types of networks deliver high bandwidth with low latency, making them ideal for distributed processing applications that require fast local network performance.
11. Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN, also called Virtual Private Network, establishes a private network across a public network like the internet. VPNs let users send and receive data as if their computer were directly connected to the private network, so they can access a private network and its resources from anywhere in the world remotely.
Today, VPNs are also used by consumers for a variety of purposes. These include but are not limited to the following:
- Accessing public Wi-Fi safely
- Streaming geo-restricted content
- Bypassing ISP throttling
- Evading government censorship
- Improving online anonymity
- Protecting crypto transactions
- Booking cheap flights, hotels, and car rentals
We’d recommend taking a look at our guide to learn more about the benefits of using a VPN.
Keep Learning with PureVPN
That’s about it. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the various types of networks and how they differ from one another. Do share this article with your friends and spread the knowledge!
If you have any questions, feel free to use the comments section below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.