Different types of network can be seen everywhere. The standard definition of a network is two devices that are connected together to share data or hardware. This is quite a broad statement, so we narrow this down into different types that share similar characteristics.
When classifying different types of network, the following acronyms are used:
- LAN – Local Area Network
- WAN – Wide Area Network
- PAN – Personal Area Network
- MAN – Metropolitan Area Network
For all examples, to be classified as a network two or more devices must be linked together, but we add additional characteristcs and uses:
Local Area Networks
A local area network can be wired or wireless, but connects devices over a small geographical area such as a house or an office. These networks may or may not be connected to the internet, but do need to have a device such as a router, switch, or hub to allow the devices to communicate.
Wide Area Networks
Wide area networks are used over a larger geographical area than LANs.A WAN is usually made by connecting several LANs together to form a larger network.
One major difference, is that a WAN must be connected to a telecommunication device (usually the internet) to connect the different LANs. In fact, you probably use the world’s largest WAN regularly… the Internet!
Personal Area Networks
With the rise in personalmobile devices, PANs have allowed us to connect our devices together to communicate.
Have you ever connected your wireless headphones to your phone? You’ve used a PAN.
Have you used your mobile phone as a WiFi hotspot for another device? You’ve used a PAN.
Metropolitan Area Networks
This is a lesser known term and describes a network that covers a whole town or city. A good example of this is the city wide WiFi provided in Norwich (link here).
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