What is a LAN (local area network)?
Local area networks (LANs) are computer networks ranging in size from a few computers in a single office or organization to hundreds or even thousands of devices spread across several buildings. They function to connect or link computers together and provide shared access to applications, printers, file servers, and other services. LANs in turn may be plugged into larger networks, such as larger LANs or wide area networks (WANs), connecting many computers within an organization to each other and or to the Internet.
Knowing that the technologies used to build LANs are extremely diverse, it is impossible to describe them except in the most general way. Universal components consist of the physical media that connect devices, interfaces on the individual devices that connect to the media, protocols that transmit data across the network, and software that negotiates, interprets, and administers the network and its services. Many LANs also include signal repeaters and bridges or routers, especially if they are large or connect to other networks.
The level of management required to run a LAN depends on the type, configuration, and number of computers or devices involved, but in some cases it can be considerable.
A WAN spans a large geographic area, such as a state, province or country. WANs often connect multiple smaller networks, such as local area networks (LANs) or metro area networks (MANs).
The diagram below illustrates a typical local area network (LAN) environment.
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