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Networks are used for connecting multiple computers and allowing them to communicate between themselves and other computers. As there are numerous types of networks, it can be tricky to understand them all and figure out which one would be the perfect choice for your business.

Our article will explain all the main types of networks and break down the difference between LAN, WAN, and MAN.

What is LAN?

A LAN, which stands for ‘local area network,’ is a network that connects a group of computers or peripheral devices in such a way that they can share data, tools, and programs without the need for the internet. The local area network connects these devices with a switch, or a stack of switches, with the help of a private addressing scheme. 

Data transmitted by LAN is transmitted very fast as there can’t be more than 5000 computers connected on a single network. LAN connections are usually high-speed and have relatively cheap hardware such as ethernet cables or network adapters. LANs are perfect for covering smaller geographical areas and are super easy to set up and maintain.

Nowadays, LAN speeds are usually between 100 and 1000 Mbps, whereas the early versions of the network had data rates between the 4-16 Mbps range. LAN is fast mostly because it uses wired connections, which is what gives it security. The fault tolerance of this network is also very high, and there isn’t much congestion.

Advantages and Disadvantages of LAN

Check out the table below to see the advantages and disadvantages of LAN, such as:

You can significantly reduce the hardware purchases cost as LAN can be shared between hard disks, DVD-ROM, and other similar devicesAlthough you can save a lot of money with LAN, the costs of setting up the network can be high
You don’t have to purchase the licensed software for each client in your network, as you can use the same softwareIt doesn’t offer solid privacy as the LAN admin can check the personal files of other users
LAN allows you to store network user data on a hard diskIf the centralized data repository isn’t secured, other unauthorized users can access the critical data of your network
Transfer data and messages can be easily transferred over the computers in the networkThe network needs a constant administration as there can be issues regarding software setup, maintenance, and hardware failures
It’s easy to manage data in one place, which secures the data
With LAN, you can share a single internet connection among the users of your network

What is WAN?

A wide area network (WAN) is a network that can extend over a large geographical area (e.g., a country or a state). It can be connected to a LAN network via radio waves or telephone lines and can be limited to an enterprise such as a company or an organization. Usually, the WAN technology is expensive, but at least it’s high-speed.

There are also two types of wide-area networks, including:

  1. Switched WAN – used to connect multiple end nodes through a common WAN network
  2. Point-to-point WAN – consists of two end nodes connected by a leased line (e.g., dial-up line)

There is more congestion in the network and less fault tolerance, as WAN is difficult to set up and maintain. The network’s data rate is 10x slower than LAN, but you get increased distance to make up for the slower speeds (anywhere from a few Kbps to a few Mbps). The biggest problem with WAN is the propagation delay, and the devices used for the transmission of data through this network include satellites, microwaves, optic wires, etc.

Advantages and Disadvantages of WAN

For the advantages and disadvantages of WAN, see the table below:

Advantages Disadvantages
WAN can help you cover a large geographical area, which makes it perfect for business offices situated at longer distancesThe initial investment is very high
Contains devices such as tablets, phones, laptops, etc.It’s difficult to maintain this network, and you need experts and network administrators for it
Uses radio transmitters and receivers built into client devicesDue to the wide coverage of the network, you might face more issues
It takes a lot of time and effort to resolve any issues Offers lower security compared to other types of networks

What is MAN?

MAN, or metropolitan area network, covers a smaller area than WAN but a larger area than LAN. It can connect multiple computers that are apart in different cities and generally covers a larger geographical area. MAN can also serve as an internet service provider (ISP) and is designed to provide high-speed connectivity (speeds ranging in Mbps).

Installing MAN is hard and can be costly, but you get less fault tolerance and more congestion in the network. The data transfer rates are moderate, and devices you can use for transmission through MAN include modems, wires, and cables.

Advantages and Disadvantages of MAN

Here are some advantages and disadvantages of MAN:

The network has fast communication due to the high-speed carriers (e.g., optic cables)You need a lot of cables to connect MAN from one place to another
It provides better support and greater access than WANIt’s hard to make the system secure from hackers
Supports data transmissions in both directions simultaneouslyIt’s hard to design and maintain the network on your own
It includes some areas of a city, if not the entire city

LAN, WAN, MAN Examples

To help you get a better picture of the three networks discussed in the article, we’ve decided to give you some examples of all three of them:

  1. LAN – The most famous example of LAN would be LAN parties, where a bunch of people play games together, such as Counter-Strike, in the same room without the internet.
  2. WAN – The best example of a WAN would be the ATM (the asynchronous transfer mode) network and point-to-point WAN, a dial-up network that connects computers to the internet.
  3. MAN – Some of the most common examples of MAN would be the parts of telephone companies’ networks or cable TV.

What is the Main Difference between LAN, WAN, and MAN?

As there isn’t one main difference between LAN, WAN, and MAN, we’ve compiled a table consisting of the biggest differences between these three networks. So, check out the table below for more details:

Full-FormLocal area networkWide area networkMetropolitan area network
GeographicBest used for small areas (e.g., apartment buildings or campuses)Best used for larger areas (e.g., country or even the whole continent)Best for large areas (e.g., a city)
OwnershipOwnership is privateMight not be owned by a single organizationOwnership can be private or public
Transmission SpeedThe transmission speed is highThe transmission speed is lowThe transmission speed is average
Propagation DelayPropagation delay is shortPropagation delay is longModerate propagation delay
CongestionLess congestionMore congestion than in MANMore congestion
Design and MaintenanceDesign and maintenance are easyDesign and maintenance are more difficult than LAN and MANDesign and maintenance are more difficult than LAN
Fault ToleranceMore fault toleranceLess fault toleranceLess fault tolerance

How to Set up a Network

To set up a network, you first need to decide which type is the best choice for your business; then, you need to purchase some equipment and follow a decent number of steps. Whether you’re a veteran or a beginner, setting up networks can be a tricky task to complete on your own.

If you want to set up a network on your own or would like some assistance, feel free to contact our team of experts. We will be more than happy to provide you with our services throughout the process or just offer some advice on what network would work best for your business!

About the author

Slobodan Krsmanovic, the CEO of TechProComp, brings over 25 years of deep-rooted experience in the IT industry. As the author driving our insightful posts, Slobodan embodies a steadfast commitment to client-centric service, fostering respectful and secure collaborations across all business scales.

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