If you have a connection to the Internet at home or in the office, or read the newspapers regularly or keep track of the latest technology trends, you may have frequently come across references to networks. Networks of computers were associated with industries and government bodies just a couple of decades ago. In current times, having a network at home is very common. Both Local Area Networks (LANs) and Wide Area Networks (WANs) are used to provide networking for computer users.
A typical use of a LAN is to provide Internet connectivity simultaneously to all the users in a home with a single Internet connection. All the Internet-capable devices available in the home can be configured as nodes in a LAN and can be connected to the Internet via a computer designated for this purpose. LANs can also be used to connect workstations in an office environment in a similar fashion for providing access to shared resources like printers.
A LAN uses 10baseT twisted pair cables or wireless networking to connect computers to form a network. There are some vendor specific connectivity solutions available for proprietary LAN topologies.
WANs are also made up of networks of computers – the difference between a LAN and a WAN is merely one of degree. A WAN may be composed of thousands of LANs all networked together. A LAN may typically span a building whereas a WAN can cover a wide geographical area, transcending state or national borders. In a LAN, the distance covered is typically of the order of feet in contrast to a WAN where distances are of the order of thousands of miles.
A WAN is implemented by using leased lines provided by a service provider or by using packet switching networks to transmit the data within the network. One of the most well known examples of a WAN is the Internet.