We already talked about network technology and its importance to the world. One of the most easily recognized examples is different types of Internet, whose implementation is responsible for the existence and rapid spread of social media and globalization, among a wide variety of pivotal advancements. The network plays a key part in data transfer, over short or great distances, within a few interconnected devices or millions across the globe, publicly or privately, for personal, educational, business, any other beneficial purposes. With that in mind, let’s dive right into the types of networks.
These are 10 computer network types used today –
- Personal Area Network (PAN)
- Local Area Network (LAN)
- Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)
- Campus Area Network (CAN)
- Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)
- Wide Area Network (WAN)
- Storage Area Network (SAN)
- System Area Network (SAN)
- Enterprise Private Network (EPN)
- Virtual Private Network (VPN)
1. Personal Area Network (PAN)
We’ll begin with the smallest types of network and scale up as we go. Personal Area Network is designed for residences, home or public offices, and businesses areas. It consists of a modem and devices for use by one individual, which includes desktop/laptop computers and smartphones/tablets. The network also includes wired and wireless accessories and peripherals: scanners, fax machines, printers, headphones, wireless speakers, computer keyboards and mice, etc. Finally, most PANs fall within a range of 10 meters or a little over 30 feet.
2. Local Area Network (LAN)
Local Area Network or LAN is certainly among the best-known network types. It connects a cluster of devices that make up PAN, but also workstations, local servers, locally distributed applications, and low-power gadgets. Unlike PAN, it’s limited to a single system of administration, usually an enterprise or a local company. LAN commonly encompasses a household, office, educational facility, or building but also a group of two or more neighboring establishments.
Wherever it is implemented, its goal is identical – to securely transfer resources or information on the network. LAN is also notable as a low-cost and easy-to-implement networking solution since it only requires cheap hardware: network adapters, Ethernet cables, and hubs. Finally, devices connected to the Local Area Network utilize private IP addresses and very little routing. In contrast, when extra routing equipment is in use, LAN can integrate into WAN.
3. Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)
Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) is technically a sub-type of LAN, and shares practical application and more or less its device utilization. We already covered one of the key standards, Wi-Fi, and how it works, as well as who Invented Wi-Fi. Its latest standard, Wi-Fi 6 or 802.11ax, was approved on February 9, 2021. Wi-Fi 6 will use 2,4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz frequency bands and have a theoretical maximum speed of 9.6 Gbps. Additionally, it has a 4x larger overall throughput and 75% lower latency compared to Wi-Fi 5.
4. Campus Area Network (CAN)
Campus Area Network or CAN combines wired and wireless connectivity to provide networking capabilities and data sharing at the lowest latency without the risk of external access. As such, it is implemented in larger K-12 school communities, colleges/universities, corporate campuses, or companies that occupy a larger area. Furthermore, Campus Area Network can envelop multiple LANs from establishments that are close by. Unlike MAN and WAN, the organization that owns the campus is often responsible for the operation of the infrastructure and equipment.
5. Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)
Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) covers a larger geographic that is middle-grounds between LAN and WAN. The name says it all. It covers a metropolitan area, such as massive campuses, modern villages, or cities, and can interconnect them if they are nearby. Banks, governmental agencies, private businesses, educational facilities, and even the military are the common users of MAN. This network type can also connect citizens with these establishments, as is the case with cable TV, ATMs, or LANs operated by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the area.
6. Wide Area Network (WAN)
Wide Area Network sits takes the crown among the largest types of network. It interconnects multiple smaller networks and spans over vast reaches of distance that are provinces, countries, even continents apart. The most famous representative of WAN is the Internet, which, although not centralized, requires exorbitantly expensive network equipment. So, to make Internet work, multiple private or governmental companies or the public must own, operate, expand, upgrade, and maintain portions of the network.
Other examples of WAN include the last mile connectivity and private networks established by organizations with subsidiaries in multiple countries. Another widely known example is a mobile broadband internet, whose best-known representatives are 3G and 4G. However, its latest standard, 5G (through the Wi-Fi 6 standard we mentioned) unavoidably contributes to the implementation of WWAN (Wireless Wide Area Network).
7. Storage Area Network (SAN)
Storage Area Network (SAN) links two or more storage devices into a high-speed network to create a block-level shared pool of data and resources. This boosts application performance and availability since it’ll be available via multiple file paths. It also makes storage better optimized and more effective. SAN utilizes Fibre Channel (FC) technology, whose rules are dictated by the Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP). And, while it does not rely on LAN or WAN, if need be, it can be interconnected via Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE).
8. System Area Network (SAN)
Although it shares an abbreviation with the type of network above, System Area Network is different. In fact, it only became prominent in the last two decades because of a worldwide grown in processing power. That’s because it links cluster environments e.g., processor-to-processor and server-to-server applications, or even SANs (Storage Area Networks). This allows multiple computers to operate as a unified system at extremely high speeds.
9. Enterprise Private Network (EPN)
Enterprise Private Network (EPN) is similar to CAN, except that it works on a larger scale. The term represents a private network large corporations (hence enterprise) use to link multiple subsidiaries and “children” companies across the globe and distribute resources, data, and information. EPN prides itself on having top-notch security and strict access rules.
10. Virtual Private Network (VPN)
We have tackled the topics of what is a Virtual Private Network, the reasons to use a VPN, and even debunked over half a dozen myths about its use. Since its popularity seems to be on an upswing in the last few years, we even composed a list of top 10 VPN services which includes both free and paid options.