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Computer Networks – Types & Functions in Details

Last Updated on March 11, 2024 by Abhishek Sharma

Computer networks are essential for modern communication and data exchange, enabling devices to connect and communicate with each other. There are several types of computer networks, each serving different purposes and functions. Understanding these types and their functions is crucial for designing and managing efficient and secure networks.

Types of Computer Networks

  • Local Area Network (LAN)

  • A Local Area Network, or LAN, is a network that covers a small geographical area, typically within a building or a campus. LANs are commonly used in homes, schools, offices, and other localized environments. They facilitate the sharing of resources such as files, printers, and internet access among connected devices. Ethernet is a popular technology used for LANs.

  • Wide Area Network (WAN)

  • A Wide Area Network, or WAN, spans a large geographical area, often connecting LANs across cities, countries, or even continents. WANs utilize public or private telecommunication infrastructures, such as leased lines, satellites, or the Internet, to transmit data over long distances. The internet itself can be considered the largest example of a WAN.

  • Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)

  • A Metropolitan Area Network, or MAN, bridges the gap between LANs and WANs. It covers a larger area than a LAN but is smaller in scale than a WAN, typically serving a city or a metropolitan region. MANs are commonly used by service providers to offer high-speed internet connectivity to businesses and residential areas.

  • Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)

  • A Wireless Local Area Network, or WLAN, allows devices to connect to a network without the need for physical cables. WLANs utilize wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi to establish connections between devices. They are prevalent in homes, cafes, airports, and other public places where wireless internet access is required.

  • Campus Area Network (CAN)

  • A Campus Area Network, or CAN, is designed to connect multiple LANs within a limited geographical area, such as a university campus or a corporate office complex. CANs enable efficient communication and resource sharing across various departments and buildings within the campus.

  • Storage Area Network (SAN)

  • A Storage Area Network, or SAN, is a specialized network that provides high-speed data access and storage capabilities to servers and storage devices. SANs are commonly used in enterprise environments to centralize and manage large amounts of data efficiently. They are often based on Fibre Channel or iSCSI technologies.

  • Virtual Private Network (VPN)

  • A Virtual Private network, or VPN, allows users to establish a secure connection over a public network, typically the Internet. VPNs encrypt the data transmitted between the user’s device and the network, ensuring privacy and confidentiality. They are commonly used for remote access to corporate resources or to bypass regional restrictions on internet access.

Advantages and disadvantages of various types of computer networks

Here are examples of different types of computer networks, along with their advantages and disadvantages:

1. Local Area Network (LAN)


  • High data transfer speeds within a limited geographic area.
  • Easy sharing of resources such as printers, scanners, and files.
  • Efficient communication and collaboration among connected devices.
  • Enhanced security and control over network resources.


  • Limited coverage area, typically confined to a building or campus.
  • Requires additional networking equipment for larger deployments.
  • Higher implementation and maintenance costs compared to other network types.

An office building with interconnected computers, printers, and servers forming a LAN.

2. Wide Area Network (WAN)


  • Covers large geographical areas, allowing connectivity across multiple locations.
  • Enables sharing of resources and centralized management.
  • Supports data transfer over long distances.
  • Cost-effective for organizations with distributed offices or branches.


  • Lower data transfer speeds compared to LANs.
  • Higher susceptibility to latency and network congestion.
  • Reliance on public or private telecommunications infrastructures.
  • Requires robust security measures to protect data over long distances.

Example: A multinational company with offices in different countries connected through a WAN for data exchange and collaboration.

3. Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)


  • Covers larger areas, such as a city or metropolitan region.
  • Provides high-speed connectivity for organizations and service providers.
  • Facilitates the exchange of large amounts of data between entities in a specific area.


  • Limited coverage compared to WANs.
  • Higher deployment and maintenance costs than LANs.
  • Requires coordination with local service providers and infrastructure availability.

Example: A city government establishes a network to connect municipal offices, libraries, and public services for efficient communication and resource sharing.

4. Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)


  • Enables wireless connectivity and mobility for devices.
  • Convenient access to the network without the need for physical cables.
  • Widely used in homes, cafes, airports, and public spaces for internet access.


  • Limited range compared to wired networks.
  • Susceptible to interference from other wireless devices or physical obstacles.
  • Lower data transfer speeds compared to wired connections.
  • Security vulnerabilities if not properly configured and protected.

Example: A coffee shop offers free Wi-Fi access to customers, allowing them to connect their laptops and mobile devices to the network.

5. Campus Area Network (CAN)


  • Connects multiple LANs within a campus or large organization.
  • Facilitates efficient communication and resource sharing across different departments or buildings.
  • Centralized management and control of network resources.


  • Limited to a specific campus or organization.
  • Requires additional networking equipment for interconnecting LANs.
  • Higher deployment and maintenance costs compared to standalone LANs.

Example: A university campus with interconnected networks in different faculties, libraries, and administrative buildings to facilitate academic and administrative functions.

  1. Storage Area Network (SAN)

    • Provides high-speed and centralized data storage and access for servers.
    • Facilitates efficient data backup, recovery, and management.
    • Enables scalable storage capacity for growing data requirements.


  • Higher implementation costs are due to specialized hardware and equipment.
  • Requires expertise in SAN configuration and management.
  • Limited to storage-related functions and may not support general network communication.

Example: An enterprise using a SAN infrastructure to store and manage large amounts of data, such as customer information, databases, and backups

  1. Virtual Private Network (VPN)


  • Provides secure and encrypted communication over public networks.
  • Enables remote access to private resources, enhancing mobility and productivity.
  • Bypasses regional restrictions and censorship for internet access.
  • Cost-effective compared to dedicated private network connections.


  • Slower data transfer speeds compared to direct connections.
  • Requires reliable internet connectivity for seamless VPN access.
  • Requires proper configuration and management to ensure security and privacy.

Example: A remote worker accesses their company’s internal resources securely using a VPN connection from their home office.

Functions of Networking Concepts

1. Communication:
The primary function of computer networks is to enable communication between devices. Networks provide a medium for transmitting data, whether it’s text, audio, video, or other forms of information. They facilitate real-time conversations, file sharing, and collaborative work among users.

2. Resource Sharing:
Computer networks enable the sharing of resources among connected devices. This includes shared access to printers, scanners, storage devices, and internet connectivity. By centralizing resources, networks promote efficiency and cost savings in organizations and improve productivity for individuals.

3. Data Transfer:
Networks allow for the seamless transfer of data between devices. Whether it’s uploading a file to a cloud storage service, sending an email attachment, or streaming a video, networks provide the infrastructure and protocols necessary to transfer data reliably and quickly.

4. Information Access:
Through computer networks, users gain access to vast amounts of information available on the internet. Networks connect users to websites, online databases, and cloud services, enabling them to retrieve information, conduct research, and stay informed.

5. Collaboration:
Networks foster collaboration by enabling multiple users to work together on projects and share information in real-time. Collaborative tools, such as shared documents, video conferencing, and instant messaging, rely on network connectivity to facilitate seamless collaboration irrespective of geographical boundaries.

6. Centralized Management:
Computer networks allow for the centralized management of resources and services. System administrators can monitor and control network devices, enforce security measures, and distribute software updates from a central location, ensuring a secure and efficient network infrastructure.

In conclusion, computer networks play a vital role in connecting devices and facilitating communication and data exchange. Understanding the types and functions of computer networks is essential for designing, implementing, and managing networks effectively. By choosing the right type of network and understanding its functions, organizations can optimize their communication infrastructure and improve productivity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to Types & Functions of Computer Networks

Below are some of the FAQs related to Computer Networks – Types & Functions in Details:

1. What are the different types of computer networks?
The different types of computer networks include LANs (Local Area Networks), WANs (Wide Area Networks), MANs (Metropolitan Area Networks), WLANs (Wireless Local Area Networks), and PANs (Personal Area Networks).

2. What is the function of a LAN (Local Area Network)?
A LAN is used to connect devices within a limited area, such as a home, office, or building, to share resources and information. It is typically used for internal communication and file sharing.

3. What is the function of a WAN (Wide Area Network)?
A WAN is used to connect devices over a large geographical area, such as across cities or countries, to enable communication and data exchange over long distances. It is often used to connect branch offices or remote locations to a central network.

4. What is the function of a MAN (Metropolitan Area Network)?
A MAN is used to connect devices within a city or metropolitan area, providing high-speed communication and data exchange between local businesses, organizations, and institutions.

5. What is the function of a WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network)?
A WLAN is used to connect devices within a limited area using wireless technology, such as Wi-Fi, to enable wireless communication and data exchange.

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