Last Updated on August 3, 2023 by Mayank Dham
In today’s interconnected world, computer networks play a pivotal role in facilitating seamless communication and data exchange. Area Networks, or ANs, are a vital component of this landscape, defining the scope and geographical coverage of a network. These networks are classified based on their geographic size and the extent of their coverage. From small-scale local networks to sprawling wide-area networks spanning continents, each such types of Area Networks serves specific purposes, catering to diverse business, academic, and individual needs.
In this article, we will explore the various types of Area Networks, shedding light on their unique characteristics, advantages, and applications. Whether you’re a tech enthusiast seeking to expand your networking knowledge or a professional looking to optimize your organization’s network infrastructure, this article will provide valuable insights into the world of Local Area Networks (LANs), Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs), and Wide Area Networks (WANs). Before moving to the types of area networks, let’s understand what is area network?
What are the Area Networks?
Computers can connect to the Network and communicate with one another through any medium. The three main types of networks for operating over the area they cover are LAN, MAN, and WAN. Both of their differences and commonalities exist. LAN covers the smallest area, MAN covers an area greater than LAN, and WAN encompasses the largest area of all. This is one of their main differences.
There are some other types of computer networks, including:
- PAN (Personal Area Network)
- SAN (Storage Area Network)
- EPN (Enterprise Private Network)
- VPN (Virtual Private Network)
Let’s discuss all the types of Area Networks one by one.
Types of Area Networks
There are several types of area networks, we will see the difference between them.
Personal Area Network (PAN)
An interconnected system of personal technology gadgets known as a PAN allows users to communicate quickly over small distances. It doesn’t extend much beyond 10 meters, or 33 feet. In comparison to other networks like LAN, WAN, etc., PAN has less users. PAN frequently makes use of wireless technology. PAN involves the transfer of data between electronic devices, including tablets, laptops, and smartphones.
Advantages of PAN
- enables simple connection between nearby personal devices.
- can be quickly and easily set up.
- utilizes wireless technology to do away with the need for cords and wires.
- PANs are created to be energy-efficient, allowing devices to communicate without rapidly depleting their batteries.
- Authentication and encryption mechanisms are frequently used to safeguard PANs, preventing unauthorized access to data and resources.
Disadvantages of PAN
- limited region of coverage.
- A large-scale data transfer or communication may not be appropriate.Because PANs often have constrained bandwidth, they might not be able to manage heavy data loads or fast transmission.
- interference from other wireless devices is a possibility.
Local Area Network (LAN)
A Local Area Network (LAN) facilitates the connection of network devices, enabling personal computers and workstations to share data, tools, and programs. These devices are linked together using switches, forming a private addressing scheme defined by the TCP/IP protocol. Private addresses ensure uniqueness within the local network. LANs cover smaller geographical areas, typically limited to a few kilometers, and are privately owned, making them ideal for office buildings, homes, hospitals, schools, and more.
Data transmission within LANs is rapid due to the limited number of connected computers. High-speed and cost-effective hardware such as hubs, network adapters, and Ethernet cables are used to establish connections. LANs are easy to design and maintain, utilizing communication mediums like twisted-pair cables and coaxial cables, which minimize errors and noise.
Today’s LANs offer significantly faster data rates, usually at 100 or 1000 Mbps, compared to early LANs with data rates in the 4 to 16 Mbps range. Propagation delay is minimal in LANs. While some LANs may consist of just two computers, larger LANs can accommodate thousands of devices, covering a range of up to 2 km. Wired connections are commonly employed in LANs for enhanced speed and security, although wireless connections can also be integrated.
LANs offer high fault tolerance and experience less congestion, making them suitable for activities like local gaming sessions without internet connectivity, such as a group of students playing Counter-Strike in the same room.
Advantages of LAN
- provides high-speed connection and quick data transmission speeds.
- Simple to set up and control.
- Shareable peripherals like printers and scanners are available.
- compares favorably to WANs in terms of security and fault tolerance.
Disadvantages of LAN
- a small geographic scope.
- Limited scalability; upgrading infrastructure to support growth may be necessary.
- With greater usage, the network may face congestion and performance problems.
Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)
A LAN covers a smaller area than a MAN, or metropolitan area network, does, and a WAN covers a greater region. 5–50 km is the range of MAN. It links two or more distant computers that may be located in the same city or in other cities. It can act as an ISP (Internet Service Provider) and serves a sizable geographic area. Customers who require high-speed connectivity can use MAN. MAN speeds vary in units of Mbps. Designing and maintaining a metropolitan area network is challenging.
A MAN has less fault tolerance, and the network is also more congested. It is expensive and might or might not be owned by a single company. MAN has a moderate data transfer rate and propagation delay. Data is transmitted through wire/cable and a modem through MAN. A cable TV network in a city or a component of the telephone company’s network that can offer a customer a high-speed DSL connection are examples of MANs.
Advantages of MAN
- offers faster connectivity than LAN over a greater geographic area.
- can serve as an ISP for numerous clients.
- offers, in certain situations, data transfer speeds that are higher than WAN.
Disadvantages of MAN
- can be expensive to install and keep maintained.
- With greater usage, the network may face congestion and performance problems.
- Compared to LANs, may not offer as much security and fault tolerance.
Wide Area Network (WAN)
Wide Area Network (WAN) refers to a computer network that spans a large geographical area, extending beyond the boundaries of a state or country. Covering distances above 50 km, WANs connect Local Area Networks (LANs) to other LANs via telephone lines or radio waves. They can be restricted to an enterprise or made accessible to the public. WAN technology is characterized by high-speed data transmission but comes with relatively higher costs.
There are two main types of WANs: Switched WAN and Point-to-Point WAN. Designing and maintaining a WAN can be challenging, akin to a Metropolitan Area Network (MAN), WANs have lower fault tolerance and experience more network congestion. The communication medium used for WAN includes Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) or Satellite Links, contributing to longer-distance transmission and potentially more noise and errors.
The data rate of WANs is slower, about a 10th of LANs’ speed, due to increased distances and the involvement of multiple servers and terminals. The WAN speed ranges from a few kilobits per second (Kbps) to megabits per second (Mbps). WANs face propagation delays, which can be a significant issue.
Devices like optic wires, microwaves, and satellites are used for data transmission through WAN. An example of Switched WAN is the asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) network, while Point-to-Point WAN includes dial-up lines that connect home computers to the Internet.
Advantages of WAN
- connects faraway locations and a wide geographic area.
- connects users to the internet.
- provides programmes and resources for remote access.
- is capable of supporting numerous users and applications at once.
Disadvantages of WAN
- Can be expensive to set up and maintain.
- Offers slower data transfer rates than LAN or MAN.
- May experience higher latency and longer propagation delays due to longer distances and multiple network hops.
- May have lower fault tolerance and security compared to LANs.
In conclusion, understanding the different types of Area Networks (ANs) is essential for building efficient and reliable communication infrastructures. Local Area Networks (LANs) facilitate seamless data sharing and resource utilization within a confined area, making them ideal for homes, offices, and educational institutions. Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) bridge the gap between LANs and Wide Area Networks (WANs), connecting multiple LANs within a city or metropolitan region. WANs, on the other hand, cover vast geographic areas, enabling long-distance communication and connecting remote locations.
Each type of Area Network comes with its unique advantages and limitations. LANs offer high-speed data transfer and ease of setup, while MANs enhance communication within metropolitan regions. WANs provide global connectivity, but their complexity and cost require careful design and management.
From personal use to enterprise-level applications, ANs play a critical role in today’s interconnected world, fostering seamless communication and data exchange. By understanding the features and applications of each type, organizations can make informed decisions to optimize their networking infrastructure for enhanced productivity and efficiency.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) on Types of Area Networks:
Here are some FAQs on different types of area networks.
1. What is a Local Area Network (LAN)?
A Local Area Network (LAN) is a network that connects devices within a limited geographic area, such as a building or campus. LANs enable efficient data sharing and resource utilization among connected devices.
2. What is a Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)?
A Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) is a network that covers a larger geographic area than LANs but is smaller than Wide Area Networks (WANs). MANs connect multiple LANs within a city or metropolitan region.
3. What is a Wide Area Network (WAN)?
A Wide Area Network (WAN) is a network that spans a vast geographical area, connecting multiple cities, countries, or continents. WANs enable long-distance communication and data exchange between remote locations.
4. What are the advantages of LANs?
LANs offer resource sharing, high-speed data transfer, cost-effectiveness, and private communication within a localized area. They are easy to design and maintain, making them suitable for various applications.
5. What are the uses of MANs?
MANs are commonly used in urban areas to connect different LANs within the city. They are employed for interconnecting offices, campuses, and data centers, enabling efficient data exchange.
6. What are the challenges of WANs?
WANs present challenges in terms of design and maintenance due to their larger scale and complexity. They may experience more network congestion and higher costs compared to LANs.