Types of networks

From Computer Science Wiki

There are different types of networks. Common types of networks are wide-area networks (WAN) and local area networks (LAN). Each network type helps us understand the purpose, design goals, and scale of the network. For example if we say a network is a LAN, we can assume it is a local network, probably in one building or in a reasonably restricted area. We might make an assumption that a LAN has a certain number of devices connected to it. However, if we say a network is a WAN, we might assume it is much larger, and designed to accommodate a much, much larger number of devices.

A helpful video[edit]

Types of networks you should be able to identify[edit]

Type of network Characteristics
local area network (LAN) A local area network (LAN) is a computer network that interconnects computers within a limited area such as a residence, school, laboratory, university campus or office building[2]
virtual local area network (VLAN) A virtual LAN (VLAN) is a logical overlay network that groups together a subset of devices that share a physical LAN, isolating the traffic for each group.[3]. This video might be helpful.
wide area network (WAN) A wide area network (WAN) is a telecommunications network or computer network that extends over a large geographical distance. Wide area networks are often established with leased telecommunication circuits.

Business, education and government entities use wide area networks to relay data to staff, students, clients, buyers, and suppliers from various locations across the world. In essence, this mode of telecommunication allows a business to effectively carry out its daily function regardless of location. The Internet may be considered a WAN.[4]

storage area network (SAN) watch this video, please. A storage area network (SAN) is a network which provides access to consolidated, block level data storage. [5] Please don't confuse with NAS.
wireless local area network (WLAN) A wireless local area network (WLAN) is a wireless distribution method for two or more devices that use high-frequency radio waves and often include an access point to the Internet. A WLAN allows users to move around the coverage area, often a home or small office, while maintaining a network connection.[6]
internet watch this. The Internet is the global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to link devices worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies.[7]
extranet An extranet is a controlled private network that allows access to partners, vendors and suppliers or an authorized set of customers – normally to a subset of the information accessible from an organization's intranet. An extranet is similar to a DMZ in that it provides access to needed services for authorised parties, without granting access to an organization's entire network. An extranet is a private network organization.[8]
virtual private network (VPN) A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network, and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. Applications running across the VPN may therefore benefit from the functionality, security, and management of the private network.[9]
personal area network (PAN) A personal area network (PAN) is a computer network used for data transmission amongst devices such as computers, telephones, tablets and personal digital assistants.[10]
Peer-to-peer (P2P) peer-to-peer (P2P) computing or networking is a distributed application architecture that partitions tasks or workloads between peers. Peers are equally privileged, equipotent participants in the application. They are said to form a peer-to-peer network of nodes.[11]


  • Identify different types of networks.