What's the Difference Between LAN and WAN?

IT Careers

The largest wide area network (WAN) is probably at your fingertips right now! Did you know that if you access the internet, you’re on a WAN?

WANs cover large geographic areas, connecting the computers and telecommunication devices of cities, towns, states and even countries. They can be privately owned and used by companies doing business across the country or the world. Or they can be the huge communications networks that provide your cable and cellphone service.

The three components all WANs have in common are 1) a transmission medium, 2) electrical signals, and 3) data links protocols. Does that sound confusing? It’s not. A transmission medium is just what takes the electrical signal from one point to another. It can be a copper wire like the kind used in telephone lines and cables or more contemporary fiber optics. Or it can be wireless like the communication that occurs through radio frequencies and Blue Tooth devices. And data link protocols are how the data get transferred between networks.

Local area networks (LAN), like their name suggests, are much smaller. If you have a home computer connected to a printer, that’s a really small LAN. But if you work in an office, your computer is probably part of a bigger LAN. It’s connected to other computers in your company and a central server. The server has storage and applications that allow multiple users to access the same data and resources. Even when LANs are owned and managed by a single company, they often connect with other LANs through WANs. Just think about the internet again. If you run searches and send emails, from your individual work computer, you’re using both an LAN and a WAN.

LANs and WANs have different speeds and use different connections, components and technologies, but they’re both under the umbrella of Information Technology. Have you ever considered a career in IT? At Career Quest Learning Centers, you could become proficient in a wide range of technology applications in our Network Administrator diploma program or earn your Associate of Applied Science Degree in Network Administration. Find out more now by calling us in Jackson at 877-365-8144 or in Lansing at 877-481-4930.



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