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7 Types of Computer Networks Explained
February 20, 2019

7 Types of Computer Networks Explained

Technology made a huge breakthrough in 1936 when the first computer was invented. However, it wasn’t until years later in 1969 that the first-ever computer-to-computer link was established. This development was what ultimately paved the way for the Internet-driven world we live in today.

So, what is a network? It’s the connection of two or more computers that are linked in order to share files, resources, and allow communication. The type of network depends on the number of devices, as well as the location and distance between each.

Do you know what network your home or business utilizes? If not, find out by checking out 7 different types of commonly utilized networks in the list below.

1. PERSONAL AREA NETWORK (PAN)

This is the smallest and most basic network that you’ll find. It’s meant to cover a very small area (typically a single room or building). A PAN is most commonly used for one individual and to connect just a handful of devices such as a computer, smart phone, and printer. Probably the most well-known PAN technology is Bluetooth connection. So, next time you connect your phone to your car to play music, you can thank your Personal Area Network!

2. LOCAL AREA NETWORK (LAN)

This is an extremely common and well-known type of network. Just as the name suggests, a LAN connects a group of computers or devices together across a local area. This type of network can be utilized to connect devices throughout one building or even 2-3 buildings depending on the proximity to each other.  Whether your office location utilizes wired or wireless connection, it’s almost surely using a LAN connection. This brings us to the next type of network…

3. WIRELESS LOCAL AREA NETWORK (WLAN)

A WLAN is simply a LAN that does not rely on cables to connect to the network. So, when you’re using WiFi, you’re using a WLAN. WLANs are typically used in the same scenario as LANs, it just depends on whether you’d prefer an on premises or remote cloud solution (wires or wireless).

4. METROPOLITAN AREA NETWORK (MAN)

Larger than a LAN but smaller than a WAN, a MAN incorporates elements of both types of networks. It connects multiple LANs together and spans an entire geographical area such as a city or town (or sometimes a campus). Ownership and management can be handled by a single person, but it’s more likely done by a larger company or organization.

5. WIDE AREA NETWORK (WAN)

Like LANs, you very well may recognize the term “WAN.” WANs do the same thing as LANs but across a larger area while connecting more devices. Even when miles apart, a WAN can connect devices together remotely. In fact, the most basic example of a WAN is the Internet which connects computers and devices worldwide. Since it’s much larger, this type of network is typically maintained by multiple administrators and ownership is distributed across various organizations. 

6. STORAGE AREA NETWORK (SAN)

A SAN is another type of LAN that’s designed to handle large data transfers and storage. This purpose of this network is to move larger, more complex storage resources away from the network into a separate, high-performance atmosphere. Doing this not only allows for easy retrieval and storage of the data but it also frees up space and improves overall performance of the original network.

7. VIRTUAL PRIVATE NETWORK (VPN)

The point of a VPN is to increase security and privacy while accessing a network. The VPN acts as a middleman between you and the network by encrypting your data and hiding your identity. This is a great option for sending and receiving sensitive information, however, using a VPN is ideal anytime you connect to the Internet. Anytime you’re on a public network, you run the risk of being targeted by a hacker, so using a VPN is you best bet at ensuring your cybersecurity.

At Sierra Experts, we provide various networking services from planning and design to implementing and monitoring. After all, at the core of any successful business is a computer network that’s running at peak performance. Even if you think you have a high-functioning, reliable network, it couldn’t hurt to have us check it out. We provide services such as network mapping and penetration testing which can help provide insight on how your network is functioning and what can be improved.

If you’re interested in learning more and finding out how Sierra can help, click here to get started with a free network management consultation.


Sierra Experts is an IT Managed Service and Support provider, specializing in IT Monitoring and Management, Cloud/Virtual Systems, Hosting, VoIP/SIP PBX Trunks and Solutions, Physical Server Hosting, Website Design and Development, Software Development, and Hardware and Software reselling. For more, check out www.SierraExperts.com