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A computer network is a connected system of devices that share information, data, and resources with one another. Devices can vary in complexity depending on the network type; for example, computers or mobile devices that connect to a network.
There are different kinds of networks, each serving a unique function.
Personal area network
Personal area networks (PANs) are the simplest and smallest type of network, which connects devices within the range of a person of no more than around 10 metres. Most PANs are wireless and utilise infrared technology because they only function in a limited area. Devices that connect in a PAN are often small, portable, and affordable.
PAN use case: Bluetooth devices connecting to a laptop or smartphone via wireless or wired (USB) connection, such as computers, printers, and headphones.
Local area network
A computer system that connects computers and other devices in the same location is known as a local area network (LAN). LANs have a range of up to hundreds of metres and allow both wired and wireless connectivity, with radio frequencies being used for wireless and physical cables used in wired LANs. While wireless LANs (WLANs) have become more popular than wired LANs, wired LANs are still the more secure and reliable option.
LAN use case: LANs can be used in both home office and corporate network environments. Employees in corporate environments can quickly communicate, share, and gain access to the same data and services provided by their employers, resulting in little error.
Metropolitan area network
A metropolitan area network (MAN) is an interconnection of numerous LANs throughout a city, town, or region. MANs, like LANs, may connect via fibre optics, Ethernet cables, Wi-Fi, or cellular. A MAN can allow greater connectivity in terms of distance, with fibre optic cables offering the safest and fastest connection.
MAN use case: government entities can configure wireless MANs to provide public network connectivity, for example, free WIFI in libraries or shopping centres.
A campus network (CAN) is a network of interconnected, dispersed LANs. Campus networks extend coverage to nearby buildings in the same manner as MANs, except that they are limited to a range of one to five kilometres, while MANs can cover 50 kilometres or more.
CAN use case: universities or businesses can set up free WIFI hotspots to enable easy network access, or blanket an area with wireless connectivity. Campus networks can blanket a school or university with wireless connectivity, and businesses use CANs to distribute a single standardised network across multiple buildings in a relatively small area.
Wide area network
Wide area networks (WANs) are a connection of multiple LANs that belong to the same network as a MAN. WANs, unlike MANs, are not confined to a limited distance and can be connected to any part of the earth.
WAN use case: A firm with headquarters in Sydney may connect a branch office in London on the same WAN. Employees in both areas can access the same data, files, and programs, and communicate with each other. WANs are the world’s most popular and most extensive network used by an estimated 66% of the global population today.
Content delivery network
A content delivery network (CDN) delivers dynamic multimedia content, such as interactive advertisements or video content, to internet users across globally distributed servers. The main aim of a CDN is to ensure rich media content is loaded onto websites quickly and with reduced latency.
CDN use case: most websites and applications use some form of rich media, known as dynamic content, such as social media posts or videos. As there are vast amounts of data being shared globally every day, CDNs are vital.
Virtual private network
A VPN creates a private network overlay across an existing public network, encrypting network traffic using tunnelling protocols so ISPs and hackers cannot see a user’s IP address or data, effectively hiding the user’s location wherever the VPN server is located.
VPN use case: users can browse the internet without having their activity monitored by ISPs. VPNs allow employees working remotely to connect to their company’s VPN server and access the same files and data as employees physically in the office.
Get the right network for your business with the IT experts
The right type of network for your business will depend on the type of users and devices the network will serve, the use case, and the location. The team of systems engineers and consultants at INTELLIWORX can help you design, improve, and maintain your network environment. Talk to us today and find the best solution for your business.