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Types of Computer Networks

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  • Difficulty Level : Expert
  • Last Updated : 16 Jun, 2021
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Internet is a global network comprised of smaller networks that are interconnected using standardized communication protocols. With the help of the internet, we can communicate in any part of the world, access any kind of information, and do a lot more. The first workable prototype of the Internet was found in the late 1960s when the U.S. department of defense funded ARPANET(Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). With the use of a packet switching network, communication was established between two computers(one located at the research lab in UCLA and the second at Stanford). The aim was to send a message “LOGIN” but only two letters “LO” were received as the ARPA network crashed midway, but this eventually brought the biggest reforms in the computing world.

Now, to communicate over the Internet we need a network. A network is a group of computers that are connected to each other and facilitate the transfer of information among them.

Types of Network:

There are various types of networks available. Broadly classifying them on the basis of size, distance, and structure, they are of 11 types:

  1. Personal Area Network or PAN
  2. Local Area Network or LAN
  3. Wireless Local Area Network or WLAN
  4. Metropolitan Area Network or MAN
  5. Campus Area Network or CAN 
  6. Wide Area Network or WAN
  7. Storage Area Network or SAN
  8. Passive Optical Local Area Network or POLAN
  9. Enterprise Private Network or EPN
  10. Virtual Private Network or VPN
  11. System Area Network (also referred as SAN)

Now we discuss each of these networks in detail:

1. PAN(Personal Area Network): The first and most basic type of network is PAN or Personal Area Network. It consists of interconnected devices at an individual’s workspace. It has a very small range, i.e. 10 meters approximately. For example, consider your computer connected to a printer, your laptop, and your phone with help of a wireless modem. This will be known as a personal area network. 

2. LAN(Local Area Network): LAN or Local Area Network consists of a network of computers within a small building, say an office, a school building, an organization, or an institution. The size of LAN is small. It consists of all devices that are connected to a central device called a hub or a switch with the help of coaxial cables, twisted pairs, etc. It is confined to a relatively smaller area. LAN has a range of approximately 1km.

3. WLAN(Wireless Local Area Network): Wireless Local Area Network or WLAN is a type of LAN that uses Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi). This type of network does not require physical cables or wires to connect to a network. Generally, WLAN is based on IEEE 802.11 standards. It is easy to install and use and provides high-speed connectivity. WLANs are more popularly used in the home and are also used in commercial workplaces such as hotels, hospitals, or offices. 

4. MAN(Metropolitan Area Network): A metropolitan area network is a network connection within a city or offices of an organization or institution etc. It geographically covers a larger area than a LAN and lesser than a WAN. A network in a range of 50 kilometers is said to be a MAN. MAN can be wired or wireless. A MAN is established using optical fiber cables. It is a costly network. It is usually designed to provide high-speed connectivity. The best example of a MAN will be a cable TV network of a city. Another example can be – say an organization A has 50 offices in a city. A network connection of organization A will be a MAN.

5. CAN(Campus Area Network): This network is larger than a LAN and smaller than a MAN. This type of network is owned by the college, universities, corporate campuses and can be accessed within the campus area. CAN cover a range of 1 km to 5 km. CAN can be wired or wireless. CAN is also called Corporate Area Network.

6. WAN(Wide Area Network): A wide area network consists of several LAN and MAN networks connected together. It covers a very large geographical area. Its range is more than 100 kilometers. It may be within a country, across the country, or even the entire world. It is a very complex network. Example of WAN is-INTERNET. It is a very costly network and cannot be owned by an individual organization. WAN is difficult to maintain due to its complexity. 

7. SAN(Storage Area Network): This network is a high-speed, dedicated and independent network that provides block-level storage of data. It also referred as network behind the servers. It is a combination of hardware and software. Within SAN storage devices are interconnected. SANs are dedicated networks for data storage. It also allows for the automatic backup of data, and the monitoring of storage as well as the backup process.

8. POLAN(Passive Optical Local Area Network): It is a fiber-optic telecommunications technology network that has replaced the traditional structured telecommunication network that made use of cable and switches. It is a form of a fiber-optic access network and first proposed by British Telecommunications in 1987. It implements a point-to-multipoint topology.

9. EPN(Enterprise Private Network): It is a private network owned by an enterprise that allows protected and secured data transfer and sharing of resources. It is built by companies and it has the main objective to provide security. EPN is a cost-effective and scalable network and used by IT professionals to visually document the topology and design of computer and telecommunication networks.

10. VPN(Virtual Private Network): A Virtual Private Network is an encrypted and protected private network over the internet. VPN allows users to send and receive data across shared or public networks by extending a private network. It creates a virtual point-to-point connection through which a user can access a private network. The VPN security model provides confidentiality, sender authentication, and message integrity.

11. SAN(System Area Network): System Area Network is a dedicated high-performance, high speed, and connection-oriented network, that can link a cluster of computers. It is used in parallel computing environments such as scientific applications, database server clusters, and file server clusters. SAN allows data transfer at low error rates, high bandwidth(1 Gb per sec), and low latency. Most companies consider SAN as a viable option for data storage.

Sample Questions

Question 1. What are the types of area network? 


There are basically four types of area network:

  1. Personal Area Network or PAN
  2. Local Area Network or LAN
  3. Metropolitan Area Network or MAN
  4. Wide Area Network or WAN

Question 2. What is Internet? 


The Internet is a global network comprised of smaller networks that are interconnected using standardized communication protocols. With the help of the internet, we can communicate with people in any part of the world, or access information, or watch videos, etc.

Question 3. What is a network?


A network is a group of computers that are connected to each other and facilitate the transfer data or information from one computer to another.

Question 4. What is the full form of VPN?


The full form of VPN is Virtual Private Network

Question 5. Differentiate LAN and WLAN.




It stands for Local Area Network.It stands for Wireless Local Area Network.
It includes both wired and wireless connection.It provides complete wireless connection.
It is a secure network.It is not an secure network.
It is less expensive.It is more expensive.
Its mobility is limited.Its mobility is outstanding.
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