What is the Difference Between Wide Area Networks and Local Area Networks?

Academy 10 minute read 22nd June 2022

A WAN is a network that covers a wide geographical area. A LAN, on the other hand, is usually a privately owned network that only covers a small area like a home, office, or school. Networks allow for direct digital communications. The internet is a vast network that connects devices worldwide.

Today, the internet is a vital and unavoidable part of most people’s lives. In 2020, an ONS survey found that over 92% of adults had used the internet recently.

What is the Difference Between Wide Area Networks and Local Area Networks - Internet usage

As a business, this means that understanding some fundamental information about internet connections and networks can help you use them to benefit your business. For instance, you’ll have likely come across the terms LAN and WAN if you use digital marketing or provide WIFI at your establishment.

You may have seen the terms LAN and WAN on your router’s ports. This is because the router connects your devices to your modem and allows you to access the wider internet.

Simply put, a smartphone or computer becomes a part of the Local Area Network (LAN) when it connects to your wireless router. Outside of this direct connection, everything else is the Wide Area Network (WAN). So, essentially, the internet as a whole is the WAN.

For many people, the terms LAN for Local Area Network and WAN for Wide Area Network are alien. You likely won’t know exactly what these mean or the difference between them (unless you’re a bit of an IT whizz). We’ll discuss everything you need to know below.

LAN (Local Area Networks)

LAN refers to a group of connected devices in a limited area (typically between 100 and 1,000 metres). A Local Area Network is particularly useful for sharing resources and files. If you have ever had to connect your home or office computer to a printer, you will have done so using the LAN.

What is the Difference Between Wide Area Networks and Local Area Networks - LAN

It is possible to extend the distance by adding more wireless access points to the LAN. LANs are frequently used in businesses such as restaurants, colleges, hospitals, or offices.

Applications of LAN

Some of the most common uses of Local Area Networks include:

  • It allows devices within a set area (e.g., a building) to talk to each other without an internet connection.
  • A computer can be assigned as the server to manage other devices in the network.
  • Any software kept on a LAN server can be accessed by all connected devices.
  • The use of resources such as printers or scanners.

WAN (Wide Area Networks)

The WAN (Wide Region Network) is an extensive computer network. It spans a wide geographic area, unlike a LAN. The majority of wide-area networks are built using high-end telecommunication circuits. Unlike the LAN, a Wide Area Network is relatively expensive and not usually owned by any one organization.

What is the Difference Between Wide Area Networks and Local Area Networks - WAN

Applications of WAN

A Wide Area Network has many uses. These include:

  • Sending and receiving emails.
  • Transferring files.
  • Remote access to update a central database.
  • Reservations made for restaurants, railways, and airlines often use this network.
  • Sharing data and other resources between a business or educational facility.

For instance, if you are a hospitality business looking to connect with potential customers, you need to use a WAN. Wide area networks can facilitate connections like email marketing campaigns. Check out our guide for more information on how you could do this.

LAN vs WAN

When you see WAN or LAN, just know that these refer to computer networks. A network is essentially a collection of computers and other devices that can connect with one another. For example, devices found on a network could include smartphones, video gaming consoles, smart TVs, and routers.

LAN and WANs have different rule systems, which simply exist to help computers communicate and comprehend one other.

A local area network, or LAN, is a small network. It’s common to find it in a house or company. Devices on a LAN frequently use the LANs infrastructure to connect to the internet, although they can often interact more rapidly over the LAN.

For example, when sending a file to a printer on the same local area network, there is usually no reason to do so via the public internet. Instead, the task can be completed quickly using wireless communication, cable connectivity, or both on the LAN.

On the other hand, a wide area network often connects many geographical locations. For example, you would need a WAN to connect to far-flung offices and data centers inside certain large organizations. The very best known example of a WAN is the internet.

A direct comparison of WAN vs LAN

Speed

LAN networks usually offer higher speeds of around 1,000 Mbps.

WAN network speeds are generally slower than LANs and sit at approximately 150 Mbps.

Congestion

LANs have fewer connected devices and very little congestion.

WANs connect many devices and are more congested than smaller networks.

Bandwidth Possibilities

LANs have high bandwidths available for transmissions.

WANs bandwidths for transmissions are lower.

Data Transfer

LAN has high transfer rates.

WAN has low transfer rates.

Connection

LANs can connect to each other over longer distances through radio waves and telephone lines.

Devices on WANs can connect through public networks like telephone systems or through satellites or leased lines.

Faults

There are fewer faults in LANs because it is dealing with fewer systems.

The large number of systems involved in WANs makes them more likely to experience faults.

Costs

LAN costs are usually low since setups tend to involve few devices and maintenance of the network is often fairly simple.

WANs using public networks can be set up relatively cheaply when software is used, whereas one using private networks and connecting to remote areas is considerably more expensive.

Maintenance of WANs is more complicated and costly because of the wide geographical area they cover.

Advantages of LAN and WAN

If you are interested in providing your customers with WIFI access, you will need to rely on both LAN and WAN connections.

One of the easiest ways to ensure your business has safe, secure, and easy-to-use WIFI is with Beambox. Our device can help you set up and launch a guest network (suitable for 100 active users) in just 60 seconds. Visit Beambox to learn more about our plug-and-play installations.

What is the Difference Between Wide Area Networks and Local Area Networks - Beambox users

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