There’s an old saying that says there’s more than one way to skin a cat. While this may or may not be entirely true, it is a fact that there is more than one type of computer network out there. Most people don’t dwell too hard on this, but people in the IT profession are aware that different networks exist.
These networks can also have modifications or features that are included to allow them to function in specific environments. Not everyone is likely to run into all of these types, as some are specialized and feature only in specific contexts. The professionals that buy patch cables and have to maintain the networks, though, can benefit from knowing the differences. So here is a look at the eleven types of computer networks.
Smaller, More Common Networks
First, we look at the three most common networks. Coincidentally, barring a few exceptions, these also tend to be the smallest.
Personal area networks are basic and usually only have a few devices. They require a wireless modem, one or more computers or other devices, and are used by only one person. The purpose is to allow all the devices in the network to be used from a single terminal, and you’ll usually find these in homes or home offices.
Local area networks are perhaps what most people have heard of because they’re the ones that get talked about most often. These are designed to connect multiple terminals and low-voltage devices across a short distance, thus being “local.” In general, the range won’t go any further than a single building or two to three structures that are in proximity. This allows for the sharing of information and resources.
Wireless LAN is a third type, which relies on wireless signals rather than cables. They tend to be slower than LAN and can be prone to interference due to environmental factors. However, they reduce the use of physical cables and open up the possibility of access to a greater range of devices. These include portables that can’t access a wired LAN.
The Bigger Networks
From here, let’s look into larger networks. These will usually be built on the same infrastructure as LAN and WLAN but scaled up to meet specific purposes. New hardware is also introduced, to account for the far greater amounts of data. These also require more than one person to maintain.
Campus area networks are, as the name implies, deployed in places such as universities or large school districts. These will usually be spread across multiple buildings, but the ideal is that these be close to each other. Like LAN and WLAN, their main purpose is to allow for the sharing of resources across all devices. In some areas, a small business might also have a CAN installed, rather than LAN.
A metropolitan area network is a LAN scaled up, though they’re smaller than a wide area network. A MAN can incorporate elements of cabled and wireless and is designed to cover an entire town or city, though larger campuses might also use a MAN over a CAN. A company or local council owns the network and can appoint people to manage it.
WAN is more complicated than LAN, in that the connections are over far greater distances than even in a metro area. This allows for remote connections over one massive network, provided they’re all within reach. These devices can either be terminals with a cable connection or portable ones that rely on wireless access points.
The internet itself is a basic WAN, connecting all online devices across the world. Due to the sheer size of a WAN, it requires multiple administrators and maintenance teams. The hardware is also more robust, due to the sheer amount of data being transmitted at any given time.
Storage area networks are high-speed setups, built for the dedicated purpose of linking storage devices to several servers. The purpose of a SAN is to move storage and data way from an existing network and into the SAN, which is then accessible through drives attached to a server.
The Other Type Of SAN
A system-area network is something new, having emerged only in the past two decades. It describes a network that is reasonably local but built to provide high-speed, server-to-server applications called cluster environments. They can also access storage area networks and accommodate processor-to-processor applications. The end result is that all systems in the network operate as a single entity at high speed.
Enterprise private networks are ones that are specifically for businesses. These are typically “local” in the sense that they are open only to terminals associated with the business itself. They are built to be secure from outside interference, connecting the various offices and locations. Data and computer resources are shared over these networks, allowing multiple offices to operate as a unified entity.
Finally, there is a virtual private network. This one allows users to send and receive data as if they’re in a private, secured network. It runs through a virtual point-to-point connection, allowing for private access to an open network.
There are a lot of network types in use in the modern world. Each one uses has its own purposes and intended users. Some of them are small and temporary, while others are vast and require multiple teams to maintain and manage.
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