ARCHIVED: What is a LAN (local area network)?
Local area networks (LANs) are computer networks ranging in size from a few computers in a single office to hundreds or even thousands of devices spread across several buildings. They function to link computers together and provide shared access to printers, file servers, and other services. LANs in turn may be plugged into larger networks, such as larger LANs or wide area networks (WANs), connecting many computers within an organization to each other and/or to the Internet.
Because the technologies used to build LANs are extremely diverse, it is impossible to describe them except in the most general way. Universal components consist of the physical media that connect devices, interfaces on the individual devices that connect to the media, protocols that transmit data across the network, and software that negotiates, interprets, and administers the network and its services. Many LANs also include signal repeaters and bridges or routers, especially if they are large or connect to other networks.
The level of management required to run a LAN depends on the type, configuration, and number of devices involved, but in some cases it can be considerable.
Last modified on January 07, 2013.