Different Types of Computer Networks
PAN – Personal Area Network
A personal area network – PAN – is a computer network organized around an individual person. Personal area networks typically involve a mobile computer, a cell phone and/or a handheld computing device such as a PDA. You can use these networks to transfer files including email and calendar appointments, digital photos and music.
Personal area networks can be constructed with cables or wirelessly. USB and FireWire technologies often link together a wired PAN while wireless PANs typically use Bluetooth or sometimes infrared connections. Bluetooth PANs are also called piconets.Personal area networks generally cover a range of less than 10 meters (about 30 feet).
LAN – Local Area Network
A local area network (LAN) supplies networking capability to a group of computers in close proximity to each other such as in an office building, a school, or a home. A LAN is useful for sharing resources like files, printers, games or other applications. A LAN in turn often connects to other LANs, and to the Internet or other WAN.
Most local area networks are built with relatively inexpensive hardware such as Ethernet cables, network adapters, and hubs. Wireless LAN and other more advanced LAN hardware options also exist.
The most common type of local area network is an Ethernet LAN. The smallest home LAN can have exactly two computers; a large LAN can accommodate many thousands of computers. Many LANs are divided into logical groups called subnets. An Internet Protocol (IP) “Class A” LAN can in theory accommodate more than 16 million devices organized into subnets.
MAN – Metropolitan Area Network
A metropolitan area network (MAN) is a network that interconnects users with computer resources in a geographic area or region larger than that covered by even a large local area network (LAN) but smaller than the area covered by a wide area network (WAN). The term is applied to the interconnection of networks in a city into a single larger network (which may then also offer efficient connection to a wide area network). It is also used to mean the interconnection of several local area networks by bridging them with backbone lines. The latter usage is also sometimes referred to as a campus network.
Examples of metropolitan area networks of various sizes can be found in the metropolitan areas of London, England; Lodz, Poland; and Geneva, Switzerland. Large universities also sometimes use the term to describe their networks. A recent trend is the installation of wireless MANs.
WAN – Wide Area Network
As the term implies, a WAN spans a large physical distance. The Internet is the largest WAN, spanning the Earth.A WAN is a geographically-dispersed collection of LANs. A network device called a router connects LANs to a WAN. In IP networking, the router maintains both a LAN address and a WAN address.
A WAN differs from a LAN in several important ways. Most WANs (like the Internet) are not owned by any one organization but rather exist under collective or distributed ownership and management. WANs tend to use technology like ATM, Frame Relay and X.25 for connectivity over the longer distances.