Local Area Network (LAN) Explained

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This Itechguide explains Local Area Network (LAN). The guide starts with a detailed explanation of LAN. Then, it ends with its features.

What is Local Area Network (LAN)?

What is Local Area Network (LAN)?

A Local Area Network is an interconnection of computers and other devices in a relatively small area. In the context of a LAN, “relatively small area” could mean a room, building, a whole office complex or even a school.

Contrast this to a WAN (Wide Area Network) that internet connects computers and other network devices in a relatively wide geographical area.

Basic Components of a Local Area Network

Basic Components of a Local Area Network
courtesy of Shutterstock.com

To further explain this technology, here are the basic components of a LAN:

End User Devices and Servers

One of the components of a LAN is the end user devices – PCs, Smartphones, Mac Computers, Servers and printers. These devices connect to the LAN either via a cable (called “Network cable”) or wirelessly viaa wireless access point (WAP).

Network Cables and Wi-Fi Devices

In the last section, I mentioned that each network device connects to the network either via a cable or Wi-Fi via a WAP. These are the next two next important components of a Local Area Network.

The devices that connect via a cable are said to be wired. However, the devices that connect via Wi-Fi are said to be connected wirelessly. Another name for the network cable used to connect devices is called ethernet cable.

The cables run on the wall into a network switch. Moreover, for the wireless devices, they connect via a device called a wireless access point (WAP). The WAP also connects to the switch.

So, to be sure you follow the sequence to this point, you have your end user devices (smartphones, computers, printers, etc). These devices connect to a switch either via an ethernet cable or a wireless access point.

Routers, Switches and Wireless Access Points

This are the third sets of devices that make up a Local Area Network (LAN).

A switch transfers information from one network device to another – it uses packet switching to receive and forward data packets to the destination device.

Typically a router also sends and receives data (data packets) between network devices. However, it is usually used to connect one small network to another – usually via the switches. For a simplified difference between a router and a switch, visit this link – What is the difference between a switch and a router.

Finally, for this section, a wireless access point connects Wi-Fi devices to other devices via wireless access point.

IP Addresses and Default Gateways

Each device connected to a LAN is assigned an IP address. To make LAN management easy, devices are grouped into smaller groups called subnets. Devices in each subnet communicate with each other via a switch. However, these devices may also need to communicate with devices outside their own subnet.

To connect a subnet to another, you typically use a router. However, a device in one subnet needs the IP address of the router linking it to the next subnet to communicate with a device in the second subnet.

The IP address of the router is called a default gateway. Without specifying a default gateway, a device will not know how to reach another device outside its own subnet.

I hope I was able to successfully explain Local Area Network? I also hope that you found it helpful. If you found it helpful, kindly vote Yes to the “Was this post Helpful” question below.

Alternatively, you could ask a question, leave a comment or provide feedback with the “Leave a Reply” form found towards the end of this page.

Finally, for more internet tech Itechguides, visit our Internet & Networks Explained page. You may also find our Work from Home page very helpful.


Victor Ashiedu is the Managing Editor of Itechguides.com. Before he started Itechguides.com, he worked in IT for close to 20 years. Having done all things tech all his career, he now focuses on making tech easier for others. Victor writes "How to" guides, "Fix it" guides, reviews and buying guides.

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