What is a LAN and how does it work?
A local area network (LAN) is a group of computers and associated devices that share a common communications line or wireless link and typically share the resources of a single processor or server within a small geographic area (for example, within an office building). Usually, the server has applications and data storage that are shared in common by multiple computer users. A local area network may serve as few as two or three users (for example, in a home network) or as many as thousands of users (for example, in an FDDI network).
Major local area network technologies are:
- Token Ring
FDDI (Fiber Distributed Data Interface)
Ethernet is by far the most commonly used LAN technology. A number of corporations use the Token Ring technology. FDDI is sometimes used as a backbone LAN interconnecting Ethernet or Token Ring LANs. Another LAN technology, ARCNET, once the most commonly installed LAN technology, is still used in the industrial automation industry.
Typically, a suite of application programs can be kept on the LAN server. Users who need an application frequently can download it once and then run it from their local hard disk. Users can order printing and other services as needed through applications run on the LAN server. A user can share files with others at the LAN server; read and write access is maintained by a LAN administrator. A LAN server may also be used as a Web server if safeguards are taken to secure internal applications and data from outside access.
In some situations, a wireless LAN may be preferable to a wired LAN because it is cheaper to install and maintain.
Dig Deeper on Network Infrastructure
Related Q&A from Amy Kucharik
Learn what network latency is in this expert response. Continue Reading
Learn what the true definition of a download is and whether going from one Web site to another falls under this category in this Q&A with Amy ... Continue Reading
Learn about Multiprotocol Label Switching in this Q&A with Amy Kucharik. Continue Reading
Have a question for an expert?
Please add a title for your question
Get answers from a TechTarget expert on whatever's puzzling you.