Stands for "Campus Area Network." A CAN is a network that covers an educational or corporate campus. Examples include elementary schools, university campuses, and corporate buildings.

A campus area network is larger than a local area network LAN since it may span multiple buildings within a specific area. Most CANs are comprised of several LANs connected via switches and routers that combine to create a single network. They operate similar to LANs, in that users with access to the network (wired or wireless) can communicate directly with other systems within the network.

A college or university CAN may also be called a "residential network" or "ResNet" since it can only be accessed by campus residents, such as students and faculty.

The two primary benefits of a CAN are security and speed.


Unlike a wide area network (WAN), a CAN is managed and maintained by a single entity, such as the campus IT team. The network administrators can monitor, allow, and limit access to the network. Firewalls are typically placed between the CAN and the Internet to protect the network from unauthorized access. A firewall or proxy server may also be used to limit the websites or Internet ports users can access.


Since communication within a CAN takes place over a local network, data transfer speeds between systems within the network are often higher than typical Internet speeds. This makes it easy to share large files with other users on the network. For example, it may take several hours to upload a long video to a colleague over the Internet, but the transfer may only take a few minutes over a CAN.

NOTE: CAN may also stand for "Corporate Area Network" or "Controller Area Network."

Updated November 23, 2018 by Per C.

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