Stands for "Local Area Network" and is pronounced "lan." A LAN is a network of connected devices that exist within a specific location. LANs may be found in homes, offices, educational institutions, and other areas.

A LAN may be wired, wireless, or a combination of the two. A standard wired LAN uses Ethernet to connect devices together. Wireless LANs are typically created using a Wi-Fi signal. If a router supports both Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections, it can be used to create a LAN with both wired and wireless devices.

Types of LANs

Most residential LANs use a single router to create the network and manage all the connected devices. The router acts as the central connection point and enables devices, such as computers, tablets, and smartphones to communicate with each other. Typically, the router is connected to a cable or DSL modem, which provides Internet access to connected devices.

A computer may also be the central access point of a LAN. In this setup, the computer acts as a server, providing connected machines with access to files and programs located on the server. It also includes LAN software used to manage the network and connected devices. LAN servers are more common in business and educational networks, since the extra capabilities are not required by most home users. In a server-based LAN, devices may connect directly to the server or indirectly via a router or switch.

NOTE: Multiple LANs may be combined to create a larger LAN. This type of network, which can be customized to include specific devices from various networks, is called a virtual LAN or VLAN.

Updated December 29, 2016 by Per C.

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