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What is LAN? Understanding Local Area Networks

What is a local area network (LAN)?

Here’s a brief overview of how local area networks work and why businesses need this type of network. Learn about the different types of LAN and what options are available for those interested in VoIP.

What is a Local Area Network (LAN)?

A Local Area Network (LAN) is a group of devices sharing a common communications line to a server within a specific geographical area.

This type of network can serve 2-3 users in a home setting or hundreds of users in an office setting. You can set it up so that end nodes — such as computers and printers — can communicate and share information and resources within your IT infrastructure.

A diagram of a LAN network.

To set up LAN networking, you’ll need:

  • Ethernet cables
  • Layer 2 switches
  • Layer 3 switches and routers (for larger network setups)
  • Desired devices

What Does a LAN Do?

At its core, a local area network allows multiple devices to share a single internet connection.

And it helps users connect to different internal servers and websites. You can also connect to other LANs that reside within the same WAN. By doing this, your teams have access to all centralized applications, which is especially useful for storing business-critical data.

And since this network allows you to connect to different servers and devices (printers, computers, etc.), you can use it for sharing resources.

To enable these connections, you will need both Ethernet and WiFi.


A diagram comparing LAN vs WAN vs VLAN.

Local Area Network Architecture

Now, from an architecture point of view, you can have a peer-to-peer LAN or a client-server LAN.

Peer-to-Peer LAN — connects two devices using an Ethernet cable. These devices could be workstations, PCs, PC-to-printer, etc. This type of LAN does not have a central server, so each device is equally responsible for the functioning of the network. Devices share information through wired or wireless connections.

Client-Server LAN — connects multiple endpoints and servers to a LAN switch, which directs communication between these devices. The server manages storage, application and device access, and traffic while the client connects to the server through wired or wireless connections.

Types of LAN

That aside, there are 3 primary LAN types. Let’s look at them in detail:

Wired LANs

As the name suggests, a wired local area network uses “wires” such as Ethernet cables and switches to connect different devices, endpoints, and servers to the network. Wired LAN is the most common type used in most offices, since it is often very reliable and performs with speed. However, it is not the most flexible or portable network, making it hard to access from different locations and devices.

Wireless LANs (WLANs)

Wireless local area networks connect two or more devices using wireless connections (such as radio transmissions) within a limited area like a home, school, or office. WLAN uses the IEEE 802.11 specification to share data between different endpoints. WLANs offer more flexibility and cost savings since they don’t require extensive cabling and enable connectivity to different mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, etc.

Virtual LANs (VLANs)

VLANs break up a single switched network into a set of overlaid virtual networks. These networks have different functions and security networks. Large LANs at the enterprise level require multiple hardware and software to work optimally. If all these devices are connected to one local network, applications will experience network congestion and slow down.

This is where virtual LANs come in handy. It breaks up traffic so that it is only received by devices within a specific VLAN and not the entire network.

Using VoIP with LAN

You can use a LAN to connect your VoIP devices to your telecom provider using Ethernet infrastructure. This way, when you place a VoIP call, audio signals convert to data packets and travel from your internal network to your carrier’s VoIP network. It is then delivered to the destination and converted back to voice.

So, you will need a reliable local area network and a high-quality VoIP provider for VoIP calls to run efficiently.

The route you choose depends on your resources and network capabilities. Our tech experts at United World Telecom can help you identify the best VoIP solution for your business. Call us today or chat with us online to learn more!

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