Making Sense Of Basic Computer Networks

You probably use a computer every day, but have you ever wondered about the complex world of computer networks that allow you to do so many things with ease? In essence, a computer network is a collection of computers and devices that make it easy to share information and resources.

There are vast differences in scale used in networking our computers. Homes use HANs, Home Area Networks; small to mid-sized companies use LANS, Local Area Networks; and large companies use WANS, or Wide Area Networks. While a HAN would be confined to your home area, a LAN could connect all the computers in a building, while a WAN would cover a wider area.

Networks are classified based on a variety of features, like organizational size, topology, communication protocols, equipment used, and so on.

Home Area Network (HANS)

A HAN is a home network that relies on WiFi. You can use it to connect all your computers, as well as peripheral devices like fax machines, smart appliances, home security systems, video games, televisions, digital recorders and telephones. Since you are using so many devices, you might face the challenge of dealing with a high amount of uniqueness. Fortunately, manufacturers like Newnex allow you to order customized solutions to make everything work in harmony. If, for example, you can’t find a USB 2.0 product that works with your network, then you could design your own using Newnex’s USB 2.0 Custom Design Tool and have it delivered to you.

Local Area Network (LAN)

LANs are useful for a limited area. They are used for homes, office buildings, schools, computer labs, and other smaller spaces. Unlike HANs, the focus is more on connecting computers rather than an assortment of disparate devices ranging from smart appliances to home security. And Unlike WANs, you won’t need leased telecommunication lines and LANs have higher data transfer rates. In the past Token Ring, ARCNET and other technologies were used, but today Wi-Fi and Ethernet with twisted pair cabling are commonly used. A LAN will connect computers, printers, faxes, and other devices together. The network relies on the following essential components: a network adapter, a network medium, cable connectors, a power supply, a hub/switch/router, and network software.

Wide Area Networks (WANs)

WANS cover huge regions. It could be a city, a region, a state, or a country. The biggest WAN is the Internet itself! If you have a large regional business, then you would probably implement a WAN over a LAN to make it easier for all the branches to talk to each other. The best way to think of a WAN is as a larger LAN. The difference is in scale, remote access, and cost. A WAN network uses the 3 lower layers of the OSI model, and so it consists of a physical, data-link, and network layer. The protocols and technology used are Frame Relay, High-Speed Serial Interface, Integrated Services Digital Network, Point-to-Point Protocol, Switched Multimegabit Data Service, Synchronous Data Link Control and Derivatives, X.25, and a Digital Subscriber Line.


It’s a mistake to think of WANs as completely different from LANs. It’s more accurate to say that a WAN is a much larger LAN, differing in scale, remote access, and cost.

An article in Chron concisely clarifies this point:

“A WAN is essentially a larger version of a LAN, designed to allow communication over a wide geographical area. Although there is no strict definition of what constitutes a WAN as opposed to a LAN, WANs can generally be recognized by their use of public infrastructure such as phone or cable lines. By contrast, most organizations that use a LAN own all the parts of that network. The internet is a good example of a WAN, while an office network is a typical example of a LAN.”


You should think of HANs, LANs, and WANs as broad categories. These can be sliced into smaller sections, too. For instance, PANs, CANs, and MANs, can be considered as distinct in their own right. PANs, Personal Area Networks, cover all the devices close to your body like smartphones, tablets, wearable devices, etc. CANs, Campus Area Networks, links up an entire college together. MANs, Metropolitan Area Networks, connect up large urban areas. If you think this is confusing, you’re not alone. Network engineers sometimes struggle to avoid making a crazy mess.

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