There are many different types of computer networks. Most people are only familiar with the most famous of all computer networks, we call it the Internet. Those who visit our blog frequently will also be familiar with the second most popular form of computer network, we call it a VPN.
There are, however, many different types of computer networks out there. They are commonly divided by their geographic locations. The size of the network can also differentiate it. By looking at the various types of computer networks you will better understand what sort of network you may need to set up. This is especially important for businesses that want to expand, and for individuals who want to create better connections between their devices.
Types of computer networks: LAN Varieties
PAN: Personal Area Network
These are networks built for personal use within up to 10 meters. They use a completely different type of technology to most types of wireless networks, Bluetooth is the most common. There are other PAN Technologies such as wireless USB, and Zigbee.
— zigbee alliance (@zigbeealliance) November 10, 2016
These networks are built for smartphones, tablets, your car, and your wearables in most cases. In almost every case these are completely wireless networks.
HAN: Home Area Network
Pretty much everyone has one of these. This is the type of network you have in your home to which you connect your devices like your laptop, your smartphone, and your tablet. These are commonly very simple computer networks because they connect wirelessly to a central router.
This is the type of computer network that most people are familiar with. They are smaller networks, usually only within one building, but sometimes more. They stay small because ethernet technology is commonly used to connect local area networks.
There are limits to how far an individual or corporation can lay ethernet lines. Once they reach a certain length the speed will degrade. Repeaters and bridges can be used to enhance these speeds over distance.
WLAN: Wireless Local Area Network
WLAN’s are very similar to local area networks, except they use wireless IEEE 802.11 technology. They are very similar in that they have a limited range, but this range can be extended when using wireless repeaters and bridges.
This is different from a HAN because a number of wireless access points will be used to create the network. They will frequently be routed through a corporate VPN in most cases as well.
Types of computer networks: Wider networks
CAN: Campus Area Network
As you can guess, these are most commonly used in colleges, universities, and high schools. They usually feature a central firewall that is connected to the Internet, with a number of LANs attached to it.
The central firewall is what commonly allows admins to block content on the network. You can learn how to use a VPN to get around these blocks at school, or work, if you need to. Or if you just want to…
I love trying to watch @MiniLaddd videos at school and them all saying "may contain inappropriate content"& being blocked.Thank god for vpn
— Skylar |-/ (@_skylar1345) March 29, 2017
MAN: Metropolitan Area Network
This is when we are starting to build a serious computer network. They’re larger than any LAN or CAN. In fact, they typically link a number of these across an entire city. These are commonly built for the free citywide Wi-Fi networks that you’re starting to see springing up.
— Sherryl Wilson (@SimplySherryl) March 26, 2017
They can also be used by businesses with a number of branches or offices in one city. Corporations are good with using a VPN to protect users, cities are not so good at it. If you are going to use one of these networks make sure that you have a VPN connected through it of your own.
WAN: Wide Area Network
This type of computer network is the accumulation of all the LANs out there. You could also think of the Internet as a Wide Area Network if you want. You use your router or modem in your home (your HAN or LAN) to connect to it.
The characteristics of a Wide Area Network are that they use various technologies to connect. The common technologies are:
- Fiber optics
- 4G LTE
As you can see, these are the largest computer networks around. If you are reading this article, you are connected to one right now!
SAN: Storage Area Network
This is used by companies that want to connect to their external storage devices to their servers, But that don’t want to attach them directly. Fiber channel technology is used to accomplish this. Considering that this technology is capable of up to 128 Mb per second, it will allow for fast access to your stored data no matter where it is.
Types of computer networks: Specialty networks
These may sound exotic, but they’re actually quite common. Your smart watch for fitbit is a common example. More exotic ones would be RFID implants and other medical devices that are inside your body. One of them has been around for decades, we called them pacemakers!
These technologies always use IEEE 802.15.6 Wireless network technology. They are very short range, but on the plus side they’re very low power. This makes them suitable for something which just needs to work in the area of your body. Bluetooth technology being used to sync your fitbit to your smartphone is a common use for this.
NAN: Near-me Network
You may not realize it, but you probably use a Near-me network every single day. Have you ever been talking to your friend in class through WhatsApp messenger? The message will be sent from your phone all the way to the WhatsApp servers, and then to your friends phone in the very same room. You may even be on different carriers, but you are still part of what we would call a Near-me network.
While these types of networks are more theoretical than practical, you can still think of them as existing in some sense. The criteria comes down to the proximity of the devices being used to communicate.
VPN: Virtual Private Network
We talk about VPNs all the time here on Best VPN Provider. A brief introduction would be that VPN networks are networks that don’t physically exist. VPNs use pre-existing networks. Devices connect over these pre-existing networks to remote servers which encrypt their communications over the entire network.
VPNs are used by private individuals, as well as large corporations that want to encrypt and protect their data which is sent over any type of the networks listed above. In today’s age of widespread hacking, they are becoming essential.
Types of computer networks: Let’s learn more
We have looked at the most common types of computer networks, but there’s plenty more to learn in the world of computer communications. Take the time right now to read our article which breaks down common cybersecurity jargon and acronyms. Many of these relate to the different types of computer networks, and will make you an all-around more knowledgeable computer user.