LAN stands for local area network. A local area network is a group of computers and devices that are located in a specific location. Devices connect to the local network using an Ethernet cable or via Wi-Fi. Your home may have a local area network. If your PC, tablet, Smart TV and wireless printer are connected via WiFi these connected devices are part of your local network. Only devices that you authorize have access to your local network.

A Brief History of the LAN

LANs were first used in colleges and universities in the 1960s. These computer networks were used to catalog library collections, schedule classes, record student grades, and share equipment resources.

LANs did not become popular among commercial organizations until Xerox PARC developed Ethernet in 1976. Chase Manhattan Bank in New York was the first commercial use of this new technology. By the early 1980s, many companies had the Internet ( intranet ) consisting of hundreds of computers that shared printers and file storage at the same site.

Since the introduction of Ethernet, companies such as Novell and Microsoft have developed software products to manage these networks ethernet lan. Over time, these networking tools have become part of popular computer operating systems. Microsoft Windows 10 has tools for setting up a home network.

LAN characteristics

Local networks come in different sizes. A group of devices connected through a home Internet connection is a local area network. Small businesses have local area networks that connect a dozen or a hundred computers to printers and file storage. The largest local area networks are managed by a server that stores files, communicates between devices, and routes files to printers and scanners.

Business office with networked computers
Stefan Schweiheifer / Pixabay

A LAN differs from other types of computer networks (such as the Internet) in that the devices connected to a LAN are in the same building, such as a home, school, or office. These computers, printers, scanners, and other devices connect to the router using an Ethernet cable, or through a wireless router and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Multiple LANs can be connected by telephone line or radio waves.

Ethernet LAN illustration
T.seppelt / Wikimedia Commons / CC by SA 4.0

Two types of local networks

There are two types of LANs: client-server and peer-to-peer.

Client-server LANs consist of several devices (clients) connected to a central server. The server manages file storage, printer access, and network traffic. The client can be a personal computer, tablet, or other devices that run applications. Clients connect to the server either using cables or wirelessly.

Network client/server LAN illustration
Silver Star / Wikimedia Commons / CC 2.5

Peer-to-peer LANs do not have a central server and cannot handle heavy workloads such as a client-server LAN. In a peer-to-peer LAN, each personal computer and device shares the network equally. Devices share resources and data through a wired or wireless connection to a router. Most home networks are peer-to-peer.

Diagram showing the basic topology of a LAN
Javier E. Fajardo / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

How to use the local network at home

A home LAN is a great way to create a connection between all the devices in your home, including PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, printers, fax machines, and gaming devices. When your devices are connected to Wi-Fi, you can share files privately with family members, print wirelessly from any device, and access data on other connected devices.

Home LAN Example
Home Network Median Associates / Cartoon Networks

A home LAN can also be expanded to include home security systems, smart TVs, home environment controls, and smart kitchen devices. When these systems are added to the local network, any system can be controlled from any device and from anywhere in the home.

If you have Wi-Fi at home, you can set up a wireless home network .

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