Do You Know Your LAN From Your WAN?

LANs, WANs, MANs, WLANs… OK, this is getting confusing and we haven’t even started yet! So let’s simplify things, and throw MAN and WLAN out the window. We’ll get to those another day. For now, let’s just focus on LAN and WAN. So, do you know the difference between these two types of network?

If you don’t, don’t worry! With rhyming names, it’s easy to get the two confused, so we’re here to clear up the mystery and explain what LAN and WAN are in a way that will be easy to remember (we promise!)


LAN stands for ‘local area network’, and you’re probably more familiar with it than you may think. If you work in an office, you’ll almost certainly have a LAN, it’s what connects all the computers in your office to the server, and it means you can access documents and folders hosted on the server from your own computer, without having to get up and borrow someone else (saves the old legs, hey?). You might also have a LAN in your own home, especially if you have 2 or more computers connected to a printer.

A LAN connects all the devices on its network either by cables or, to keep things looking a little neater, by WiFi. Homes, businesses, schools, and other organisations love LANs because they’re super speedy, and also because they’re pretty small and contained to the organisation itself, which means it’s quite private.


WAN stands for ‘wide area network’, and it operates on a much larger scale than LAN. In fact, a WAN connects lots of different LANs together, a bit like a giant spiderweb network. Now, we can give you an example of a WAN, but we don’t think you’re going to need it. Hint: you’re using it right now! That’s right, the internet is the most famous example of a WAN. A WAN usually involved a third party data carrier, or even public internet, so it’s a little vulnerable to hacking, but generally there’s no problem.

Still confused? Imagine you have an office in the UK, and an office in America. The UK office is all connected via a LAN, and the US office is all connected via a LAN. These 2 LANS are connected together via a WAN, so that both offices can communicate efficiently, like there’s no giant ocean in the way!

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