Difference Between LAN and WAN

LAN vs WAN
 

When it comes to networking, knowing the difference between LAN and WAN is very important. A LAN is a computer network limited to a small geographical area such as home,office and school while W AN is a network across a large geographical area such as a city, country or the whole world. Internet is an example for a WAN. A local area network uses technologies like Ethernet, Wi-Fi. The characteristics of a LAN is the high speed, fewer errors, ease in troubleshooting , and low cost. WAN are usually based on leased lines hence they are more costly while the speed is less. Also, due to the complexity, the amount of errors are high and maintenance is difficult.

What is LAN?

LAN, which refers to local area network, is the name given to a computer network spread in a limited geographical area. So computer networks found in a limited area such as a home, school, office building can be identified as local area networks. Both wired and wireless media can be used for interconnections where Ethernet over twisted pair and Wi-Fi are the most used methods for LAN. Since limited to a small area, the cost for the network is relatively low. Also, the speed is high for instance gigabit Ethernet can provide about 1Gbps speed. Nowadays, when higher speed is necessary, optical fiber cables are used for LANs, but it is a bit costly. Also, due to the nature of the network, the errors and connection problems are relatively less and troubleshooting is easier in LANs.

What is WAN?

WAN, which refers to wide area network, is a computer network spread over a large geographical area. A network across a city, a country or a network that covers the whole world are identified as WAN. For example, internet that connects devices across the globe is a WAN. A WAN can be used to interconnect several LANs, as well. For example, consider a bank network. Each bank building will have a LAN and across the country there will be several branch buildings. So, the WAN will interconnect these branch LANs throughout the country. The most used method for connectivity is leased lines. A leased line is a telecommunication line laid between two or more locations by an internet service provider on behalf of a customer usually for a monthly rental. Therefore, a WAN is much costly when compared to LAN and also the connection speed is much less when compared to LAN. Also, due to the large distances, errors and connection problems are relatively high and troubleshooting is difficult. Protocols such as PPP, ISDN, X.25, Frame relay, IPv4 and IPv6 are used for WAN.

Difference Between LAN and WAN

What is the difference between LAN and WAN?

• A LAN refers to local area network while WAN refers to wide area network.

• A LAN is limited to a small geographical area such as a building, home, school and office. A WAN spreads across a city, country or even the whole world. Internet is an example for a WAN.

• LANs uses technologies like Ethernet and Wi-Fi. Leased lines are required for WAN.

• The transmission speed in LANs is high. However, transmission speed of WAN is usually low.

• The cost for a LAN is lower than the cost for a WAN.

• The amount of errors in a LAN is much lesser than the amount of errors in a WAN.

• A problem in a LAN is easy to troubleshoot than a problem in a WAN. The maintenance cost for a LAN is much lesser than the maintenance cost for a WAN.

• The congestion in a LAN is typically lesser than the congestion in a WAN.

• A LAN can be created with simple network devices such as switches and hubs. However, a WAN needs devices such as routers and gateways. (But today LANs as well contain several subnets where they will have routers and gateways too.)

• A LAN is usually owned and controlled by a single person or a company. On the other hand, WAN is owned and controlled by several parties.

Summary:

WAN vs LAN

A LAN is a computer network across a limited area such as a home, school and office. A WAN is a huge network , which even interconnects the LANs spread across a city, country or even the whole world. Internet is also a WAN. A LAN is a small system hence it is much faster, less costly, and the number of errors is less. They are easy to troubleshoot and maintain. On the other hand, WANs require leased lines to be laid probably by contracts with ISP and, therefore, the speed is less and the cost is high. Also, since a WAN is a large system, the amount of errors can be high while the troubleshooting is difficult making maintenance more difficult.

Image Courtesy: LAN-WAN Scheme by Gateway_firewall.svg: Harald Mühlböck derivative work: Ggia (Gateway_firewall.svg) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons