What is LAN (Local Area Network)?

What is LAN (Local Area Network)?

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Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content
Updated on May 10, 2024 16:43 IST

Local area network or LAN is a collection of multiple devices that are connected at one physical location. Such a network can either be small or large depending on the requirement.


A Local Area Network (LAN) is a network that is confined to a relatively small geographic area, such as a single building or a campus. It connects computers, servers, printers, and other devices, allowing them to communicate, share resources, and access shared services and the internet.

Table of Content

What is local area network (LAN)?

LAN full form is Local Area Network. It is a collection of computers or devices linked together within a single, constrained area, typically using Ethernet or Wi-Fi. A local area network can be small or large, with one or thousands of users and devices. A local area network consists of cables, access points, switches, routers, and other components allowing devices to connect to web servers and other LANs via WAN.


LAN allows users to store data in any system and share it throughout the organization. Because backup files are stored on a single server, file transfer and recovery are simple in a local area network. A local area network allows you to store data in any central computer and share it throughout the organization. As a result, you can use it widely in the following scenarios:

  • Home and office networking
  • School, laboratory, and university networking
  • Interconnection of two computers

Must explore: Types of Transmission Media In Computer Network

Components of a LAN

  • Computers/Devices: These are the end-user devices that are connected to the LAN. They can include desktop computers, laptops, printers, smartphones, and other devices. These devices use the LAN to communicate with each other and share resources.
  • Network Interface Cards (NICs): A Network Interface Card is a hardware component that allows a device to connect to a network. It provides a physical connection to network, translates the computer’s data into a format that can be transmitted over the network, and sends and receives data on the network.
  • Switches: It is a networking device that connects multiple devices on a LAN and directs data to the correct device. When a device sends data to another device on the network, the network switch receives the data and forwards it to the correct device.
  • Routers: It is a device that connects multiple networks and routes data from one network to another. In a LAN, a router is often used to connect the LAN to the internet.
  • Cables and Wireless Access Points: These are the physical infrastructure that connects devices on the LAN. Cables (such as Ethernet cables) provide a wired connection between devices, while wireless access points provide a wireless connection. Both types of connections allow data to be transmitted between devices on the LAN.

Types of LAN 

Client/server LANs and peer-to-peer LANs are the two types of LANs.

  • Client/Server LANs: These local area networks consist of several devices linked to a central server. The server is in charge of many functions, including file storage, printer access, network traffic, etc. A client can be a PC, tablet, or another application device. Clients access the server using either cables or wireless connections.
  • Peer-to-Peer LANs: These networks lack a central server and cannot handle heavy workloads like a client/server LAN. Each computer and device contributes equally to the network’s operation on a peer-to-peer LAN. The majority of home networks are peer-to-peer.

How does Local Area Network work? 

Imagine a small office with a LAN that consists of 10 computers and a printer. The computers are all connected to the LAN through wired connections, while the printer is connected wirelessly through a WiFi adapter.

  • One of the computers, let’s call it Computer A, needs to print a document. Computer A sends a print request to the printer through the LAN.
  • The print request is transmitted over the LAN in the form of packets, which are small units of data that contain information such as the source (Computer A) and destination (Printer) of the data, as well as error-checking information.
  • The packets are transmitted over the network using a network infrastructure, which in this case consists of switches and routers. These devices route the packets to their destination and ensure that the data is delivered correctly.
  • The printer receives the packets and reassembles them into the original print request. The printer then processes the request and starts printing the document.
  • Once the document is printed, the printer sends a confirmation message back to Computer A through the LAN, letting it know that the print job has been completed.

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In this example, the LAN enables the computers and printer to communicate and share resources with each other in a local area, allowing the office workers to print documents and collaborate efficiently. It also ensures that the data is transmitted securely and reliably, thanks to the error-checking information included in the packets and the network infrastructure that routes the packets to their destination.

The topologies used in a local area network  

The three basic topologies used in a local area network are:

  • Star topology: In this topology, all nodes are linked to the Central Node. The devices are not linked and send messages to the Central Node.
  • Ring topology: The nodes in this topology are linked together to form a closed loop. Each node uses a token to communicate with the nodes on either side of it.
  • Bus topology: In this topology, all nodes, including computers and servers, are linked by a single cable known as the Bus. This topology is more straightforward and less expensive than other networks.

For more information on network topology, you can explore the What are the Different Types of Network Topology article. 

Advantages of LAN

There are various advantages of a local area network, and some of those advantages are:

  • Resource sharing: It allows for the simple sharing of resources such as hard disc drives and printers. It lowers the cost of purchasing hardware.
  • Software sharing: Local area network makes it simple to use the same software on multiple devices connected to a computer.
  • High transmission rate: A local area network has a high transmission rate to meet the needs of both the user and the equipment.
  • Control: It is simple to control and manage the entire Local Area Network.
  • Low error rate: The error rate is meager.
  • Internet sharing: Allows all Local Area Network users to share a single internet connection.
  • Centralized data: You can store data from all network users on a single computer. It allows users to access the necessary data at any time.
  • Efficient communication: You can easily share messages and data between computers connected to the network.
  • Increase productivity: LANs increase productivity by improving information storage, retrieval, and other functions.
  • Less expensive: It is not prohibitively expensive.
  • Simple protocol installation: It is simple to set up a security protocol to protect local area network users from hackers.


Some of the disadvantages of a local area network are:

  • Covers finite area: Local area network only covers a small geographical area, such as an office, building, or home.
  • Low privacy: A local area network administrator can see every LAN user’s data files and internet history.
  • High maintenance: Requires frequent maintenance and upgrades by expert technicians.
  • Long printing queues: If printing is too slow, long print queues may form.
  • Low security: A virus spreads more easily in this network than in any other network.
  • Degrading performance: As the number of users increases, network performance suffers.
  • Complex architecture setup: Setting up local area network architecture is difficult.

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In this article, we covered LAN (Local Area Network) in great depth, including topics such as types of LAN, working of LAN, LAN topologies, advantages, disadvantages, etc.


What are the three characteristics of a LAN?

The three main characteristics of LAN are that it uses specially laid transmission media for networking, provides a high data transfer rate, and is highly reliable.

Which of the following devices is only used in LAN?

A router is a local area network (LAN) network device.

How many different kinds of LAN are there?

Client/Server LANs and Peer-to-Peer LANs are the two main types of LANs.

What is the function of LAN?

The goal of a LAN is to connect computers in a specific area and provide shared access to printers, file servers, and other services.

What are the benefits of LAN?

LAN has various advantages and some of those are: Low-cost transmission media It is used for high-speed data transmission. The transmission of network data is independent of the connected devices' rates

What types of LAN cables are there?

There are three main types of LAN cables including fiber optic cables, coaxial and copper twisted pair.

What is the difference between LAN and WAN?

While a LAN connects devices in a limited area, a Wide Area Network (WAN) connects multiple LANs over a larger geographical area, such as a city, country, or the world.

What are the types of LAN?

LANs can be wired (using Ethernet cables) or wireless (using Wi-Fi). Ethernet LANs are faster and more reliable, while Wi-Fi LANs offer mobility and convenience.

About the Author
Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content

Anshuman Singh is an accomplished content writer with over three years of experience specializing in cybersecurity, cloud computing, networking, and software testing. Known for his clear, concise, and informative wr... Read Full Bio