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Computer networks types and sub-types

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A network is a system of interconnected computers. Devices are linked to each other with the purpose of sharing resources. The Internet is a big network that expands globally. Networks are used to provide applications like Email, World Wide Web and Multimedia streaming. Computer networks are categorized by their scale and in this article we'll discuss the types and sub-types of computer networks.


Network types

Networks are categorized by their scale. A local network (LAN) expands throughout a room or an office, while the Internet is a collection of many interconnected networks that expands globally.


A PAN (Personal Area Network) is a network used by a single user. PANs are limited to a range of 10 meters or about 30 feet. Within a PAN, an user transmits data and shares resources between his own devices. For example, a user might:

  • Connect wireless headphones to his smartphone so he can hear music reproduced on it.
  • Connect wireless input peripherals, like mouse and keyboard, to a computer as to control it.
  • Connect external storage devices to a computer through a wired USB connection.


  • WPAN (Wireless PAN networks) which use short-range wireless technologies like Bluetooth and ZigBee. These networks are used to connect peripherals like input and output devices.
  • Wired PAN networks which use USB technology. These networks are used to connect peripherals and external storage devices.


  • Connect wired or wireless peripherals like input and output devices to a computer.
  • Connect external storage devices to a computer.


A LAN (Local Area Networks) network is meant to connect computers within a single building, like an office or home so users can share resources like printers within that space. Devices within the same LAN can easily send messages to each other.

On a LAN, wired devices are connected to:

  • A network Switch which interconnects these devices so they transmit data and share resources.
  • Wireless access point (WiFi), which is connected to the network switch, this allows wireless and wired devices to communicate with each other.

Within a LAN, users can share resources like a printer which they connect to only when needed.

A Router connects two networks together. On a LAN, Routers are commonly used to connect a Switch to an external network. This connection allows local devices to access external resources. A Router is commonly used to connect all LAN devices to single Internet connection, instead of connecting each other individually.


  • Wired devices are connected to a LAN with Ethernet technology cables. This cables go from the device Eternet interface up to a switch. Once connected to the switch, wired devices can message each other.
  • WLAN (Wireless LAN) is a sub-type of LAN networks which uses WiFi wireless technology to connect devices to the local network. Computers with WiFi interfaces can connect to the local network through an access point. This access point is connected to the switch and together they allow wireless devices to transmit data to other wired devices.


  • Share a common Internet connection instead of connecting each device individually.
  • Share access to devices like a printer, users don't print all the time so it makes sense to share a single printer among all coworkers.


Which network type is meant to be used by a single user?

A PAN (Personal Area Network) is designed to work for a single user.


A SAN (Storage Area Network) is a network designed to share storage devices with servers (a computer which provides a service). In a SAN, Storage devices appear as locally-attached devices to the server. A SAN network is a dedicated network, it's separate from a LAN. This separation helps prevent interference in data transfer from other devices transmitting data on a LAN.

A SAN provides block-level access operations to the server, it does not provide data file abstraction. This means that servers have block-level access and they maintain a file systems as if the SAN device is a locally-attached storage device.


A server that uses a SAN network can be used to:

  • Store a database
  • Store a website
  • Host an webapp

among other uses.


A backbone is the part of a network that ties one network together with another network. Corporations use backbones to connect their networks throughout a geographical area. A backbone has higher bandwidth capacity than the networks connected to it.


  • In a building a backbone can connect two networks to exchange information from one network to the other.
  • An office in one city can be connected to another office located in a different city and both of them can share data used by their employees.


A CAN (Campus Area Network) is composed of multiple LANs of the same organization. A CAN network is bigger than a LAN but smaller than a MAN.


A CAN enable corporations and Government to:

  • Connect two or more LAN networks within a building or campus to share resources among their employees.


A MAN (Metropolitan Area Network) is composed of multiple CANs or CANs tied together with a backbone. Together these networks form a large network that extends throughout a larger geographic area than a single CAN does. MAN networks are interconnected through a backbone.


Using a MAN corporations and Government agencies can:

  • Connect an office in one city to an office located in another city so their employees can share resources and messages.


A WAN (Wide Area Networks) is composed of multiple MANs tied together so they can share resources throughout a large geographical region. The Internet is an example of a big WAN network, composed of many other networks that expand globally. CANs and MANs are interconnected using backbones to form a WAN network.

A Broadband Internet Service Provider's network (ISP) is an example of a WAN network. This network is composed of interconnected MANs in which subscribers can message other users through applications like email.

A Mobile broadband Internet service is an example of a WAN network which expands throughout a country and allows users to connect as they travel from region to region. Different Mobile broadband services also get interconnected so users can communicate among different service providers.


  • Governments interconnect their MANs to form a larger network that helps sharing resources among offices in different cities.
  • Corporations connect their MANs to form a larger network that helps sharing resources among different cities or countries.
  • Provide mobile and fixed Broadband Internet service connection to users that allow them to use applications like email to communicate with local and international users.


What type of network can expand internationally?

WAN networks are composed of multiple networks including international networks.


The Internet is a global network composed of multiple WAN networks that follow the standard Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP). It is a big WAN network that expands globally.

The Internet is formed by:

  • Private networks
  • Business networks
  • Government networks
  • Academic networks

Internet users use services like:

  • Email
  • World Wide Web (WWW)
  • Multimedia streaming
  • Multiplayer Video Games


  • The Internet enables users to communicate locally and internationally.
  • Users can access services across cities and borders.
  • Corporations can share resources among all their offices throughout the world.
  • Governments can share resources throughout all its cities.

With this article at OpenGenus, you must have the complete idea of different types of Computer Networks. Enjoy.

Computer networks types and sub-types
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