Difference Between LAN vs WAN

Difference Between LAN vs WAN

It is finally time to settle the difference between LAN and WAN debate once and for all to completely clear up any confusion over this hotly debated subject that has been the source of confusion for many ever since the dawn of modern computing.

You can actually achieve the same series of tasks and end results when using either of these connection types, but the difference at the heart of each lies in precisely how you are able to do so and how they function.

By the end of this post, we are confident that you are going to know exactly where it is appropriate to apply each of these network types and the benefits of choosing one over the other. Read on for everything you need to know.

Definition of LAN

The definition of LAN is a network where a connection is shared across a local area.

In its base form, we can define the difference between WAN and LAN with the fact that LAN networks are frequently used to connect our local hardware devices together and allow devices to speak to one another within the confines of a fairly small space (usually one room).

A typical home or office computer setup based entirely in one room is a good example of a LAN because all of the components included in the network are confined to a small area. Therefore, they do not require wide network capability.

It is fair to say too that LAN and WAN networks visually will always look similar because they rely on the same technology to function. You will always see a combination of wires and potentially integrated wireless components.

When comparing WAN vs LAN in a nutshell, the only real difference is the distance over which the overriding network is connected. The technology used to create the network however is the same for both network types.

Definition of WAN

The definition of WAN is a network where a connection is shared across a wide area.

When reading the individual descriptions, it is quite clear to see how we can respectively define LAN and WAN separately. What can be confusing is understanding precisely why we would make use of these two different types of networks.

One only has to understand the limitations of the components involved in creating a LAN network to understand why it would not be possible to use the same components for a WAN network however.

If we were to apply the same wiring to a WAN network, then we would not be able to transfer data because the range of the components would be too great. A good example is the internet. Specialized cables must be used in order to transfer data over a wider area like across an ocean.

So while LAN vs WAN cannot be differentiated by the way that each network type looks visually, we can easily tell which one is which by the area that a network covers.

Main Differences Between LAN vs WAN

The key differences between LAN vs WAN are as follows.

Basis of ComparisonLANWAN
Distance coveredA small distanceA large distance
Components involvedEthernet cables, wireless receivers, local utilities like printers and scannersFibre optic cables, wireless receivers
Data transfer speedHigherLower
Maintenance complexityEasy to repair and maintainMore difficult to repair and maintain
PrivacyPrivate networkCan be a private or public network
Often used inSmall home or office networksLarge businesses
ComplexityVery easy to set upMore complex to set up
Real-world examplesAn independent computer connected to a printer, scanner, and modem in one roomThe internet or a large collection of computer systems and their hardware linked together to form a larger network

Difference Between LAN and WAN: Conclusion

As you can now see, although these network types share similar components, they both cover completely different types of areas.

One is designed for residential and small office-based computer networks whereas the other is designed to cover expansive areas. Both will allow you to fulfil the same functions with your technology, but their scope is ultimately what sets them apart.

Anytime you need to refresh yourself on the key differences again, simply come back to the quick reference table in the previous section.