Local Area Network Details

Contrary to popular belief, Local Area Network doesn’t only refer to the computers connected with an ethernet cable. Local Area Network refers to how extensive the network is in real-life space, which is the size of a building. If you connect every electronic appliance in a building using either a wired or a wireless solution, you create a Local Area Network. The network allows electronic devices, such as computers, printers, monitors, etc., to communicate and work together.

Much like humans, computers communicate with each other to work efficiently. Humans use air as a medium for their voices, while computers use ethernet cables or wireless signals as a medium for their data. Humans use language to understand each other, while computers use communication protocols to do the same. Humans use their brains to store information, while computers use storage modules like hard disks and solid-state drives to store data.

Example of Local Area Network

Let’s say you have a big house with two laser printers and three powerful computers, one for you, and the other two is for your brother and sister. You can buy a bunch of ethernet cable—sometimes called a LAN cable—and connect all the computers and printers using the cable. Voilà! You just created a Local Area Network, specifically a Home Area Network.

Local Area Networks allows users to quickly and easily share data. Let’s say you want to view a family photo you took while you were on vacation two months ago, but the file is on your brother’s computer. With a Local Area Network, you don’t have to walk over to your brother’s computer, copy the file into a flash disk, then bring it back to your computer. With a Local Area Network, you can access your brother’s computer using your computer and copy and paste the files you need without leaving your room.

Okay, you’ve found the photograph, now it’s time to print it. Unfortunately, you just realized that the printer in your room ran out of ink. Instead of going out to buy printer ink, you could print the photograph on your sister’s printer because you noticed she refilled her printer’s ink yesterday. Simply access your sister’s printer from your computer, send the photo, and print away.

Types of Local Area Network

Connection Type

Local Area Networks have two types of connection: wired and wireless. The wired connection uses an ethernet cable plugged into an ethernet port. People often use network switches to help with cable routing. The cable uses the 8P8C port standard, which has eight unique colors and carries different signals.

The wireless connection uses Wi-Fi signals from a router to create a network. A computer can easily join a Local Area Network via Wi-Fi from the master router. Most Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN) use the IEEE 802.11 standard, which operates at 2.4 GigaHertz (GHz) or 5 GHz frequency.

Wireless Local Area Networks are straightforward to set up and modify, but the coverage is limited; concrete walls can significantly reduce the network signal. When the signal is weak, the connection is often unstable. As a result, WLAN is primarily suitable for one-room network setup or home network setup. Meanwhile, ethernet cable setup is harder to set up but is more reliable and easily scalable.

Network System

In a Local Area Network, there are two network system types: client-server and peer-to-peer. The client-server system is very much like a restaurant where a customer orders something, the owner cooks the order, then brings the food to the customer. The server acts as the restaurant owner, receiving data requests from clients (customers), fetching the needed data from their library, then handing the data to the client.

The peer-to-peer system means that every client has the same power and privilege. They have fully shared access to each other’s data. However, the connection length and network structure significantly limit the efficiency of the peer-to-peer system. A well-structured peer-to-peer network system with minimal connection length (ideally one or two nodes to each other) works wonderfully, but scaling it up could take massive investment.

Network Topology

Network topology is the configuration of the computer’s connection inside the Local Area Network. There are four main Local Area Network topologies:

  • The Bus: Every computer in the network connects to a single ‘backbone’ cable that runs along the entire network. It’s the cheapest and least efficient of all network topologies.
  • The Star: Every computer on the entire network connects to one point, which is the server or a network hub. It’s amazingly efficient; however, it’s also the most expensive, and one malfunction in the center could render the entire system unusable.
  • The Ring: Every computer (including the server) connects in a circle resembling a ring. The transmission rate is blazing fast, but it’s relatively expensive, and adding new computers into the network causes the entire network to stop functioning.
  • The Mesh: Every computer connects to every other computer in the network. The wired mesh is unpopular due to insanely high costs. That’s why most people use the wireless mesh network because they’re fast, reliable, and relatively cheap.

Every type of network topology has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Even though it’s heavily flawed, the bus topology could fit perfectly in a small office where space and budget are limited. Even though it’s absurdly expensive, the wired mesh topology could work in a stock trading data system where every millisecond counts.