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Most of explanations on internet contend by saying "lan" is over smaller distance, while "Wan" covers wider geography. To make question more clear ?

  1. If two computers are on the same "LAN" what is it that they share in common to be on that single LAN they belong to ? Is it that they share a common router/switch/subnet ? Technically what is that that unifies under a LAN ?

  2. If two computers are on the same "WAN" what is it that they share in common to be on that same WAN they belong to ? Is it that they share a common router/ subnet ? Technically what is that that unifies under a WAN ?

  3. Is single datacenter considered a Lan ?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Wikipedia is your friend:

LAN: A local area network (LAN) is a computer network that user interconnects computers in a limited area such as a home, school, computer laboratory, or office building using network media.

In simple words, what unifies devices on one LAN: they are situated in the same area. Most commonly, one LAN is behind one router (not talking about backup routers and redundancy routers).

WAN: A wide area network (WAN) is a network that covers a broad area (i.e., any telecommunications network that links across metropolitan, regional, or national boundaries) using private or public network transports.

Again, in simple words: a WAN connection is connecting LAN's over a bigger area.

Example: LAN + internet/network + LAN = WAN (when talking about bigger area's)

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There is no 'technical' difference. Traditionally they used quite different networking technologies although that is becominging less and less the case.

The vague distinctions are that a LAN is in one local area, with lower latency, always connected, generally controlled by a single body, a WAN is spread over a distance and expected to have higher latency connections which need to be established (eg. vpn tunnels, dialup, etc.)

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Single LAN for Eg: group of device like pc,printer.. connected to switch i.e Single LAN.

Ethernet is by far the most commonly used LAN technology

if u want to create multiple lan in single switch ,that is the concept of VLAN.


The Internet can be considered a WAN as well, and is used by businesses, governments, organizations, and individuals for almost any purpose imaginable.

WANs are used to connect LANs and other types of networks together, so that users and computers in one location can communicate with users and computers in other locations.

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A WAN doesn't have to belong to an ISP. Even the connection between 2 LAN's (to make a WAN) doesn't have to belong to an ISP. You can also have multiple broadcast domains in a LAN via VLAN's. –  Bulki Feb 17 at 7:12

There are three types of networks:

  1. Enterprise Networks - Enterprise networks basically are the most basic and common networks that exist, these networks have a simple topology, mainly consist of network switches, and router facing the internet connected to the ISP. The switches may vary from layer 2 or layer 3 switches and VLAN configured.

  2. Data Centers - Data Center networks are the second most complex networks, most big internet startups have their own data centers, i.e Google, Facebook. Data Centers have high end switches and routers for optimal speed and performance. In addition technologies such as VMWARE data center virtualization helps in maximizing performance and limiting the physical devices that runs in this network.

  3. ISP Networks - ISP networks are the most complex networks that exist, these networks operates in the WAN or the "internet". It is important to note that the largest WAN is the "internet" and it is a network of networks that is decentralized.

In conclusion, think of a LAN as your home network, a WAN as your ISP.

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