Local Area Network

Local Area Network Definition

A Local Area Network (LAN) is a group of computers or other devices interconnected within a single, limited area, typically via Ethernet or Wi-Fi.

Local Area Network (LAN) diagram shows various machines connected by LAN cables to a switch.
Image from IT Release


What is a Local Area Network?

A LAN is a computer network that consists of access points, cables, routers, and switches that enable devices to connect to web servers and internal servers within a single building, campus, or home network, and to other LANs via Wide Area Networks (WAN) or Metropolitan Area Network (MAN). Devices on a LAN, typically personal computers and workstations, can share files and be accessed by each other over a single Internet connection.  

A router assigns IP addresses to each device on the network and facilitates a shared Internet connection between all the connected devices. A network switch connects to the router and facilitates communication between connected devices, but does not handle Local Area Network IP configuration or sharing Internet connections. Switches are ideal tools for increasing the number of LAN ports available on the network.

What are the Basic Layouts of Local Area Networks

The Local Area Network layout, also known as Local Area Network topology, describes the physical and logical manner in which devices and network segments are interconnected. LANs are categorized by the physical signal transmission medium or the logical manner in which data travels through the network between devices, independent of the physical connection.

LANs generally consist of cables and switches, which can be connected to a router, cable modem, or ADSL modem for Internet access. LANs can also include such network devices as firewalls, load balancers, and network intrusion detection.

Logical network topology examples include twisted pair Ethernet, which is categorized as a logical bus topology, and token ring, which is categorized as a logical ring topology. Physical network topology examples include star, mesh, tree, ring, point-to-point, circular, hybrid, and bus topology networks, each consisting of different configurations of nodes and links.

How Does Local Area Network Work

The function of Local Area Networks is to link computers together and provide shared access to printers, files, and other services. Local area network architecture is categorized as either peer-to-peer or client-server. On a client-server local area network, multiple client-devices are connected to a central server, in which application access, device access, file storage, and network traffic are managed. 

Applications running on the Local Area Network server provide services such as database access, document sharing, email, and printing. Devices on a peer-to-peer local area network share data directly to a switch or router without the use of a central server. 

LANs can interconnect with other LANs via leased lines and services, or across the Internet using virtual, private network technologies. This system of connected LANs is classified as a Wide Local Area Network or a metropolitan area network. Local Area and Wide Area Networks differ in their range. An Emulated Local Area Network enables routing and data bridging an Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) network, which facilitates the exchange of Ethernet and token ring network data.

How to Design a Local Area Network

The first step in Local Area Network design is determining network needs. Before building a Local Area Network, identify the number of devices, which determines the number of ports required. A switch can extend the number of ports as the number of devices increases.

In order to connect devices wirelessly, a router is required to broadcast a wireless LAN. A router is also required to establish an internet connection for devices on the network. The distance between hardware devices should be measured in order to determine the length of cables required. Switches can connect cables for very long distances.

The setup simply requires connecting the router to a power source, connecting the modem to the router, connecting the switch to the router (if using), and connecting the devices to the open LAN ports on the router via Ethernet. Next, set up one computer as a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol server by installing a third-party utility. This will enable all of the connected computers to easily obtain IP addresses. Turn on “Network Discovery” and “File and Printer Sharing” capabilities.

For wireless Local Area Network Installation, start by connecting the computer into one of the router's LAN ports via Ethernet. Enter the router's IP address into any Web Browser and log in with the network administrator account when prompted for a username and password. Open the “Wireless” section in the router settings and change the name of the network in the “SSID” field.

Enable “WPA-2 Personal” as the security or authentication option. Create a password under “"Pre-Shared Key," ensure that the wireless network is “enabled,” save changes, restart the router, and connect wireless devices to the wireless network, which should appear on the available network list of devices within range.

Characteristics of wireless Local Area Network include: high capacity load balancing, scalability, network management system, role-based access control, indoor and outdoor coverage options, performance measuring abilities, mobile device management, web content and application filtering, roaming, redundancy, wireless Local Area Network Application prioritization, network switching, and network firewalls.

A common Local Area Network issue is a disabled Local Area Network adapter or adapter error, which can be caused by faulty network adapter settings or by VPN software. Typical solutions include: updating the network adapter driver, resetting the network connection, and checking WLAN AutoConfig dependency services.

How to Secure a Local Area Network

The majority of Local Area Network problems and solutions are concerned with the matter of security. There are a variety of strategies for designing a secure Local Area Network. A common approach is to install a firewall behind a single access point, such as a wireless router. Another valuable measure is to use security protocols such as WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) or WPA2 for password encryption on incoming Internet traffic.

Implementing specialized authentication policies enables network administrators to inspect and filter network traffic in order to prevent unauthorized access. Specific access points can be secured with the use of technologies such as VPNs. Internal Local Area Network security can be managed by installing antivirus or anti-malware software.

Virtual Local Area Network Definition

A Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) is a logical grouping of devices that can assemble together collections of devices on separate physical LANs, and is configured to communicate as if the devices were attached to the same wire. This enables network administrators to easily configure a single switched network to match the security and functional requirements of their systems without requiring any additional cables or significant changes to the current network infrastructure. VLANs are categorized as Protocol VLAN, Static VLAN, or Dynamic VLAN.

Importance of Local Area Network in an Organization

There are several advantages of Local Area Networks in business:

  • Reduced Costs: LANs present a significant reduction in Local Area Network hardware costs and efficient resource pooling.
  • Increased Storage Capacity: By pooling all data into a central data storage server, the number of storage servers required is decreased and the efficiency of operations is increased.
  • Optimized Flexibility: Data can be accessed by any device from anywhere via Internet connection.
  • Streamlined Communication: Files and messages can be transferred in real time and accessed easily from anywhere on any device.

Does HEAVY.AI Offer a Local Area Network Solution?

Real-time monitoring of network activity is essential to the security of a network. When linked together, LANs create Wide Area Networks and Metropolitan Area Networks, which are sometimes inundated with data sets that are too massive for the capabilities of a traditional analytics platform. With HEAVY.AI, telecommunications network operators and data scientists can monitor, analyze, and visualize billions of rows of data in real-time to diagnose and mitigate issues, optimize performance, improve the customer experience, and maintain the network’s high standards of reliability.