What is the LAN? The definition and use of a local network

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Judit Llordés
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LAN stands for local network. A LAN is a group of computers and devices that are located in a specific location. Devices connect to the LAN with an Ethernet cable or via Wi-Fi. Your home may have a LAN. If your PC, tablet, smart TV and wireless printer connect via Wi-Fi, these connected devices are part of the LAN. Only authorized devices that have access to your LAN.

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A brief history of the LAN

LANs were first used by colleges and universities in the 60s. These computer networks have been used to catalog library collections, schedule courses, record student grades, and share resources.

LANs did not become popular with business organizations until Xerox PARC developed Ethernet in 1976. Chase Manhattan Bank in New York was the first commercial use of this new technology. In the early 80s, many companies had an Internet (intranet) made up of hundreds of computers that shared printers and file storage on a single site.

After the release of Ethernet, companies such as Novell and Microsoft developed software products to manage these Ethernet LANs. Over time, these networking tools have become part of the most popular computer operating systems. Microsoft Windows 10 has tools for setting up a home network.

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Characteristics of a LAN

LANs are available in different sizes. A group of devices connected via a home internet connection is a LAN. Small businesses have LANs that connect a dozen or a hundred computers with printers and file storage. Larger LANs are controlled by a server that stores files, shares data between devices, and routes files to printers and scanners.

A LAN differs from other types of computer networks (such as the Internet) in that the devices connected to the LAN are located in the same building as a home, school or office. These computers, printers, scanners, and other devices connect to a router with an Ethernet cable or through a wireless router and Wi-Fi access point. It is possible to connect multiple LANs on a telephone line or a radio wave.

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Two types of local networks

There are two types of LANs: client / server LAN and peer-to-peer LAN.

Client / server LANs consist of several devices (clients) connected to a central server. The server manages file storage, printer access, and network traffic. A client can be a personal computer, tablet, or other device running applications. Clients connect to the server via cables or via a wireless connection.

Peer-to-peer LANs do not have a central server and cannot handle heavy workloads such as a client / server LAN. On a peer-to-peer LAN, every personal computer and device share equally in the execution of the network. Devices share resources and data via a wired or wireless connection to a router. Most home networks are peer-to-peer.

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How to use a LAN at home

A home LAN is a great way to create a connection between all devices in the home, including PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, printers, fax machines, and gaming devices. When your devices are connected to your Wi-Fi, you can share files privately with family members, print wirelessly from any device, and access data on other connected devices.

A home LAN can also be expanded to include home security systems, smart TVs, home environment controls, and smart kitchen devices. When these systems are added to the LAN, each system can be controlled from any device and location in the home.

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Further Reading:

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  • Slow internet connection, 7 solutions

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