Local Area Network (LAN)

A Local Area Network is a network confined to one building or site.
Often a LAN is a private network belonging to an organisation or business.

Because LANs are geographically small, they usually use cables or low-power radio (wireless) for the connections.
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Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)

A wireless LAN (WLAN) is a LAN that uses radio signals (WiFi) to connect computers instead of cables.

At the centre of the WLAN is a wireless switch or router - a small box with one or two antennas sticking out the back - used for sending and receiving data to the computers. (Most laptops have a wireless antenna built into the case.)

It is much more convenient to use wireless connections instead of running long wires all over a building.
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However, WLANs are more difficult to make secure since other people can also try to connect to the wireless network. So, it is very important to have a good, hard-to-guess password for the WLAN connections.
Typically, the range of a wireless connection is about 50m, but it depends how many walls, etc. are in the way.

Wide Area Network (WAN)

A Wide Area Network is a network that extends over a large area.

A WAN is often created by joining several LANs together, such as when a business that has offices in different countries links the office LANs together.

Because WANs are often geographically spread over large areas and links between computers are over long distances, they often use quite exotic connections technologies: optical fibre (glass) cables, satellite radio links, microwave radio links, etc.
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The Internet is an example of a global WAN .In fact it is the world’s largest WAN.

Computers on the International Space Station are linked to the Internet, so the you could say the the Internet is now the first off-planet WAN!

Bluetooth (Personal Area Network)

Bluetooth is a wireless networking technology designed for very short-range connections (typically just a few metres).

The idea of Bluetooth is to get rid of the need for all of those cables (e.g. USB cables) that connect our computer to peripheral devices such as printers, mice, keyboards, etc.

Bluetooth devices contain small, low-power radio transmitters and receivers. When devices are in range of other Bluetooth devices, they detect each other and can be 'paired' (connected)
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Typical uses of Bluetooth:
  • Connecting a wireless keyboard to a computer
  • Connecting a wireless mouse to a computer
  • Using a wireless headset with a mobile phone
  • Printing wirelessly from a computer or PDA
  • Transferring data / music from a computer to an MP3 player
  • Transferring photos from a phone / camera to another device
  • Synchronising calendars on a PDA and a computer
Because Bluetooth networking only works over very short distances, and with devices belonging to one user, this type of network is sometimes called a 'Personal Area Network'

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