Common Network Types – CompTIA Network+ N10-007 – 1.5

We use a number of different network types throughout our day. In this video, you’ll learn about the different network types that are used to get our data across the Internet.

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One of the most common network types that most of us are familiar with is the local area network, or the LAN. Now, when we say LAN, we’re really referring to the network that might be inside of a single building or one that spans a group of buildings in a centralized area. We usually think of local area networks as being high speed, because all of the devices communicating are in this local area.

Two common types of local area networks would be ethernet networks and 802.11 wireless networks. If you are using a network that has a slower bandwidth than an ethernet or an 802.11 network, then you’re probably not on a local area network.

If you’re referring exclusively to an 802.11 wireless network, you might want to refer to this as a WLAN, or wireless LAN. Usually a wireless LAN would be inside of a building or a limited geographical area. You can also expand the size of this wireless LAN by adding additional access points. So you could be on a single wireless LAN that might be in a downtown area or in a large campus.

A network that might connect two locations in a large city might be a metropolitan area network. This would be a network that is much larger than a local area network, but doesn’t have the wide scope that you would find in a wide area network. There have traditionally been non-ethernet topologies that have been used for metropolitan area networks, but most MANs these days are connecting locations with metropolitan ethernet. So the end stations would simply receive an ethernet connection on both sides of the connection. It’s common to see metropolitan area networks being used by governments. Since they already own the right of way, it’s relatively easy to put fiber in the ground and connect all of their locations together using this metropolitan area network.

If you need to connect two locations that are outside of the metropolitan area, then you’re probably going to need a wide area network to do that. This would connect devices that are within the same state, the same country, or even between different countries. This is usually a much larger area than a local area network or metropolitan area network, but you also usually have slower bandwidths available when you’re talking about a wide area network. There are many different ways to provide wide area network connectivity. It might be a point-to-point serial connection or an MPLS connection, or you might use satellite communication for non-terrestrial links.

If the company you work for occupies multiple buildings inside of an office park, or you’ve ever taken a class on a college campus, then you’re probably familiar with a CAN, or a campus area network. This campus is usually a group of buildings that are relatively close to each other, at least close enough that you could extend network connections so that all of the buildings would effectively be on the same network. It’s very common in these campus area networks to connect all of these buildings together with fiber and be able to run high speed ethernet, especially when you consider there may be many people inside one building that need to access resources in another building. So it makes sense to have the highest line rates you can between these buildings.

One of the nice things about a campus area network is that you usually have the ability to put your own conduit in between the buildings and run your own fiber. You don’t have to pay a monthly cost to a service provider. You can simply connect two switches at the end of the fiber and now your two buildings are connected directly with each other.

If you’re plugging in a hard drive to your network, you may be connecting a NAS, or a network attached storage. This is a type of storage that allows us to store files across the network on this remote storage device, and we usually refer to this as file level access. If you need to change part of a file, you need to replace the entire file on the network attached storage device.

A more advanced type of storage over the network is a SAN, or a storage area network. With a storage area network, that remote storage device is more of an extension of your computer. We refer to this as block-level access. If you need to change part of a file, you simply change the blocks that have been changed rather than rewriting the entire file on the storage device.

Both the network attached storage and the storage area network require enough bandwidth to be able to support the reading and writing of this data across the network. So it’s very common to connect these types of storage systems over high speed network topologies.

It’s now very common for us to connect a lot of our personal devices together through a personal area network, or a PAN. For example, you can connect devices through Bluetooth, infrared, or NFC connections. It’s very common to do this in an automobile. You can integrate your phone with the audio output inside of your car. You can have a wireless headset that communicates to your mobile phone through Bluetooth connections. And a number of health monitoring devices can communicate to our other personal devices over these personal area networks.