LANs and WANs

A network can be anything from two computers connected together, to millions of computers connected on the internet. There are many different types of networks such as LAN, WAN, VPN, WPAN and PAN.

Computer networks - LAN and WAN


A LAN (local area network) is a network of computers within the same building, such as a school, home or business. A LAN is not necessarily connected to the internet.

Diagram of the LAN network


A WAN (wide area network) is created when LANs are connected. This requires media such as broadband cables, and can connect up organisations based in different geographical places. The internet is a WAN.

Diagram of the WAN network


A VPN (virtual private network) is usually hosted securely on another network, such as the internet, to provide connectivity. VPNs are often used when working on secure information held by a company or school.


A WPAN (wireless personal area network) allows an individual to connect devices (such as a smartphone) to a desktop machine, or to form a Bluetooth connection with devices in a car. A wired personal network is called a PAN (personal area network).

Zoologist Bill Sellars explains how he uses networks for his work travelling around the world creating 3D dinosaur models