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Local Area Network

A Local Area Network (LAN) is computer network that spans a relatively small area such as in an office building, in a shop, in a school, or at home, and it allows sharing resources like files, printers, and applications.

Most of the LANs we see today are confined to a single building or group of buildings located within a small area. One may connect a LAN with another LAN over any distance using a telephone line or a terrestrial leased line or a microwave link. When more than one LANs are connected in this way, it is called a wide area network or WAN.
The computers connected on a LAN use its own CPU for processing or execute programs, and also are able to access data and other resources anywhere on the LAN. For example, users on a LAN can share devices such as laser printers, line printers, etc.
LAN may also get connected to Internet to allow access Internet all users on the LAN.
Generally LANs are built with relatively inexpensive hardware such as Ethernet or UTP cables, network adapters, and hubs or switches.
Characteristics of LAN:
The following are some of the characteristics, which differentiate one LAN from another:
The geometric arrangement of the devices on the network. For example, devices can be arranged in a ring or in a straight line.
The protocol is the data transfer rules and encoding specifications. The protocols also determine whether the network uses peer-to-peer or client/server architecture.
For connecting different devices on a LAN, one can use either twisted-pair wire or coaxial cables or fiber optic cables or may choose not to use any media by communicating using radio wave.
On LANs the data transfer takes place at very fast rates, much faster than data can be transmitted over a normal telephone line. The speed of data transfer is dependant on the topology, protocol and media.