Knowing the difference between a wide area network (WAN) and local area network (LAN) can help you choose the best internet option for your company. While both services allow you to perform basic internet activities, such as sending and checking emails, they differ in speed, bandwidth, range and other factors that may affect productivity.

What Is a Local Area Network?

A local area network (LAN) is a group of computers connected to a common server. This type of network is for smaller, more localized areas common in offices, schools, restaurants and other establishments. The important element here is that all the computers are networked internally and are not required to be connected to any outside source. 

When setting up a LAN network, it is crucial to have a central access point. This access point can range from physical hardware, such as a router, to a software program installed on a server computer. Once connected, a device is able to access information on the server and connect to devices such as printers. 

What Is a Wide Area Network?

A wide area network (WAN) is much larger than a LAN and uses telephone lines, fiber-optic cables and satellite signals to cover large areas such as cities, states or even entire nations. If you are looking to transfer files from your computer to one across the country or even on the other side of the world, the most likely tool is a WAN. In a business setting, a WAN can connect offices to other locations locally and around the world. The largest WAN in the world is the internet. 

WAN vs LAN: Which Is Better for Your Business?

Smaller businesses with offices close to one another will do fine with a LAN. Larger businesses with multiple offices in multiple states or across the world typically operate a LAN at each location connected to the main WAN. A WAN can be privately owned or leased from a telecommunications provider. WANs can also be administered over a private or public connection. Large businesses often use virtual private networks (VPNs) to connect multiple sites across a WAN. 

From the installation of cabling to the configuration of routers and firewalls, Network South’s experts will help you determine the right combination of hardware, software, and firmware for your new network. We utilize Adtran’s full suite of LAN & WAN products including managed data switches, routers and firewalls providing carrier-grade performance for our customers’ critical applications. We also proudly partner with the leading telecommunications providers to deliver a cost-effective reliable service.