WAN vs LAN: What Is The Difference?


Your corporate network is both the heart and the backbone of your organization. With a well-designed and configured network, your business will operate as efficiently, securely, and productively as possible.

There are two main types of LAN and WAN, but do you know the difference between them? This article explains how each type of network works and how you can get them to work together to make your business run smoothly.

Table of Contents

Network Basics

A network is a group of computers (servers and workstations) and devices, such as smartphones and printers, that are interconnected and can communicate with each other. The two main types of networks are local area networks (LAN) and wide area networks (WAN).

In this networking guide, you will learn:

  • What is LAN?
  • What is WAN?
  • Application of LAN
  • Application of WAN 
  • The difference between a LAN and a WAN
  • Advantages of LAN
  • Advantages of WAN
  • Disadvantages of LAN
  • Disadvantages of WAN

What is LAN?

A local area network is a group of computers and devices connected to a limited area, such as a school, lab, home, or office building. The full form of LAN is a local area network which is an instrumental network for sharing resources such as printers, files, games, and other applications.

The simplest type of LAN is to connect a computer and printer to someone’s home or office. Typically, LAN will be used as the removable media type.


What is WAN?

WAN (Wide Area Network) is an extensive computer network that covers a large geographic area. WAN network systems can be a connection from a LAN that connects to other LANs using telephone lines and radio waves. It is mainly limited to the position or the organization.

Wide area networks are established primarily through high-end telecommunications circuits.

Key Differences

  • A LAN has a higher data rate, while a WAN has a lower data rate.
  • A LAN is a computer network that incorporates a small geographic area, such as a home, office, or group of buildings, while a WAN is a computer network that covers a larger area.
  • LAN speed is high, while WAN speed is slower than LAN speed.
  • LAN offers greater fault tolerance, but WAN offers less fault tolerance than WAN.
  • On the other hand, designing and maintaining a LAN is simple, while designing and maintaining a WAN is difficult.

Application of LAN

Here are some typical LAN applications:

  • One of the computers on the network can be assigned as a server, which allows you to manage all the other computers.
  • LAN enables the software to be stored on a server and can be used by all network users.
  • It helps you connect all the workstations in the building so that they can communicate with each other without the need for internet access.
  • Help share resources such as printers and scanners.
  • Software developers can also use a local area network to share development/test tools in the office or factory using a client-server network system model.

Application of WAN

Here are some typical WAN applications:

  • The head of the Corporate Office department wants to share specific data with his partners in the regional office; then he can share it by storing it in a centralized node.
  • Military operations require an extremely secure communications network. A WAN is used for this scenario.
  • WANs use rail and air reservations.
  • The dean and the university professor can easily share data or resources as they share a common network.
  • The wide area network allows local workstations to connect, helping each node to communicate with each other without any Internet connection.
  • Resources such as printers, scanners, hard drives and faxes allow you to share all nodes in public.
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The difference between LAN and WAN

Here are the primary differences between LAN and WAN

They usually use specific connection technologies, such as Ethernet and tokensWANs use technologies like Frame Relay and X.25 to connect over longer distances
A LAN is a computer network that incorporates a small geographic area, such as a home, office, or group of buildingsA WAN is a computer network that incorporates a large extent. For example, any network whose communication links the city and regional borders over long distances.
You have to set up a few more devices online, so it’s not very expensive.In WANs, remote areas should be connected so that installation costs are higher.
LAN has a higher data rate.A WAN has a lower data rate than a LAN.
LAN ownership is private.Ownership of the WAN can be private or public.
LAN speed is high.WAN speed is lower than LAN speed.
The propagation delay time in the LAN is short.The propagation delay on the WAN is long (longer than on the LAN).
It offers greater fault tolerance.It provides less fault tolerance over the WAN.
Design and maintenance are simple.Its design and maintenance are complicated.
LAN vs WAN: What is the difference?

Advantages of LAN

Here are the pros/benefits of using a LAN:

  • Computing resources such as hard drives, DVD-ROMs, and printers can share local area networks, significantly reducing the cost of purchasing hardware.
  • You can use the same software online instead of buying licensed software for each customer online.
  • Data for all network users can be stored on a single hard drive on the server computer.
  • You can easily transfer data and messages through networked computers.
  • It will easily manage data in one place, making it more secure.
  • A local network offers the possibility of sharing a single Internet connection among all the users of a LAN.
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Advantages of WAN

Here are the pros & cons of using a WAN:

  • WAN helps you cover a larger geographic area so that business offices located at greater distances can communicate easily.
  • It contains devices like mobile phones, laptops, tablets, computers, game consoles, etc.
  • Radio transmitters control the WLAN connections and receivers integrated into the user devices.
  • Share software and resources by connecting to multiple workstations.
  • Share information/files over a larger area.

Disadvantages of LAN

Here are the cons/disadvantages of LAN:

  • The LAN administrator can check the personal data files of each LAN user so that it does not provide adequate privacy.
  • LAN helps you reduce costs with shared IT resources. However, the initial cost of installing local networks is relatively high.
  • Unauthorized users can access critical corporate data in the event that a LAN administrator cannot provide a centralized data warehouse.
  • The local network needs constant LAN management, as there are software configuration issues and hardware failures.

Disadvantages of WAN

Here are the cons/drawbacks of using a WAN:

  • The initial cost of configuring this WAN is high.
  • Maintaining a WAN is difficult because you need trained network administrators and technicians.
  • It takes longer to resolve issues due to the involvement of more wired and wireless technologies.
  • A WAN network offers less security than other types of networks.

Setting up the right network in place for you.

As mentioned earlier, LAN and WAN are similar in many ways, but they also have some crucial differences. If your business is established in one building, you probably only need a local area network.

But if you have multiple locations deployed in different geographies or many remote users, you will also need a WAN if you want to connect everything efficiently.

The most relevant thing to consider when building or upgrading your network is working with the right IT partner. This is especially essential if you are configuring or managing a WAN.

Working with a partner who is experienced in supporting multiple sites and interconnected networks will save you a lot of time and money.

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