Different types of networks, standards and protocols available

There are many different types of networks, standards and protocols available for use today in organisations and households. Below are some examples of these different network types, standards and protocols…

Different Types of Networks

Local Area Network (LAN)

A LAN is used to connect a group of computers and devices in order for them to communicate. As the name suggests, ‘local’ means within the same area or building however a LAN can be very big (e.g. spread over a college campus).

Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)

A MAN spans the area of a large campus or even a whole town or city. These networks are a lot of interconnected local area networks. These networks usually cover a large geographical region but are smaller than an area covered by a wide area network.

Wide Area Network (WAN)

A WAN is used for telecommunications and computer networking that is extended over a large geographical area. Large organisations such as governments, education, businesses use WAN’s for sharing information such as staff, clients, students, suppliers, buyers etc. from different geographical areas.

Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)

Similar to a LAN, except this network also known as a wireless network has a router which allows some computers to connect wirelessly to each other.

Controller Area Network (CAN)

A controller area network was originally designed for multiplex (combining analogue and digital signals over a shared medium) over electrical wiring in automobiles. It is a vehicle bus standard used for microcontrollers and devices to communicate with applications without a computer.

Desk Area Network (DAN)

A DAN is an architecture for multimedia workstations based around asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) technology which transfers data in small ‘packets’ over a network to ensure no specific type of data hogs resources. DAN is designed to interconnect workstations, multimedia devices and connections to other networks. Multimedia devices used to be connected directly to workstations, however with a DAN these devices are now connected to the network.

Personal Area Network (PAN)

A PAN is used to transmit data to personal devices such as PC’s, phones or tablets. These networks can be also used for communication between personal devices or connecting to other networks such as the internet.

Networking topologies

A topology is a term used to describe how a network is arranged. A topology consists of several ‘nodes’ linked together in various ways. A node is an end point or redistribution point. For example a computer is a node.

Bus topology

A bus network is when all of the devices on a network are connected to a central cable called the backbone, they are inexpensive and are easy to install for small networks.

Star topology

A star network is when all of the computers and devices are connected to a central hub. They aren’t difficult to install and manage but can be slow due to all of the information passing through the central hub.

Tree topology

A tree topology is a combination of two or more star topologies that are connected together, or a bus network of star networks.

Mesh topology

A mesh topology is when all computers and devices on a network are interconnected with each other which allows for data exchange between all devices, even if there is a loss of connection between two devices. This topology is not commonly used as it can be expensive to have redundant connections but it is often used for wireless networks.

Token Ring

A token ring is a network where all devices are arranged in a circle (ring). A token travels around the ring sequentially from device to device. When one device wants to send data to another device, it simply catches the token and attaches data to it. The token continues to travel around the ring untiul it reaches it’s destination.

Networking Standards

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have set out standards that have to be put in place in order for networks to function properly. The following are some of the standards that have been made:

  • IEEE 802.5 standard is for coaxial cable that has very slow speeds of around 10mb/s and is one of the first Ethernet frame protocols.
  • IEEE 802.5 standard is for the token ring network, and the first token ring network only ran at 4mb/s. In 1989 a revision and advancement of the IEEE 802.5 standard allowed the token ring network to run at 16mb/s.
  • IEEE 802.11 standard used for wireless cards provides three different standards to follow:
    • IEEE 802.11b was the first standard for wireless
    • IEEE 802.11g was the second wireless standard that introduced faster network speeds and greater range
    • IEEE 802.11n was the third wireless standard providing a far greater range with greater data transfer speeds.
    • IEEE 802.11ac is the latest ratified (approved) standard which has built upon all previous standards.

The reason these networking standards and protocols are put in to place is to ensure that computer manufacturers use the same protocols and standards in their devices, which makes computer networking easier and makes life easier for everyone including developers, admins, support staff but most importantly end users and customers.