Use It Right: What Are the 4 Types of Networks?

Computers are an important part of the modern world. Computer networks have been created to make our lives easier and speed up our work. The main function of a network is connecting computers and computing equipment together so that they can easily share resources. Such a network includes routers, Wi-Fi routers, servers, and other similar equipment.

Each computer on a network differs in the functions it can perform. The computer that provides resources to the network is called the server, and the computer that uses these resources is called the client. The largest computer network is the internet. It provides users worldwide the means to communicate, search, and view information using its resources.

Today it isn’t easy to imagine life without the internet. However, we often forget that the World Wide Web is not such a secure space. Read our article Protected Internet and stay safe online.

Computers on a network can connect to each other in different ways, depending on the type of computer, their distance from each other, and the functions that are assigned to them. Therefore, it is important to distinguish between existing types of networks.

All in all, you should always take care of your own internet security when choosing any network. For this, you can read Fully-Fledged Guide on Ways to Protect Your Data Online and always be protected!

Today, we’ll analyze the 4 types of networks that exist, as well as the differences between them.

What is a computer network?

A computer network is a collection of computer and network equipment connected via communication channels into a single system. To create a computer network, we need the following components:

Networks types
  • Computers that can connect to the network (for example, via the network card that every modern PC has).
  • Transmission medium or communication channels (cable, satellite, telephone, fiber-optic and radio channels).
  • Network equipment (such as a switch or router).
  • Network software (usually included in the operating system or left with the network hardware).

As a rule, computer networks are classified according to two criteria: general networks (user) and special networks (professional).

There is no single system that satisfies all computer networks. For classification, there are specific characteristics that allow you to divide networks into different types.

Let’s consider the classification of networks based on the main feature – their architecture.

What are the 4 types of networks?

Computers can connect in different ways, depending on the computer type, location, and the functions they are meant to perform:

PAN – Personal Area Network

LAN – Local Area Network

WAN – Wide Area Network

MAN – Metropolitan Area Network

Let’s consider each type in detail.

4 main types of networks

PAN allows devices to exchange data over short distances. It combines devices such as mice, keyboards, printers, smartphones, tablets, and so on. It uses the most common connection technology like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. 

PANs can also be created using other technologies that allow data exchange over short distances. For example, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), a method of automatically identifying objects in which data is stored using transponders -– or RFID tags – which are read using radio signals.

LAN is a computer network that usually covers a small area, located in one or more buildings. The term “local” in this context refers to joint local management (not necessarily physical proximity of components to each other). 

Networks with a dedicated server are much more stable and productive in this sense. In modern LANs, computers and peripherals are connected by wired, fiber-optic, and wireless data transmission channels. Computers are interfaced with communication channels through special communication equipment.

MAN connects computers within a city. As an example, we can consider the cable TV system. Due to specific technological changes, it became possible to transmit digital data through this system, and over time, the system turned into a municipal computer network.

WAN covers large territories and connects local networks that may be located in geographically remote areas. A WAN is similar to a very large wired LAN, but there are important differences:

  • Various organizations manage local networks and provide access to the internet data transfer environment.
  • Networks that use different types of network technologies can be connected.
  • Communication channels can connect individual computers to local networks or entire networks.

In addition, there are several scenarios for building a computer network that provide different structures for the location of individual tasks and the way communication highways connect them.

This configuration determines the type of equipment, cable, management methods, and so on that will be used. The most widely found three configurations of building a network are:

  • bus
  • ring
  • star

The bus implies equal rights for all subscribers connected in turn via a single communication line. The peculiarity of this topology is the absence of a central subscriber, and the connection of new participants in the network is carried out most simply. In addition, the least amount of low-current cable is used here.

Network topology

The ring topology is characterized by the design’s simplicity, where a cable line connects each individual computer to two others. There is also no clear center, and each computer has equal rights.

The star provides for the presence of a central computer, which is responsible for managing the exchange of data. In this case, it is the main computer with the most power, and there are no conflicts between individual subscribers in the network itself.

Depending on the management method, each of the topologies has distinctive characteristics, so now we will tell you how the networks differ by management methods.

Classification of networks under the control method

Given that a complex system requires constant monitoring and correct interaction of all nodes, it is constantly under control. According to the management method, networks are divided into:

  • Centralized, where the main management functions are performed by the server, providing users with access to available resources.
  • Decentralized, or as they are also called, peer-to-peer (P2P). In this case, there are no local network management tools such as servers, all computers have equal rights, and management can be performed from any of the machines.
  • Mixed, in which the most complex and priority tasks are solved through centralized management.

Read more about What Is a Peer-to-Peer Network and choose the only reliable network for daily usage.

Standards for network management systems are a complex professional field based on protocols regulating the interaction between the main and managed objects.

Given that the design and installation of local networks is a complex process and an important responsibility, its implementation should be carried out exclusively by experienced professionals.

The involvement of competent designers and installers in setting up a computer network guarantees a high work standard. It ensures reliable operation of each element that is part of the network.


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