An acronym for Local Area Network, LAN refers to a local network that connects computers located on the same floor or in the same building or nearby buildings.
Until fairly recently, LANs were most often associated with office building; however, since the introduction of broadband and the proliferation of Internet enabled devices, most homes now have their own LAN, where all of the computers, mobile devices, Smart TVs, video game systems, Blu-ray players, and other Internet-connected items are networked together via a central router.
Devices on a LAN are connected either via Ethernet cables or over a wireless connection.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do I need to connect to a LAN?
In order to connect to an existing LAN, your computer or other device will need either an Ethernet adapter or a wireless adapter. Most desktops and laptops come with Ethernet adapters built in. Most laptop and mobile devices include wireless adapters. Connecting via an Ethernet adapter will typically give you the fastest connection speeds and the highest quality, no matter how far you are from the main router; however, wired connections are not always possible, particularly if you want to connect a device where there are no existing Ethernet cables. Wireless connections are much easier to manage, but will require a wireless router, and the farther a device is from the router, the slower the connection will be.
How can I expand my existing LAN?
Depending on your current equipment, you may need to expand your existing LAN to accommodate additional devices. Wired routers typically have a fixed number of Ethernet ports you can connect devices to. If you need to connect additional devices beyond this, you may need to add a switch, which works similar to a telephone splitter, in that it allows you to take a single Ethernet line and expand it to several more lines. If you want to add a wired connection where there are no existing cables and drilling holes isn’t an option, you can use powerline adapters, which extend a wired connection using your home’s electrical wiring.
For wireless connections, if your device is too far from the router, or there is too much interference, you may not get a high-quality connection. You can improve this by repositioning your router, purchasing a higher-quality router, or adding a range extender to your network.
Can devices talk to each other over LAN, or just share an Internet connection?
You, or your network administrator, can specify which devices can communicate with each other over a LAN. In an office setting, there is typically a central server that can be used to share files or even host a company intranet site. In your home, you can specify what you want to share with other computers on your LAN via each computer’s sharing center. You can also run special software that will allow a computer to act as a streaming media server for other devices in your home.