As soon as you have multiple electronic devices communicating with one another, you have a network. But choosing the type of network to use depends on several things—who (and what) has access, what types of devices you have, and how secure it needs to be, among other things.
Here’s a look at some network types to help you make the choice.
What Is a Network?
First things first. A network is a communication path that allows computers, phones, and other devices to interact with one another. This can be accomplished through wiring, wirelessly using radio signals transmitted from one device to another, or a combination of both.
In the early days of computing, this is how most things were connected. Telephone wires and various types of data cables ran from one device or place to another. The more things you connected, the more wires you had. And depending on how those wires were routed, things could get messy.
But before you dismiss wired networks as relics of the past, consider that they remain the fastest, most reliable, and most secure networks you can have.
Data usually travels much faster over wires than via radio signals. If the wires are properly laid out, there’s no chance of interference from electric motors, a neighbor’s network, or slow response times due to heavy network use. And since signals aren’t being broadcast, they’re virtually hack-proof.
That makes wired networks an excellent choice for moving lots of data reliably and securely. If you think a wired network is right for you, consult a networking expert and have the wiring installed by a licensed electrician to avoid expensive problems down the road.
There’s no doubt that wireless networks are much more convenient (and usually less expensive) than wired ones. They’re also vulnerable to more problems, from range and capacity to unwanted access.
Types of Networks
Networks vary in size from huge (the internet, cloud services) to tiny. Here are typical network types:
- Personal Area Network (PAN)
This is the simplest. It connects devices like printers and keyboards to a single central computer. It can only be accessed at the one central computer but can also connect to other networks. It can be wired or wireless, but wireless range is usually limited, such as with Bluetooth connections.
- Local Area Network (LAN)
LANs are networks located within a close geographic range. They can include home-area networks (HANs), school or campus-area networks (CANs), or commercial networks in offices and the like. All devices on the network can be accessed from multiple points, but the network itself is isolated from places outside the network. Of course external networks like the internet can be accessed with appropriate connections, too. LANs can be wired or wireless or a combination of both.
- Wide Area Network (WAN)
These span large geographic areas, from towns and cities to the whole wide world. They use multiple types of transmission such as phone lines, coaxial and optical cables, and radio waves. Those links are generally provided by phone, cable, and satellite companies as well as private companies that specialize in data transmission.
- Private Networks
Private networks are designed to restrict access to authorized users and to protect personal identity on the internet. They can be actual locked-down secure business networks (Enterprise Private Networks-EPNs) or Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) that use multiple links or “tunnels” to protect communications over open channels like the internet. VPNs usually require subscription to an independent service.
A Word About Security
Even a wired network becomes vulnerable when it connects to an outside source like the internet. Regardless of your network type, it should be protected by a good firewall, encryption, and strong passwords.
Networks need to have enough range and capacity to connect and transmit data, sometimes to multiple devices simultaneously. This is done through a router or sometimes a hub or a switch, which are simpler forms of routing devices.
Your choice of connectivity depends on the devices on the network and how you will use them. We’ll cover those choices in our next Smart Home article.
If you need to add or change a home network, call Allstar Electrical at (303) 399-7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB.