PC Hardware

Local Area Networks

A LAN (local area network) is a network that covers a limited distance (usually a single site or facility) and allows sharing of information and resources. A LAN can be as simple as two connected computers, or as complicated as a large site. This type of network is very popular because it allows individual computers to provide processing power and utilize their own memory, while programs and data can be stored on any computer in the network. Some of the older LANs also include configurations that rely totally on the power of a mini or mainframe computer (a server) to do all the work. In this case, the workstations are no more than "dumb" terminals (a keyboard and a monitor). With the increased power of today's personal computer, these types of networks are rare.

The primary benefit of a LAN is its ability to share. The following table lists some of the benefits of sharing the most common resources on a LAN.

LAN Resources


The sharing of data files that reside in a common location makes multiple-user access easier. Also, it's much easier to maintain data integrity when there is a single, central database. Large customer databases and accounting data are ideal for a LAN system.


Sharing printers, for example, allows more than one user to send jobs to a single printer. This is useful when there is only one high-quality printer in an office and the entire office needs to use it. It also allows one user to access multiple printers, providing cost savings in hardware and redundant resources in case one device fails. Other low usage peripherals, such as scanners and plotters, will be better utilized.


Sharing a single copy of an application can be cost-effective (many software manufacturers provide site licenses-licenses for multiple users on a server). It also allows easier maintenance and upgrading.


Larger, faster disk systems can be used cost-effectively for easy backups.

In addition to the ability to share resources, LANs offer many other benefits that include:

  • Resilience: Regular backups of the entire system greatly reduce the risk of data loss. Copying data to backup servers allows network operations to continue in the event of primary server failure.

  • Communication gateways: Low-cost access to fax and Internet connections.

  • Electronic mail: Cost-effective and convenient communication throughout the network.