What Is the Difference Between LAN and WAN?

Last Updated: January 5, 2022By

Gray ethernet cable on gray surface

In today’s world, the internet is a fundamental necessity. In order for it to work properly, you need to have a connection from your home or office to an internet service provider (ISP).

One of the most common ways this happens is through Local Area Networking (LAN) and Wide Area Networking (WAN). This article will explain what each one does, their differences, and how they can be used.

What Is LAN?

LAN stands for local area network. It is a computer network that spans a relatively small geographic area, such as an office building or school campus. LANs are often wired to one another through Ethernet cables, but they can also be wireless networks.

A LAN may contain anywhere from two computers to thousands of computers and other devices.

What Is WAN?

WAN stands for wide area network. A WAN might span across several offices in different cities or even across the world, making it much larger than a LAN in terms of geographic range and number of computers connected on the network at any given time.

Because it covers so many more miles, There are usually just one or two individual nodes in a city.

a WAN will consist of several smaller networks that are indirectly connected through a backhaul network.

For example, two branch offices in different cities may use their LANs to connect via a virtual private network (VPN). The LAN in one office will use the WAN in its building to connect to the WAN at the other branch via that business’ headquarters.

WAN is often used in conjunction with the internet. More than likely when you are at home, your connections to the internet are made through WAN.

How They Work Together

To better understand how LAN and WAN work together in your daily life, remember that every time you connect to the Internet there’s a connection somewhere between your computer and an ISP (usually through a modem).

That means there is a connection from the ISP to your city’s WAN, and then from the local network to your home. When these connections happen, they usually involve several different kinds of hardware, including switches and routers.

What’s the Difference Between LAN and WAN?

Ethernet Cables plugged in

Most people use the terms LAN (local area network) and WAN (wide area network) without thinking too much about how they are different. But they are different! The differences between their meanings can be subtle or significant, depending on what type of business or industry you work in.

A WAN can be thought of as a group of computers connected over long distances.

For example, if you have an office in New York and one in London, the phone company may use a WAN to connect those offices. A company’s headquarters can also be considered part of its WAN.

Then there are other forms of remote connections like the Internet, VPNs (virtual private networks), and leased lines.

In contrast, LANs are the computers, printers, and other devices that you connect to a single network within a building or home.

In your office, for example, you have one LAN. This is the “local” area network where everyone on staff can share files and send messages to each other. Most offices and homes have multiple LANs connected together in the form of a router.


When it comes to the matter of speed, LAN is known to be faster than WAN. The primary reason for this is that LAN operates on a closed network, which means that the data being transferred is between devices that are directly connected to one another.

In contrast, WAN operates on an open network, which means that the data being transferred is routed through a series of devices before reaching its destination. This added layer of complexity can lead to a decrease in speed.

Distance is perhaps the most well-known factor because it’s simple to understand.

The more distance there is between locations, the longer it takes for signals to travel.


WAN connections are usually more open to security risks than LAN connections, which operate on a closed network. This is because WAN connections have many more access points that can lead hackers directly to your system.

Due to the fact that WAN operates on an open network, it may be necessary for you to implement some form of encryption or security protocol to protect your data.


Since WAN connections usually have a larger geographical range than a LAN connection, there is a greater chance that the system will experience some form of environmental interference from both natural and man-made sources.

For example, weather can affect line quality because rain or snow may cause noise in the signal. Electromagnetic interference from devices such as power lines or radio towers may also be a factor.


Yelow optic cable plugged in

Network topology refers to the way a system is connected and the path that data takes when it’s transferred between points. It should be noted that network topologies influence the speed, but they don’t necessarily determine it.

While there are many different topologies, the most common kinds are point-to-point and multipoint.

A point-to-point WAN system contains one connection directly between two points. This will almost always result in high speeds because there is only one path that the data must travel along.

Multipoint networks have many connections that branch out to different locations. This type of network is more susceptible to the problems that can arise from delays, bandwidth issues, and jitter.

By exploring all possible factors affecting WAN speeds, you can take steps to remediate any connectivity issues your organization may face.

Advantages of LAN

  • The equipment and software needed for setting up a LAN will cost much less than WAN connections like leased lines.
  • You can use multiple devices on your network simultaneously. Your WiFi router, for example, probably has four wired Ethernet ports and two USB ports where you can connect printers and hard drives with no problems.
  • You can share files and resources between computers with LANs such as printers, scanners, storage devices, internet connection, and more.
  • Every computer on a LAN can communicate with any other computer on the same network.

Advantages of WAN

  • You have access to a much wider range of resources because it operates on an open network with a greater number of access points.
  • WAN networks work better for organizations that have a variety of locations all over a town, county, state, or country.
  • Your organization’s network can be accessed from anywhere in the world, not just the area where it is located. This makes it easier for employees to work remotely and collaborate with colleagues who are traveling or working from home.


It’s important to understand the differences between LAN and WAN networks before you make a decision. It will help ensure that your business has the best quality of service and security available.

LANs are easier and cheaper to set up than WANs, but if your company is going to expand or you need advanced features like bandwidth prioritization, then a WAN might be the way to go.

However, there are many benefits associated with both types so do some research on what works best for your organization given its specific needs and physical location(s).