WAN vs LAN: What is the Difference Between the Two?

WAN vs LAN: What is the Difference Between the Two?


To gain knowledge about the functioning of wireless routers with respect to LAN Vs WAN, you should first ask what is the difference between LAN and WAN? In simple terms, a device connected to a wired network like a desktop or to a wireless router such as a laptop or smartphone joins the LAN, i.e., the Local Area Network. On the other hand, Wide Area Network (aka WAN) consists of everything outside & beyond the LAN.  Internet is considered to be the largest WAN network of the world.

The word ‘networking’ includes both the Local Area Network and the Wide Area Network. If you observe any router, you will see the letters LAN and WAN in some of the ports next to them. 

This article is all about WAN vs LAN and how they work.

Everything about LAN

A Local Area Network or LAN connects computers and devices within a limited area like within an office, building or campus, and it is a private network. If it is for a small set-up, LANs connect personal computers to printers. The coverage of LAN can be extended up to a few hundred metres when used for businesses where large numbers of computers share printers, scanners, audiovisual devices etc.

In a LAN, coaxial or twisted pair cables are connected to a switch or a bunch of switches which in turn connects a cluster of computers and gadgets. With the use of routers, the edge of the LAN is connected to the larger WAN.

With a limited number of computers connected, the data transfer via LAN is considerably quick.  So undoubtedly, the connections must be fast, and the hardware like hubs, network adapters and Ethernet cables must be pretty economical.

Earlier, the data speed in LAN was as low as 4 to Mbps, but as of date, the speed has reached 1000 Mbps which is an evolution in itself.

Most LANs have wired connections, but with the growing number of wireless devices like laptops which are Wi-Fi enabled, these devices can be connected to a LAN using Wi-Fi technology as well. The Wi-Fi network also has the capability to offer similar speeds as that of a wired LAN network. The advantage of LAN is higher fault tolerance and a less crowded network. The broadcast delay is minimal. Smaller LANs connect only two computers, whereas larger LANs may be able to support thousands of computers.

Everything about WAN

WAN, as the name suggests, is a Wide Area Network that connects many locations throughout a sizable geographic area, although it may be limited to the borders of a state or nation. The communication medium adopted in WAN high-speed “ethernet”. Compared with the LAN technology, ethernet can easily cover larger areas (geographically), and it is less vulnerable to disruptions. It can be an exclusive connection to one company or organisation or maybe a public network as well. The WAN technology is economical and offers high speed.

Designing and maintaining a WAN is complex, and when it comes to WAN vs LAN in respect of fault tolerance level, a LAN is better as the network is less crowded. Noise and accuracy are normal in WANs owing to the long-distance transmission. The data rate of WAN is approximately 1/10th that of a LAN due to the large coverage area and the number of servers and endpoints. The most prevalent issue in a WAN network is broadcast latency.

The primary technology used for WAN data transmission is optic fiber cables.  However, to connect remote locations, satellites & microwaves links are also used. Most WANs connect through public networks like a telephone system or leased lines. 


Now the concept of WAN and LAN is understood, we need to be aware of what is the difference between LAN and WAN?

Some of the notable WAN vs LAN points are given below.

  • LAN stands for Local Area Network, and it connects various computers within a small area. It can be extended to a few hundred meters when used in small organisations or companies.

WAN is a Wide Area Network, and it can provide an internet connection to multiple properties situated at various locations. The network coverage is so huge in WAN that it is able to connect the entire world. The internet that can be accessed worldwide is the largest WAN.

  • The ownership in LAN is normally private. But WAN can either be public or private.
  • With limited devices connected within a short distance, the data transmission speed in a LAN is relatively high.

Due to the wide coverage and the large number of devices connected, the data 

transmission in a WAN is much slower.

  • The broadcast latency is limited in a LAN, whereas in a WAN, the broadcast latency is higher.
  • LAN is less congested than a WAN network.
  • The fault tolerance level of a LAN is higher than that of a WAN.
  • Designing and maintenance of a LAN are less complex when compared to the WAN.

After the comparison, i.e., WAN vs LAN, you should be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of both WAN and LAN to choose the right network for your business.

Advantages and disadvantages of LAN

The advantages and disadvantages of LAN are given below:

  • Resources like printers, DVD drives and hard drives can be shared conveniently in a Local Area Network since they are centrally connected.
  • Licensed software installed on a single computer can be shared by all the other network users. No need for an individual licence for each computer.
  • The data and messages can be conveniently shared by all the network users using LAN. All LAN users can access the data 24×7 and so there is no time lost and it is assured that the message reaches the right person.
  • A centralised server stores all the data which can be accessed from any workstation connected to a certain network. Besides, users can log in to their accounts and gain access to their own set of data.
  • A local server hosts all the data and can either permit or prohibit a user from accessing a particular network, so the data’s security is ensured. 
  • The LAN technology facilitates sharing of a single internet connection by all LAN users. 

The following are the disadvantages of LAN:

  • Though the data and resource sharing facility makes LAN cost-effective, it requires an initial upfront investment which can be expensive. 
  • Since all the data is stored in a centralised server, unauthorised users can view downloads and browsing histories of every linked computer. The LAN administrator, in particular, has access to the personal data of every individual user, which may lead to a policy violation.
  • Since access to programs and all other types of data is rather easy, the LAN administrator has to ensure the security of the centralised data by executing correct rules and privacy policies.
  • Risk of spreading the virus to all the connected devices if a virus infects one computer on the LAN network.
  • The area covered is limited.

Advantages and disadvantages of WAN

The following are the advantages of WAN:

  • Can connect multiple sites at different locations. Network coverage can be for a geographical area of a large proportion. Millions of devices can be connected using a leased line.
  • Data is stored in a centralised server and can be accessed by multiple branches located at different sites.
  • Real-time access to updated files.
  • Communication of messages can be fast. Example: Whatsapp and Messenger.
  • More bandwidth compared to a standard broadband connection.
  • Guaranteed uptime which is a part of the SLA.

The following are the disadvantages of WAN:

  • Has a higher risk of hacking and malicious attacks. Installation of firewall and antivirus software is essential.
  • Owing to the vast geographical coverage, the installation will be pricey.
  • Connectivity issues in remote areas where there is frequent fluctuation in electricity supply.  A dedicated line from the ISP will solve the issue.
  • Troubleshooting and maintenance take more time.


An awareness of what is the difference between LAN and WAN is very essential to choose the right network for your business. Your business may not require a complex network like a WAN if the overall area of the establishment is not spread beyond a building or a campus. A simple LAN network that is easy to maintain and cost-effective would suffice. But if your business has branches and needs multiple sites to be connected, then WAN is a better option for faster and more consistent connectivity.


Which Ethernet port is fastest on a router?

Gigabit Ethernet with a speed of 1000 Mbps is the fastest Ethernet port. Gigabit Ethernet was originally meant to be the backbone of large networks that connected servers, switches and routers. 

What is the repercussion if a server crashes on a LAN?

All the connected computers in the LAN architecture are managed by the central computer. If the central server encounters any issue then the entire network will be affected. For instance, a file corrupted on the server can obstruct access to any data on any other computer.

What are the security issues faced in WAN?

WAN is more prone to the risk of hacking and malicious attacks. Hence installation of firewall and antivirus software becomes mandatory in WAN.


By Admin

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