What is a Network? LAN, MAN, and WAN? [Tip]

In this article, we will discuss what the terms LAN, MAN, and WAN stand for and attempt to explain these terms for the understanding of people not working in information technology.

What does the word – network, bring to your mind? In the general sense of the word, it means a group of things or entities that are connected to each other and work together to serve a common purpose. What does a computer network mean? In information technology, a network is loosely defined as a series of computers that are interconnected in such a way that each of these independent devices can communicate with each other easily. Now, we can extend this basic definition of computer networks to understanding other terms that are directly related – LAN, MAN, and WAN.

What Do LAN, MAN, and WAN mean?


LAN is Local Area Network, also sometimes referred to as an intranet. Today, if you enter your doctor’s office or business, you will usually approach a receptionist desk and most probably, will find a person sitting there with a PC screen and keyboard in front of her. On taking your details, she will then use this screen or the internal communication systems within the office, to let her colleagues know of your arrival. Your doctor can see details of your current sickness, medical history, prescriptions, and relevant details before your session.

This is a good example of a local area network or the LAN in LAN, MAN, and WAN.


MAN is a Metropolitan Area Network. This is a computer network that is confined to a small or limited area like a home, office, school, or a business premises. Such networks can link to other networks and form sub networks that are bigger in reach and area.

A city-wide or metropolitan area network (MAN) is when this network covers a whole city or town and is the MAN in LAN, MAN, and WAN. Think of your internet service provider or ISP whose internet providing capability reaches around your town or city. This is an example of a MAN.

Your town or city would have multiple fire stations that would combine forces and act as one, in case of an emergency in the city. This is another example of a MAN in your city as most relevant information resources would be accessible by a single chain of command to fight the emergency.

Colleges across a town that are across physical campuses but belonging to the same university in your town or city also form a MAN as a student’s academic progress through different study streams and majors can very easily be tracked throughout the student’s educational career.


When you stretch an information technology network across greater geographical distances we have a wide area network or WAN in LAN, MAN, and WAN. For example, if a corporation has a network across cities around the nation, so their employees can communicate with each other and access local information across long geographical distances then this is a WAN.  


From the small confines of a home to within the geographical reach of a whole nation and beyond, our computers and smart devices/gadgets that we use, in our day to day lives, are all part of some LAN, MAN, and WAN.

Whether the network is a LAN, MAN, and WAN will be dependent on the purpose the individual device is used for, especially accessing information from, and communicating with, people in the outside world.

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