A major difference between WAN and LAN is that the Local area network is the computer network that connects computers within a limited area such as schools, colleges, or universities whereas A Wide Area Network (WAN) is a computer network that connects computers within a large geographical area comprising a region, a country, a continent or even the whole world. There is the various number of difference between WAN vs LAN and in this tutorial, we will cover them one by one.



The major difference between LAN and WAN is as follows.

Definition WAN is Wide Area Network (WAN) that connects computers within a large geographical area comprising a region, a country, a continent or even the whole world.LAN is Local area network that connects computers within a limited area such as schools, colleges, or universities.
SpeedWAN is slow (150 mbps)LAN is faster (1 Gbps, 10Gbps and above)
BandwidthLow bandwidth is available for transmission.High bandwidth is available for transmission.
Geographical AreaWAN covers large area (between continent to countries)LAN covers small area (between same buildings)
ConnectionWAN networks are connected using fiber optic or other WAN technologies such as MPLS, ATM, ADSL, Cable, VPN etc)LAN networks are connected using Ethernet cables (Cat5, Cat6) or Fiber Optic or WiFi
Working PrincipleWhile WAN works on the principle of point to point.LAN operates on the principle of broadcasting.
Fault ToleranceWANs tend to be less fault tolerant as they consist of large number of systems.LANs tend to have fewer problems associated with them, as there are smaller number of systems to deal with.
MaintenanceWAN is difficult to maintain LAN is easier to maintain
Data Transmission ErrorExperiences more data transmission errors as compared to LANExperiences fewer data transmission errors
Owned ByUsually managed and operated by larger entities or businesses (e.g ISP, large corporations etc).Typically owned, controlled, and managed by a single person or organization
ExampleThe Internet is a good example of a WANHome network, business network in the same building.

It is therefore advised to all the readers to go through this tutorial to get maximum benefit and to clear your concepts regarding the common question of what is the difference between WAN and LAN.

In this tutorial, you will get complete detail related to the topic of WAN vs LAN.

What is LAN?

Local Area Network

LAN is the computer network that connects computers within a limited area such as schools, colleges, or universities.

Local area networks, generally called LANs, are privately-owned networks. They provide a useful way of sharing resources between end-users. The resources such as printers, file servers, scanners, and the internet are easily sharable among other connected computers in a network.


What is WAN?

Wide Area Network

WAN is a computer network that connects computers within a large geographical area comprising a region, a country, a continent, or even the whole world.

Wide area networks, generally called WANs, are mostly public, leased, or privately-owned networks. They provide a useful way of sharing resources between the end-users such as the long-distance transmission of data, voice, image, and information over large geographical areas. The best example of a Wide Area Network is the Internet which connects many smaller LANs and MANs through Internet service providers.


Difference between LAN and WAN:

Difference between LAN and WAN

One key difference between a LAN and a WAN is that LANs are built, owned and operated by individual companies and organizations but unlike LANs, WANs are owned by third-party service providers a company wanting to connect its geographically dispersed LANs must subscribe to WAN service providers such as a telephone company to use or lease it’s WAN carrier network services.

Another key difference between WANs and LANs technologies is scalability. Wide Area Network as its name suggests it must be able to grow as needed to cover multiple cities, even countries, and continents whereas Local Area Network as its name suggest it is able to cover single campus, single office, or a single building.


Typically, WANs are interconnected LANs. One of the best examples of a WAN is the Internet (a WAN that grows larger day by day).


Application of LAN

The major applications of Local Area Network are as follows.

  • You can assign one of your computers online as a server, which allows you to manage all other computers.
  • LAN allows the software to be stored on the server and can be used by all Internet users.
  • It helps you connect all workstations under construction to let them interact with each other on the spot without the need for internet access.
  • Help share resources like printers, scanners, data devices
  • Software developers can also use LANs to share office/factory development/testing tools with the help of the client model server.

Application of WAN

The major applications of the Wide Area Network are as follows.

  • The head of the branch office of the company wants to share some data with their regional offices and then they can share the data by storing it on a central node.
  • Military operations require a very secure network for communication. WAN is used in this scenario.
  • Railway reservations and airlines use WAN networks.
  • Dean and the University lecturer can easily share data or resources among themselves as they share one common network.
  • WAN allows you to connect to on-site workstations, which helps each node communicate with each other without having any internet connection.
  • Resources such as printers, scanners, hard disks and fax machines allow you to share all nodes publicly.

Example of LAN:

Some examples of LAN are below:

  1. Home, Offices, Marts
  2. Networking in School, Laboratory, College campus
  3. Data sharing between two computers
  4. Wi-Fi

Example of WAN:

Some examples of WAN are below:WAN Connection

  1. Internet
  2. Large telecommunications companies like Airtel store IT department
  3. Satellite systems
  4. Cable companies
  5. Network providers
  6. U.S defense department
  7. A network of bank cash dispensers
  8. Airline companies
  9. Stock brokerages
  10. Railway reservations counter
  11. 4G Mobile Broadband Systems

Advantages of LAN

  1. Resource Sharing: LAN provides resource sharing such as computer resources like printers, scanners, modems, DVD-ROM drives, and hard disks can be shared within the connected devices. This reduces cost and hardware purchases.
  2. Software Applications Sharing: In a Local Area Network, it is easy to use the same software in a number of computers connected to a network instead of purchasing the separately licensed software for each client a network.
  3. Easy and Cheap Communication: Data and messages can easily be shared with the other computer connected to the network.
  4. Centralized Data: The data of all network users can be stored on a hard disk of the central/server computer. This help users to use any computer in a network to access the required data.
  5. Data Security: Since data is stored on the server computer, it will be easy to manage data at only one place and the data will be more secure too.
  6. Internet Sharing: Local Area Network provides the facility to share a single internet connection among all the LAN users. In school labs and internet Cafes, single internet connection is used to provide internet to all connected computers.

Advantages of WAN:

  1. Covers large geographical area: Wide area network covers a large geographical area of more than 1000km. If your office is in different cities or countries then you can connect your office branches through Wide Area Network.
  2. Centralized data: Wide area networks also provide you the facility of sharing the data to all of your connected devices in a network.For example, through WAN connection all office branches can share the data through the head office server. You can get back up, support, and other useful data from the head office and all data are synchronized with all other office branches.
  3. Get updated files and data: Wide Area Networks provide you the facility of getting updated files and data from the server. If a server is updated with new data then all connecting devices receive that updated data within seconds.
  4. Sharing of software and resources: Like LANs, we can share software applications and other resources with other users on the internet.
  5. High bandwidth: WANs covers a large geographical area of more than 1000km. therefore WANs have high bandwidth compared to LANs and MANs.

Disadvantages of LAN

  1. High Setup Cost: The initial setup costs of installing Local Area Networks is high because there is special software required to make a server. Also, communication devices like an ethernet cable, switches,  hubs, routers, cables are costly.
  2. Privacy Violations: The LAN administrator can see and check personal data files of each and every LAN user. Moreover, he can view the computer and the internet history of the LAN user.
  3. Data Security Threat: Unauthorised users can access important data of an office or campus if a server hard disk is not properly secured by the LAN administrator.
  4. LAN Maintenance Job: Local Area Network requires a LAN Administrator because there are problems such as software installations, program faults, or hardware failures or cable disturbances in the Local Area Network. A LAN Administrator is required to maintain these issues.
  5. Covers Limited Area: LANs are restricted in size they cover a small area like a single office, single building or a group of nearby buildings.

Disadvantages of a WAN

  1. Security problems: Wide Area Networks faces more security problem as compare to LANs and MANs.
    One of the key disadvantages of WANs is a security issue when many different people have the ability to use information from other computers.
  2. Needs firewall and antivirus software: As it faces security issues, therefore it is a basic need of WANs to use firewalls and antivirus software to protect data transfer on the internet which can be accessed and changed by hackers. Also, some people can inject a virus into the computers so antivirus software is also needed to install.
  3. The setup cost is high: A WAN network covers a large geographical area, it is very expensive to set up in the initial stage.  It may involve purchasing different networking devices, i.e routers, switches, and extra security software.
  4. Troubleshooting problems: A WAN network covers large geographical areas, so fixing the problem in a network is a very difficult job. Most of WANs wires go into the sea and if those wires get broken. It involves a lot of hard work to fix those lines under the sea.
  5. Maintenance Issues: Once set up, maintaining a WAN network is a full-time job that requires high tech skills of network supervisors and technicians.

WAN vs LAN in Points:

  1. LAN is the computer network that connects computers within a limited area such as schools, colleges, or universities.
  2. WAN is a computer network that connects computers within a large geographical area comprising a region, a country, a continent, or even a whole world.
  3. WAN is slower compared to LAN it is because WAN has a lower data transfer rate.
  4. LAN offers more fault tolerance.
  5. WAN offers less fault tolerance in WAN.
  6. The speed of WAN is slow.
  7. The Speed of LAN is fast.
  8. LAN Network is easy to build whereas the WAN network is difficult to design.


This article discusses the characteristics of the Local Area Network and the Wide Area Network and their differences. both types of networks have their own significance in different areas. To figure out what is WAN vs LAN and how they differ from each other, you can use them effectively wherever they are suitable.