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A local area network (LAN) is a group of two or more computers that are connected in some manner in order to be able to communicate with each other. Through the network, the computers are able to share data and, in some instances, resources. A LAN network diagram is a drawing that shows the components of a network and how they are connected. The diagram creates, in a sense, a map of the network.
A LAN network diagram can take on a variety of forms, from highly elaborate to somewhat elementary. Regardless of how sophisticated or basic the network diagram is, it is critical that each component of the network is included. In the field of information technology, this diagram often is referred to as a topology. Network administrators work with what is known as a physical topology as well as a logical topology.
The physical topology shows the locations of the various devices, also referred to as the network's nodes. These include devices such as computers, routers and switches. It also includes the location of any wiring closets where equipment racks might be housed. A good network diagram of this nature usually will be drawn on a floor plan of the building and will show how the cables connecting the network components are routed.
The logical topology is used to demonstrate the path that data follows as it travels through the network. It is particularly concerned with areas in which network functions, such as routing or switching, take place. A LAN network diagram designed as a logical topology often will include the Internet protocol (IP) address of each of the nodes.
There are a variety of reasons for utilizing network diagrams. Drawing a diagram before building a network helps to visualize the setup beforehand. It can aid in determining the most efficient routes for cable runs as well as the best locations for peripheral devices such as wireless access points.
Even greater benefit is derived from the network diagram after a network is in operation. A LAN network diagram can be a valuable troubleshooting tool for a network administrator. It assists in tracing connectivity issues by being able to determine which devices are connected to each other without the necessity of trying to follow a cable, which often is impossible. For a technician who might not be familiar with the network, such information can be indispensable.
In addition to being an effective troubleshooting tool, the network diagram can facilitate network expansion. Having the ability to see the layout of the network on paper allows the network administrator to determine the most efficient means for adding new components. The LAN network diagram can be updated whenever new components are added.