What is the Difference Between a LAN and the Internet?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
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  • Last Modified Date: 07 September 2019
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A local area network (LAN) is a private network that links computers at a single location, such as at a private residence or office building. Establishing a LAN allows files, software and devices like printers and fax machines to be shared among users on the LAN. The Internet, by contrast, is a global, public, Wide Area Network (WAN) that links millions of smaller networks with over a billion computers connected at any given time. The most basic difference between a LAN and the Internet then, is that a LAN is private and localized, while the Internet is public and worldwide.

A LAN is able to facilitate sharing of files and resources by linking computers together through a central device known as a router. The router acts as a go-between, directing data traffic on the LAN. Computers can be connected to a router using Ethernet cable, or a router can communicate wirelessly using radio waves.

The Internet links millions of networks through T1 telephone lines, fiber optic cable and other technologies. A commonality between a LAN and the Internet is that they both use routers to route traffic. Internet routers direct traffic across the Internet, and a LAN router directs traffic on the LAN.


Internet access is an option that can be incorporated into a LAN, if desired. A central modem is either connected or integrated into the router, providing a gateway between the LAN and the Internet. A firewall is typically present in the gateway to act as a one-way valve, keeping unwanted public traffic from accessing the LAN. The firewall only allows data to flow through that has specifically been requested from computers on the LAN.

Somewhat paradoxically, there are situations in which a LAN is setup for the sole purpose of providing Internet access. This is handy for households that have two or more computers but only want to share an Internet account and nothing more. It's easy to see how using a LAN for this purpose could lead to the incorrect assumption that a LAN and the Internet are the same thing.

Municipalities that provide free, wireless public access to the Internet do so through a LAN, technically known as a Municipal Area Network (MAN). A Campus Area Network (CAN) is a LAN that has been extended to cover campus grounds, commonly providing local resources along with access to the Internet. These larger networks are variations on the LAN, though still localized.

Exposing a LAN to the Internet does create security risks. Hackers might find a way around firewalls, and users on the LAN might unknowingly download files that contain viruses, Trojans, spybots, keyloggers or other malicious programs. Once a single computer on a LAN becomes infected, the infection can travel quickly throughout the entire LAN. Internet access might also serve as a distraction to employees who don’t require it.

Because a LAN is so often used as a gateway to the Internet, it’s easy to think of a LAN and the Internet as synonymous. A LAN does not require Internet access, however, and its sole purpose can be to transfer files easily between computers that are within close, relative proximity to one another, or to share printers, fax machines or other hardware.


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Post 6

My PC has been used in LAN but not anymore. My desktop is using Windows XP. How can I access the WAN? How do I configure it?

Post 4

Had of all my years experience was doing troubleshooting on computer systems, I have never experienced problems that it takes to connect a local area network to the Internet that are more troublesome. These complicated connections that must be routed properly are essential to ensuring connectivity as well as efficiency in the way that the systems work. Whatever the application that is used by the Internet connection is essential that it is done properly so that the people using that application do not have issues with connectivity.

Depending on the type of operating systems on the computers that are located on the local area network, connecting the land to the Internet can be either difficult or very simple. Some

operating systems allow for a high level of customization that some people will need and some people won't need. Depending on the configuration of your local area network and the operating system these two culminating factors will determine how easy it is to connect to the.
Post 3

I always thought about the difference between a local network and the Internet in very simple terms. Telephone systems are kind of like that in the sense that you can have a large office building with an internal extension system also Outside lines. Just doesn't operator from inside one of these buildings with these complex telephone systems must dial in number to reach an outside line, your computer also dials a certain number or connection type to your router to access the outside Internet. Said in this sense you can understand the difference between a local area network and the Internet by thinking of it as a telephone system but a lot more complicated in for computers.

Post 2

The only reason that I ever learned what the difference between a local area network and the Internet was is because I'm an Internet gamer. Understanding how to hook up my console system to the Internet through my wireless router was critical to ensuring a proper and good connection for playing my games. When it comes to gaming on the Internet it's all about network speed and efficiency so if you have your Internet settings set up right you will be able to have a excellent game with a good connection.

You will run into major issues when trying to connect between the LAN and Internet if your console does not have the right settings. Often wireless routers and

even wired routers could have settings that will specifically deny your console system access to the proper ports but it needs to get to in order to connect other gaming consoles. Ensuring that these ports are open and that the connection between the local area network and the Internet are proper will make sure that you have the best gaming experience possible.
Post 1

Won the average computer will never need to know the difference it is important for computer professionals to know the difference between a local area network and the Internet are. Knowing these differences are essential to allowing for proper security of computer systems in a type of environment. One must realize that the security on the Internet is usually much less stringent than what is available on a local area network. Even out of dangers that can be found on the Internet as opposed to a local area network are fast.

One way to avoid issues is to place a firewall in between your local area network and the Internet. Most firewalls are capable of fending off any type

of denial of service attack as well as other security infringements that may come from outside sources on the World Wide Web. You must consult other security firms if you want to be sure that your sensitive data on your local area network is secure from the Internet.

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