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LAN( Local Area Network)

What is LAN:
It actually stands for local area network. A network is a group of computers
and other devices connected together so they can pass information back
and forth. The local area network (LAN) is a network which is designed to
operate over a small physical area such as an office, factory or a group of
buildings. LANs are very widely used in a variety of applications.

LAN Definition:
The personal computers and workstations in the offices are interconnected
via LAN to share resources. The resources to be shared can be hardware
like a printer or softwares or data. A LAN is a form of local (limited-
distance), shared packet network for computer communications. In LAN all
the machines are connected to a single cable. The data rates for LAN
range from 4 to 16 Mbps with the maximum of 100 Mbps.
The term LAN can also refer just to the hardware and software that allows
you to connect all the devices together. In this sense, Local Talk is one kind
of LAN, Ethernet is another. (AppleTalk is the protocol for Local Talk.)
The components used by LANs can be divided into cabling standards,
hardware, and protocols. Various LAN protocols are Ethernet, Token Ring:
TCP/IP, 5MB, NetBIOS, Fiber Distributed Data Interchange (FDDI) and
Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM).

Why Use a LAN?

There are two basic reasons for developing a LAN: Information sharing
and resource sharing. Information sharing refers to having users access
the same data files, exchange information via e-mail, or use the Internet.
For example, a single purchase order database might be maintained so all
users can access its contents over the LAN.The main benefit of information
sharing is improved decision making, which makes it generally more
important than resource sharing.
Resource sharing refers: To one computer sharing a hardware device
(e.g., printer, an Internet connection) or software package with other
computers on the network to save costs. For example, suppose we have
30 computers on a LAN, each of which needs access to a word processing
package. One option is to purchase 30 copies of the software and install
one on each computer. This would use disk space on each computer and
require a significant amount of staff time to perform the installation and
maintain the software, particularly if the package were updated regularly.
An alternative is to install the software on the network for all to use. This
would eliminate the need to keep a copy on every computer and would free
up disk space. It would also simplify software maintenance because any
software upgrades would be installed once on the network server; staff
members would no longer have to upgrade all computers.

In most cases, not all users would need to access the word processing
package simultaneously. Therefore, rather than purchasing a license for
each computer in the network, you could instead purchase ten licenses,
presuming that only ten users would simultaneously use the software. Of
course, the temptation is to purchase only one copy of the software and
permit everyone to use it simultaneously. The cost savings would be
significant, but this is illegal. Virtually all software licenses require one copy
to be purchased for each simultaneous user. Most companies and all
government agencies have policies forbidding the violation of software
licenses, and many fire employees who knowingly violate them.
One approach to controlling the number of copies of a particular
software package is to use LAN metering software that prohibits using
more copies of a package than there are installed licenses. Many software
packages now come in LAN versions that do this automatically, and a
number of third-party packages are also available.
Types of LAN:
Ethernet is the most common type of LAN: Different LAN can be
differentiated on the behalf of following characteristics.
Topology: The topology is the geometric arrangement of a network
elements. For example, Network devices can be interconnected in a ring
topology or in a bus topology or linear bus.
Protocols: It is a guideline for communicating data between two devices.
The protocols also determine type of error and data compression.
Media: The cable used in LAN to connect devices is twisted-pair wire,
coaxial cables, or fiber optic.
Wan vs LAN:
LAN's are also distinguished from MAN's and WAN's based on the
transmission media they use and topology. In general a given LAN will use
only one type of transmission medium. The most common topologies used
are bus, ring and star. Two or more interconnects different smaller
networks are called a wide-area network (WAN).The difference between a
LAN and WAN is that the WAN spans a relatively large geographical
distance such as across cities, states, or countries.
Example of LAN Topologies:
Various topologies are possible for the broadcast LANs such as bus
topology or ring topology.

Bus Topology:
• Bus topology is shown in Fig. In this topology at any instant only one
computer acts as master and it is allowed to transmit (broadcast). The
others are supposed to listen.
• If two or more machines want to transmit simultaneously then an
arbitration mechanism has to be used for resolving the conflict.
• It is possible to have a centralized or distributed type arbitration
• The most popular example of bus topology is Ethernet (IEEE 802.3). It
has a decentralized control and it operates at 10 or 100 Mbps.
• Computers on Ethernet can transmit whenever they want. If collision of
their packets takes place, then they wait for a random time and retransmit
their packets.
Ring Topology:
• This is another broadcast topology.
• In a ring each bit propagates around on its own without waiting for the rest
of the packet to which it belongs.
• Since it is a broadcast system, some rules are essential for arbitrating the
simultaneous access to the ring.
• An example of ring based LAN is IEEE 802.5 (IBM token ring) operating
at 4 and 16 Mbps.
Static and dynamic broadcast networks:
• The broadcast networks are further classified into two types namely,
1. Static networks and
2. Dynamic networks.
• This classification is based on how the channel is allocated.
• In static allocation, each machine is allowed to broadcast only in its
allotted time slot.
• But static allocation wastes the channel capacity when a machine does
not want to transmit in its allotted time slot.
• Hence most of the systems try to allocate the channel dynamically i.e. on
LAN Applications and Benefits:
LANs are used almost exclusively for data communications over relatively
short distances such as within an office, office building or campus
environment. LANs allow multiple workstations to share access to multiple
host computers, other workstations, printers and other peripherals, and
connections to other networks. LANs are also being utilized for imaging
applications, as well. They are also being used for video and voice
communications, although currently on a very limited basis.
LAN applications include communications between the workstation and
host computers, other workstations, and servers. The servers may allow
sharing of resources. Resources could be information, data files, e-mail,
voice mail, software, hardware (hard disk, printer, fax, etc.) and other
LAN benefits include the fact that a high-speed transmission system can be
shared among multiple devices in support of large number of active
terminals and a large number of active applications in the form of a multi-
user, multi-tasking computer network. LAN-connected workstations realize
the benefit of decentralized access to very substantial centralized
processors, perhaps in the form of mainframe host computer and storage
capabilities (information repositories). Additionally, current technology
allows multiple LANs to be inter-networked through the use of LAN
switches, routers and the like.
Disadvantages of LANs include concern for security of files and accounts.