What is a LAN?

LAN stands for Local Area Network. This is a system of personal computers that are linked together by wires so that they can share both information and resources such as printers and modems. The most common use of a LAN is to allow multiple users to access a common storehouse of data, such as customer transactions, product information, or sales figures. LANs allow workgroups to collaborate on projects by passing documents back and forth. Some network software even allows multiple users to work on different portions of the same document at the same time. Users on a network can communicate with each other by exchanging messages, called electronic mail or e-mail. Meetings can be set up automatically using scheduling software which consults each attendee’s personal calendar and finds a date and time when everyone is free. Another upcoming use for networks is videoconferencing, where video cameras allow the faces of meeting members to appear in a window on the computer screen. As the name suggests, a Local Area Network is confined to a local area, such as a department or branch office. When distant LANs are hooked together, they form a WAN, or Wide Area Network. Online services and the Internet are other examples of large networks.

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