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Local Area Networks: The Complete Dummy’s Guide

Computer internet connections can be a baffling concept. When you log into your computer to get onto the internet, you want it to work, and fast. The days of slower internet connection are over, for the most part thankfully with all the newer technology dealing with local area networks. You have probably heard the word “LAN” before in tech talk, but do you know what it means?

What Are Local Area Networks?

LAN is a “Local Area Network” which is an internet access point that covers a smaller area, such as a home, small business, or library. Colleges sometimes use them for their dorm area spaces to help their students stay connected. Larger computer networks are called “WAN” for Wide Area Network. They cover bigger areas usually with telecommunication lines. Or they can cover multiple buildings in a wider location. The hardware for connection is usually made up of an Ethernet cable, network adaptors, and a central hub that links everything together.

Smaller local area networks are important since they allow multiple devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones), to communicate with each other in a smaller area. They can also share other devices like printers, fax machines, and scanners. It’s all about the transfer of data or messages between devices, or office equipment.

How LAN’s Are Setup

A Local Area Network is usually set up with a router at a certain access point, but they are usually wireless now. It has a radio transmitter that is either 2.4 GHz or 5GHZ depending on what kind of range you want to have with your internet access or the power of your router. They come in all different price ranges, so it’s best not to go with the most inexpensive model. You want a high-quality router to be able to effortlessly connect to the internet. The days of having to sit on a desktop computer that is connected to an old school DSL with cable connections is over for the most part. Remember sitting there, listening to your computer “dial up” to get on the internet. That static connection sometimes took a few minutes to work, which could be extremely frustrating. Modern networks have a Wifi signal that can communicate with all your devices seamlessly. Your specific devices have built-in antennas that are able to wirelessly pick up the signal to get on the internet. The kids today don’t know how good they have it with the ease of it all! Remember waiting a whole hour to download one song to your computer’s hard drive? They have no idea.

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A Local Area Network Address

Each specific LAN gets it’s own IP address, which means “internet protocol.” This address allows your computer device to communicate with others via the internet. It’s all one big tied together grid that makes up the World Wide Web. It’s international too, so you can have a computer based in California, and talk to a linked up person in China. It’s made for much less expensive business communication all across the world. This is especially true with free sites like “Skype” that let you video chat with anyone, anywhere in the world that has a connection.

LAN In Residential Areas

Most cable companies in residential areas will provide your internet connection for a fee. The fee will depend on what kind of speed you want for your computers. If you download a ton of movies, or stream videos constantly then you are going to want a faster speed, so the downloading process goes smoothly. If you are just mildly surfing the web on some basic websites, or just checking your emails, then you probably don’t need the most expensive speed they offer, and you can save a little money. It’s really up to your own web based needs.

The way that the cable companies are able to provide the internet is through Coaxial Cable, which is the same cable used to hook up their pay television services. There are also high-speed fiber optic cables that are sometimes used as well. It just depends on the provider in your area and their technology. Fiber optics have been around since the late 1920’s, but the way that they are used now makes for a much faster internet connection over the optical fibers which can be single, or multiples.

Most of the time when you setup your local area networks it is protected by an access code, and password. You can leave it as an open network, but that can leave you vulnerable to hackers who can get your information if you aren’t careful. It’s your choice who you give your network password to if someone is in your home vicinity using a computer device.

Troubleshooting Local Area Networks

One of the most frustrating things in the world is that if you are in your home, you go to log onto the internet, and you don’t have a connection. The first thing you want to do is go to your router to check that connection. There are a setup lit buttons that should be working. If one, or multiple buttons aren’t lighting up the easier thing to do as a troubleshooting measure is to restart your router. Turn it off for a few minutes, and back on again to see if that solves the trouble indoors. It sometimes helps to restart your computer as well to make sure it’s not the issue.

If that doesn’t get your connection back up and running, it might be a problem with the cables outside your home. You can then call your internet provider so they can test the line remotely to solve the issue. Sometimes it might a general outage for whatever reason in your area. They can usually tell you that right up front, or send someone out to fix your internet connection. The whole process is pretty straightforward, even though it seems kind of complicated.