What is a Local Area Network and why does your business needs a properly designed one?
A Local Area Network (LAN) is an interconnected grouping of computers, printers, servers, storage, switches and routers at a particular physical location. The smallest LANs can have only two computers, while a large LAN can accommodate many hundreds of PCs, laptops, IP phones, and printers.
Larger LANs are usually divided into logical groups by having them on different IP networks or incorporating virtual LANs to separate user traffic, increase performance and improve network responsiveness. For a company with multiple locations, a LAN is just one segment of their networking solution. A company with multiple sites or locations would have a Local Area Network at each location, with the separate segments being interconnected to each other and the Internet creating a Wide Area Network (WAN).
Most local area networks start out with relatively inexpensive hardware such as Ethernet cables, network and wireless network adapters, small (4-5 port) hubs, wireless routers, and an Internet/WAN gateway. As the number of users and the bandwidth requirements of a network grow, companies with no on-site networking personnel or support simply daisy-chain more hubs or 4-5 port low cost routers from various vendors to expand their network.
Networks expanded in the ad-hoc manner described above, can be quickly overwhelmed by one problematic network card, heavy transfers between users and servers, or a compromised/infected machine. If all equipment worked as advertised, companies would not see their networks slow down with as little as 5-10 users.
Network issues in an unplanned network using poorly suited equipment grow exponentially. Adding only a few users can frequently turn a poorly performing network into an unusable one.