Types of network – PAN, MAN, WLAN, SAN, CAN, DAN

In a previous article I wrote about LAN and WAN, the most important types of network so in this post I will be presenting the other less known types of network that you’ve probably never even heard of.

I will try to cover them in an order based on size and scope and you can jump to any of them if you feel the rest are not so interesting, but keep in mind that you should take a look just to at least know what they mean for future use. 


PAN is definitively the smallest type of network you can currently use and the name comes from Personal Area Network. You’ve probably used this in the last week without even knowing it.

PAN is the interconnected network of technologic devices within the reach of an individual person, but usually limited to a range of maximum 10 meters.

PAN can be seen as a subset of LAN but supporting a single person instead of a group.

Personal Area Networks can include devices like laptops, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant), portable printers, cell phones (smart phones), etc.

PAN can be constructed with cables (USB or FireWire) or wireless (Bluetooth, Infrared, Z-Wave, ZigBee) technologies available on portable devices like on those already mentioned.

Ad-hoc connections through the use of Bluetooth are sometimes called PICONETs, technology that allows only one master device to act as a server and interconnect with up to seven slave devices to act as hosts. A number of 255 other slave devices can be idle or inactive, allowing the master device to bring any of them to active state at any time (in the detriment of one of the seven already active devices which will become inactive).

You have to keep in mind that PAN (cable based) can be a synonym to a WPAN (wireless based) in some cases, because in the end, a WPAN is first PAN and it only relies on wireless technology to become a WPAN. The main difference between a PAN and a WPAN is that a PAN will support services for only one person, while a WPAN will become a LAN in such cases and will serve multiple possible users.

PAN can be used to connect to Internet too, but this is when it loses its purpose as a network and the needs for it fades while it becomes a part of a higher ranked network, even if the concept of serving a single person still stands.


MAN stands for Metropolitan Area Network and it spans a city, a large campus, or an entire urban area. A MAN, just like a WAN, interconnects LANs using high-capacity backbone technologies such as FDDI, ATM or SMDS, but can also use WiFi technologies as network media .

A MAN is smaller than a WAN but bigger than a LAN.


WLAN stands for Wireless Local Area Network and it was actually presented in the LAN section but we should mention it here too because it is a network type and it is based on WiFi wireless network technologies.


When we talk about SAN we can talk about two different things, depending on the context.

SAN can mean Storage Area Network that connects servers to data storage devices with the use of a specific technology chosen when implementing the solution and it can also mean System Area Network which is a network connection of high-performance computers, like servers that need high-speed connections in a cluster configuration.

Most of the times, when you will hear people talking about SAN, they will be talking about Storage Area Network, because the System Area Network is also called a Cluster Area Network, but you shouldn’t always assume this, better get more intel.

SAN can also be used as acronym in different contexts for environments like Server Area Network or Small Area Network.


CAN stands for Campus Area Network.

It is not very used in networking environments, but you should know about it too.

This is a network spanning multiple LANs and smaller than a MAN. For example, a university or a business campus. Keep in mind that sometimes this will be the actual MAN, depending on the technologies used and the coverage area.

CAN may be sometimes used as acronym for environments like Controller Area Network or Cluster Area Network.


Another rarely used term that should be mentioned is DAN, which stands for Desk Area Network.

This is actually a bit different than those I wrote about until now. DAN is an interconnection of computer devices using ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode).

In other words, DAN is actually a network of peripherals and it supports with the help of ATM, the exchange of information for these various peripherals with the CPU inside a computer.

DAN allows access over the network to different resources like peripherals and even more, it allows the share of resources over the network.

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