What Is a LAN Device?

Server rooms contain LAN devices seldom seen by those who use them.
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At its most basic, you can define a LAN device as any device directly connected to a local area network. Devices on the same LAN can usually access the same resources, share files and access the Internet through the same access point, like a router. Many LAN devices you may rely on every day are stored in secure server rooms to keep them cool and prevent them from being tampered with.

1 Understanding LANs

While the devices comprising a LAN continue to evolve, the definition of a LAN has not changed in more than 20 years. A LAN is a data network that occupies a relatively small area, like a house or an office, where components like computers can access the same resources and services. The two most common LAN technologies are Ethernet and Wi-Fi (802.11x). Older technologies like Token Ring are rarely used today. Consequently, any device in your home, school or office directly connected to a local area network with an Ethernet cable, or a Wi-Fi adapter, is a LAN device.

2 LAN Devices You See Daily

Computers, tablets and smartphones connected to a network are considered LAN devices, as are the router and modem found in most homes and small offices. Smart appliances can also be LAN devices if they are connected to your network. These can include everything from gaming consoles, smart TVs and Blu-ray players to network printers and IP-based webcams. Some manufacturers are now making smart washers, dryers and ovens that would also be LAN devices once they are configured for your home network.

3 LAN Devices in a Large Network

Networks used by large companies and school campuses include additional network devices not usually found in a home. These include servers, which are powerful computers that store files and programs and manage access to the network through stored passwords. Large networks also use advanced networking devices like switches, firewalls and routers. These networking devices essentially do what a home router does by managing traffic and directing data to the right devices; however, they have advanced management software and can handle anywhere from a few dozen to a few thousand connections simultaneously.

4 What Isn't a LAN Device

Merely connecting something to a LAN doesn't necessarily make it a LAN device. For example, if you connect a printer to a computer on your network and share that printer using your computer's software, the printer isn't actually a LAN device because it's not directly connected to the LAN. If you add a Wi-Fi adapter or connect an Ethernet cable to the same printer, it would then be part of the LAN. By definition, Bluetooth devices aren't LAN devices either, since they don't use Ethernet or Wi-Fi to connect to the network.

A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses and governments on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines throughout Canada and the United States.