The fundamental purpose of computer networks is to provide access to shared resources, including storage for decision support data and information. One type of network for providing shared resources is a Local Area Network (LAN). A LAN has several primary components:
The most common network design is for the server in a local area network (LAN) to be the same sort of personal computer hardware as the individual personal computers on the network. In this case, the operating system is called a "network operating system" or NOS to emphasize the difference from the single-user operating system of the personal computer. Novell Netware is an example of this approach. A NOS is an operating system that manages network resources. The NOS is like a traffic cop, controlling the exchange and flow of files, electronic mail, and print jobs. It manages multiple requests concurrently and provides the security needed in a multi-user environment.
A Local Area Network (LAN) is a communications network that serves users within a confined geographical area. It is made up of servers, workstations, a network operating system and a communications link. A Wide Area Network (WAN) is a much larger network than a LAN and all machines are not directly connected. A group of LANs are often connected and form a WAN. LANs and WANs can be directly connected to the global Internet.