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3.1: Network Characteristics

Exam Board:

Eduqas / WJEC


2020 + 

What is a network?

A network is more than one computer system connected together allowing for communication and sharing of resources.

There are many benefits but also some drawbacks to using a network compared to having an unconnected ('standalone') computer:

Advantages of Networks

Easily share files, software and hardware between computers.

Disadvantages of Networks

There is an initial cost because network devices like routers are required. Larger companies will need to buy and maintain a server.

Log in from any connected computer and access your data and files.

A network manager / administrator might need to be employed to maintain the network.

An administrator can monitor network activity and control security settings.

Data from computers on the network can be automatically backed up on central storage.

Security breaches are more likely and malware, such as worms, can spread quickly across the network.

If the web server fails, all connected computers won't be able to access files or log on.

Network Types

Networks can be split into different types, usually categorised by their geographical distance apart and the area that they serve.

Local Area Network

A local area network (LAN) has computer systems situated geographically close together, usually within the same building or small site, like a school or office.

Wide Area Network

A wide area network (WAN) has computer systems situated geographically distant to each other, possibly across a country or even across the world. The internet is an example of a WAN that spans the globe.

Personal Area Network

A PAN is a personal network for an individual, such as a photographer connecting a smartphone, desktop computer and printer together.

Metropolitan Area Network

A MAN is larger than a LAN but smaller than a WAN and typically covers a relatively large area like a university campus, town or city.

Virtual Private Network

A VPN allows for a secure and encrypted connection to a public network like the internet. It is often used to protect an individual's privacy by concealing their real location.

Wired & Wireless Networks

Wired Connections

Wireless Connections

Wireless connections, such as WiFi or Bluetooth, use no cables but require a wireless network interface card (WNIC).


Wireless connections generally have a slower speed and can be affected by the computer's distance from the wireless router as well as obstacles like walls or bad weather.

Wired connections use physical cables, such as copper or fibre optic wires, and require a network interface card (NIC) to connect to a network.


These wired connections use a wired connection protocol - most commonly Ethernet.

Network Interface Card.png

Restricted Movement


More Secure

NIC Required

Network Interface Card.png

Freedom of Movement


Less Secure

WNIC Required

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Questo's Questions

3.1 - Network Characteristics:

1. A retirement home for the elderly is considering installing a LAN, give 3 benefits and 3 drawbacks they might find of using a network. [6]

2a. Describe the difference between a LAN and WAN. [2]

2b. Give an example of how a LAN and a WAN could each be used. [2]

3. Explain the differences between a PAN, MAN and VPN. [3]

4. For each of the scenarios below, state which network type would be most suitable:

  • a. The IT rooms of a secondary school. [1]

  • b. A study in a house with a desktop and printer. [1]

  • c. Using online banking when abroad on a holiday to stay secure[1]

  • d. A large technology company with offices across Europe[1]

  • e. Council offices with several locations across Manchester[1]

5. Briefly compare wired and wireless networks[8]

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