LAN in the Cloud Era

Posted by Karen on Oct 2, 2015 12:00:00 AM
A few years ago, most offices made extensive use of local area networks (LANs). For example, accounting software could be installed on one computer, and used on several others that were connected to the same LAN. Now, that same office has the option of using online accounting software, which stores its financial data in the cloud. These days, there are business services apps and websites that cover a variety of areas – from time tracking to sales databases – so do we need LANs anymore? Have they become redundant?

Multiple Devices - One Person

For businesses, the advantage of LANs was that multiple people could access the same data and work in the same applications, which were stored locally. Cloud technology has replicated and improved this function, but there is still a place for the local area network.

The issue people are dealing with now isn’t the need to share data between employees, but the need to share data across devices. An employee may work with, and store data on, a variety of devices – laptop, mobile and tablet. They could use cloud-based apps such as Dropbox, or Google Docs to create, store or collaborate on documents, but they could also transfer data over the LAN. Pushbullet is software that connects its users various devices, essentially making them a unified hub. It recently released an app, Portal, that transfers data over the users LAN, which connects the users devices. Using this method, people can increase the speed of transfer and avoid going through Pushbullet’s servers.

Wireless LAN

Wireless LAN is becoming more popular in some regions. The EMEA enterprise wireless LAN market grew by 11.5 per cent year-on-year while it declined by 5.4 per cent in the US, which was attributed to the education sector delaying investment in the technology.

The difference between LAN and WLAN is simple, a LAN network comprises of devices connected via a cable while WLAN uses wi-fi. Using WLAN, businesses can take advantage of the fast data transfer that LAN provides, without the need to connect each device on the network physically.

Helping bridge the internet gap

LAN technology is being used in countries with low internet penetration to help bridge the digital divide. eGranary Digital Library, referred to as an “offline information store”, accesses more than 32 million items of information taken from the internet (with permission).

Schools and clinics then install the software and use LANs to enable other computer users to access the data. So far, the software has been installed in more than 1000 educational and public health institutions in India, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Haiti and Papua New Guinea. Of course, this isn’t a perfect solution to the lack of internet access. Information is shared and changed so often online that a snapshot of data is a pretty poor substitute for consistent high-speed internet access. However, using local area networks in this way can offer people some form of information sharing while they wait for internet providers to develop adequate services in their areas. While LANs may not be used to the extent that they used to be, they still serve a purpose in a world where information doesn’t just need to be shared and edited by many people, but also unified and streamlined to make life easier for the individual.
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