The network allows connected computers to share information and hardware. Imagine a business where there are many computers and a single printer. In this instance, the "network" allows each of the connected computers to access the printer at the same time, without changing the printer cable or moving it from computer to computer.
A local area network (LAN) is created by a group of computers that are in close proximity to each other; hence local. The computers typically connect to each other by way of a switch, which is a device that directs signals within the LAN. A LAN is typically created at schools and businesses that have an exclusive network for students and employees. A WiFi hotspot, like the ones found at Starbucks, would also be a LAN.
Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN). A wireless network is a LAN that is created using WiFi(a wireless technology) access point instead of wired ones.
Campus Area Network (CAN)
Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)
Wide Area Network (WAN). A wide area network connects multiple LANs across large physical distances. They're commonly created by leasing a wire from a cable company or internet provider, although WAN typically doesn't require the internet in order to work. If the LAN of one school was connected to a LAN at a school in another state, the two together would be a WAN. A router is used to connect LANs.
Storage-Area Network (SAN)
Enterprise Private Network (EPN)
Virtual Private Network (VPN). Virtual private networks provide a special way to create a WAN by using the internet to connect LANs together, without leasing a private cable. An example might be if you were at your house, away from school, you can create a VPN to connect to the schools network, without having to lease a communications cable. A VPN encapsulates your data so that it is secure while traversing the internet.