Virtual local area network is a situation where two or more networking devices are made to communicate with each other as if they belonged to the same broadcast domain, but lack physical connection. VLANs allow for the segmentation of networks, eliminating the need for many routers. VLANs bring a lot of advantages to the networking environment.
VLANs also allow the allocation of a user to a network location irrespective of physical location. This means that, organizations can group their staff under VLANs corresponding to their department, irrespective of their location. An employee in the marketing department located in Lisbon can be on the same network as another employee of the marketing department located in Accra. Users may also be assigned to VLANs based on their network needs such as software, bandwidth, devices and so on. Users requiring the same resources can be grouped on the same VLAN. This allows for better management of the network. The network administrator is given better control over the network.
VLANs also saves money. The other alternative to VLANs is the use of routers to segment the network. Routers are one of the most expensive network devices and may cost a few hundreds of dollars each. Implementing a VLAN however does not require a router for each network segment, delivering a lot of savings to the organization. VLANs can therefore be implemented on small as well as large scale networks, without additional cost.
VLANS are also considered more secure than normal networks. Since the virtual network does not make use of physical equipment for segmentation, it is very difficult for the network segment to be tampered with. It will take someone who knows the network very well to modify or try to tamper with it. It also takes a lot of effort to really understand the architecture of the network segment, hence it is assumed that VLANs are safer and more secured than physical network segments.
VLANs also allow for traffic flow management. VLANs can be configured to control traffic pattens. VLANs are able to detect changes in network traffic and relocations of host and can be made to react to such changes. They may also be configured to be flexible so as to adapt to changes in the network traffic. Routers can also be used on VLANs to improve the traffic flow management, provide address summarization, improve the security and filter broadcast messages.
VLANs implementation can be done in two different ways; Static and Dynamic. With the static implementation, the network administrator defines and assigns VLANs to ports on a switch. Dynamic VLANs however allows a port of a switch to configure itself to a VLAN, depending on the MAC address of the connected device. This requires a database that maps MAC addresses to VLANs.
Virtual Networks are particularly beneficial to academic and research institutions. This is because of the low associated cost as well as the security features delivered. Security agencies such as the police departments, military and investigations can also take advantage of the security delivered by VLANs.
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