What is a campus area network (CAN)?

Most often used on college and university campuses, a campus area network (CAN) is a computer network that connects multiple buildings within a large property.

Learning Objectives

After reading this article you will be able to:

  • Define campus area network (CAN)
  • Tell the difference between CANs, WANs, and LANs
  • Identify the performance and security benefits of CANs

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What is a campus area network (CAN)?

A campus area network (CAN) is a computer network that spans a limited geographic area. CANs interconnect multiple local area networks (LAN) within an educational or corporate campus. Most CANs connect to the public Internet.

CANs are smaller than metropolitan area networks (MAN) and wide area networks (WAN), which stretch over large geographic areas. Typically, the organization that owns the campus also owns and operates all the networking equipment and infrastructure for the CAN. In contrast, MANs and WANs may combine infrastructure operated by several different providers.

At colleges, universities, and other educational institutions, CANs provide Internet access for students and faculty. CANs also enable connected users to quickly share files and data within the network: since data does not have to leave the CAN, users experience far less latency than they would when sending and receiving data within a MAN or WAN. Suppose a university’s English department requests digital copies of several books from the university library. Because those digital book copies only have to travel the distance between the English building and the library building (assuming both buildings have their own servers), the English department receives them far faster than it would if the library had to send the files over the public Internet.

Corporate facilities large enough to be considered a "campus" may also operate CANs for the same purposes.

What are the security benefits of CANs?

A CAN is typically managed fully by an internal IT team, giving that team a high degree of control over the network. IT teams can apply security policies across the network far more easily than if the campus used multiple disconnected networks. For instance, IT may install and manage firewalls to protect the data within the CAN. IT can also manage access to the network by setting login requirements, blocking unsafe devices, and setting up other access control safeguards.

How does Cloudflare protect campus area networks?

Cloudflare protects networks of all sizes from malicious attacks. Cloudflare Magic Transit is Cloudflare's offering for blocking network attacks, accelerating traffic, and ensuring reliability. By offering cloud-based network functions, Magic Transit enables teams that manage networks to reduce their investment in hardware.

Cloudflare Network Interconnect allows networks to directly interconnect with Cloudflare for increased security and performance, either through a physical cable connection or a private virtual connection.

Learn more about different types of networks, including WANs, LANs, and MANs.