A computer with a single network interface can communicate with many other computers. This economy and flexibility has made networks the interface of choice, eclipsing point-to-point methods such as RS-232. Typical advantages of networks include resource sharing and ease of communication. But, networks do require more knowledge and understanding.
Small networks are often called Local Area Networks (LANs). These may connect a few hundred computers within a distance of hundreds of meters. These networks are inexpensive, often costing $100 or less per network node. Data can be transmitted at rates of millions of bits per second. Many controls system are using networks to communicate with other controllers and computers. Typical applications include;
Larger Wide Area Networks (WANs) are used for communicating over long distances between LANs. These are not common in controls applications, but might be needed for a very large scale process. An example might be an oil pipeline control system that is spread over thousands of miles.