Individual computers provide opportunities for tremendous productivity gains, but they become many times more powerful when they’re connected to one another in data networks that give them the ability to share data and processing resources. With a network, users can read and edit an evolving document from their own computer with minimal effort and coordination. Without a network, these people have to share time on the same computer or work out a process for exchanging removable storage media. A network connects computers, mobile phones, peripherals, and even IoT (Internet of Things) devices.
A basic understanding of networking is important for anyone managing a server. Not only is it essential for getting your services online and running smoothly, it also gives you the insight to diagnose problems. Computer networks are present everywhere. You will find them in homes, offices, factories, hospitals, restaurants, entertainment plazas, etc.
At a conceptual level, all data networks consist of nodes, which refer to any computer or digital device using the network and links, the physical connections (either wired or wireless) that carry messages between nodes.
There are primarily two types of networks—home and office networks. Network used at home or in the neighborhood and the ones in corporations and officers are different because of their size. It’s interesting to know that both types of networks have similar components.
Networks can be wired or wireless with most networks being a mixture of both. Most networks before 2008 were wired. The scenario today is different where a combination of both wired and wireless networks are used.
Wired networks use Ethernet as the data link protocol. This is unlikely to change with the IoT (Internet of Things), as IoT devices are primarily wireless.
Let’s look at the advantages of a wired network.
1. Ethernet ports are found on almost all laptops/PCs and netbooks, even on those that are from 2008.
2. Wired networks are faster than wireless. Data rates were periodically increased from the original 10 megabits per second, to 1 gigabits per second. Most home networks use 10-100 Mbps.
3. More secure than wireless.
Let’s look at the disadvantages of a wired network
1. Not supported on mobile phones and tablets.
2. Need to use cable which can look unappealing, difficult to run, and expensive.
3. Can’t be used between buildings and offices.
Let’s look at some of advantages of wireless networks
1. Easy to set-up, install, run.
2. Can be used in homes and offices alike.
3. Does not require laying cables.
3. Compatible with mobile phones, laptops and tablets.
Let’s look at the disadvantages of a wireless network
1. Not as secure as wired networks can be tapped into.
2. Limited range
3. Considered slower than wired networks.
What are the main variants of networks?
A computer network is mainly of the following types:
A Local Area Network (LAN) is a group of computers and associated devices that share a common communications line or wireless link to a server. Typically, a LAN encompasses computers and peripherals connected to a server within a distinct geographic area such as an office or a commercial establishment.
A Personal Area Network (PAN) is a computer network made up of an interconnection of local area networks (LANs) within a limited geographical area. The networking equipment (switches, routers) and transmission media (optical fiber, copper plant, Cat5 cabling etc.) are almost entirely owned by the campus tenant /owner. Like an enterprise, university, institution etc.
A Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) is a computer network that interconnects users with computer resources in a geographic area or region larger than that covered by even a large local area network (LAN) but smaller than the area covered by a wide area network (WAN). The term is applied to the interconnection of networks in a city into a single larger network (which may then also offer efficient connection to a wide area network). It is also used to mean the interconnection of several local area networks by bridging them with backbone lines. The latter usage is also sometimes referred to as a campus network.
A wide area network (WAN) is a network that exists over a large-scale geographical area. A WAN connects different smaller networks, including local area networks (LANs) and metro area networks (MANs). This ensures that computers and users in one location can communicate with computers and users in other locations. WAN implementation can be done either with the help of the public transmission system or a private network.
A wireless local area network (WLAN) is a wireless computer network that links two or more devices using wireless communication within a limited area such as a home, school, computer laboratory, or office building. This gives users the ability to move around within a local coverage area and yet still be connected to the network. Through a gateway, a WLAN can also provide a connection to the wider Internet.
EPN (Enterprise Private Network)
These types of networks are built and owned by businesses that want to securely connect its various locations to share computer resources.