Networking: Connecting the World One PC at a Time
by Spencer Wade
The Internet is an amazing piece of human creativity and ingenuity. It allows computers to be interconnected, share data, and work in harmony with one another to accomplish tasks via a network. What is a network? That is a question with a somewhat complex answer. A network is, by definition, a group of two or more computer systems linked together. There are many types of computer networks. These include:
- Local-Area Networks (LANs): The computers in a LAN network must be located close together geographically. Almost 100% of the time these computers are in the same building.
- Metropolitan-Area Networks (MANs): This is a data network designed for a large city or town.
- Home-Area Networks (HANs): Any network contained within a home that connects a user’s digital devices.
- Campus-Area Networks (CANs): The computers are all located within a defined geographical location. This area constitutes the perimeter of a campus or military base.
- Wide-Area Networks (WANs): Computers are located far apart geographically, and are connected by telephone lines or radio waves.
There are also characteristics of networks, along with the specific type, that are used to categorize different networks. These characteristics cover everything from how the network is constructed to how it interacts with the other systems in the network. These characteristics include:
- Topology: This is the geometric arrangement of a computer system. Common forms of topology include a bus, a ring, and a star.
- Architecture: There are two broad classifications of networks all computer systems are broken into. These classifications are peer-to-peer and client/server architecture.
- Protocol: The defined set of rules and signals computers on a network use to communicate is the protocol of the network. There are many forms of protocols used by networks today, and these vary from network to network. Popular forms include Ethernet and Token-Ring Networks.
Network software is a general phrase used for software designed to helpset up, manage, and monitor computer networks. There are software products and applications available to users today that are able to manage and monitor networks of all sizes. This means there is a software capable of managing the largest enterprise network all the way down to the smallest home.
A network computer is a generic term given to any computer with minimal memory, disk storage space, and processor power designed to connect to a network. The concept of a network computer is based on the assumption that many users who connect to a network do not need all the computer power normally associated with a personal computer. The network servers supply the necessary computing power for these users.
The old concept of diskless workstations, computers with no disk storage on their hard drives, became the basis of network computers. These computers are wholly dependent on the network servers to store any and all data. Network computers go one step further than diskless workstations by minimizing the amount of processor power and memory they need to do their tasks. Network computers are often called Net PCs, Internet appliances, or Internet boxes.
Network computers reduce the total cost of ownership for users. This is due to the fact that the machines are less expensive than their fully loaded counterparts. The savings in hardware alone can be extensive, but network computers also have another benefit. They can be administered and updated simultaneously from a central network server.
The information given concerning networks thus far has merely scratched the surface of what a network actually is. There is as much information about a specific network available to users as one could ever ask for, and more than one could ever hope to digest in a short period of time. There is also an abundance of terminology that goes with networking. For example, computers on a network are often referred to as nodes, and devices that allocate resources for a network are called servers. These are just two of the countless terms associated with computer networking.