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What is a Computer Network?
Learning Objective:
After reading this INFORMATION SHEET, YOU MUST be able to be familiar
with Computer Network.
A computer network or data network is a telecommunications network that
allows computers to exchange data. In computer networks, networked
computing devices pass data to each other along data connections. Data is
transferred in the form of packets. The connections (network links) between
nodes are established using either cable media or wireless media. The bestknown computer network is the Internet.

In general, the term network can refer to any interconnected group or

system. More specifically, a network is any method of sharing information
between two systems (human or mechanical).
One of the earliest examples of a computer network was a network of
communicating computers that functioned as part of the U.S. military's SemiAutomatic Ground Environment (SAGE) radar system. In 1969, the University
of California at Los Angeles, the Stanford Research Institute, the University of
California at Santa Barbara and the University of Utah were connected as part
of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) project. It is this
network that evolved to become what we now call the Internet.
Networks are used to:

Facilitate communication via email, video conferencing, instant

messaging, etc.
Enable multiple users to share a single hardware device like a printer or
Enable file sharing across the network

Allow for the sharing of software or operating programs on remote

Make information easier to access and maintain among network users


Technically speaking, networking can be defined as a bunch of computers that
have with wires running in between them. If proper implementation of a
network is done, it acts as a system that provides unique capabilities to its
users. The benefits that networking offers are:

File sharing - Network file sharing between computers gives you more
convenient than using floppy drives or Zip drives. Not only can you share
photos, music files, and documents, you can also use a home network to
save copies of all of your important data on a different computer.
Backups are one of the most critical yet overlooked tasks in home

Printer / peripheral sharing - Once a home network is in place, it's easy

to then set up all of the computers to share a single printer. No longer
will you need to bounce from one system or another just to print out an
email message. Other computer peripherals can be shared similarly such
as network scanners, Web cams, and CD burners.

Internet connection sharing - Using a home network, multiple family

members can access the Internet simultaneously without having to pay
an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for multiple accounts. You will notice
the Internet connection slows down when several people share it, but
broadband Internet can handle the extra load with little trouble. Sharing
dial-up Internet connections works, too. Painfully slow sometimes, you
will still appreciate having shared dial-up on those occasions you really
need it

Multi-player games - Many popular home computer games support LAN

mode where friends and family can play together, if they have their
computers networked.

Internet telephone service - So-called Voice over IP (VoIP) services allow

you to make and receive phone calls through your home network across
the Internet, saving you money.

Home entertainment - Newer home entertainment products such as

digital video recorders (DVRs) and video game consoles now support
either wired or wireless home networking. Having these products

integrated into your network enables online Internet gaming, video

sharing and other advanced features.
Different Types of Networks in Computer System
Networking is required to make accessible communication between computers
possible by a network connection. Networking allows for many possibilities,
such as accessing the internet, file sharing, file transferring, networks attacks
and system communication. Lets look at the different types of networking ways
in detail.

LAN(Local Area Networking)

WLAN(Wireless Local Area Networks)

WAN(Wide Area Networks)

MAN(Metropolitan Area Networks)

CAN(Campus Area Networks)

SAN(Storage or System Area Network)

PAN(Personal Area Network)

Dan(Desk Area Network)

Lets talk about these types of networking in detail:

LAN (Local Area Networking)

Local Area Networking is used primarily in small areas such as schools,

hospitals and office buildings. Local Area Networking is one of the older types
of networks. TCP/IP is used as the method of communication between
computers in Local Area Networking. Due to its small size, it is possible for one
person to administrate a Local Area Network. Local Area Networks are viable to
quick change, using a bus network topology that allows for easy access to the
Local Area Network.
WLAN (Wireless Local Area Networks)

Wireless Local Area Networks are much like LAN networks, except they do not
require network cables to connect each other. Radio and infrared signals are
used to communicate between machines whilst using a wireless local area
network. Wireless Local Area Networks allow for small amounts of mobility
whilst being connected to the internet. Wireless Local Area Networks work
according to the IEEE 802.11 standards. Wireless Area Networks are
commonly seen being used by a WiFi internet connection. Wireless LAN
connections offer a surprising amount of mobility for users with laptops and
smart phones while being able to stay connected to the internet by
different networking topology.
WAN (Wide Area Networks)

Wide Area Networks are used to connect server machines and computers
across continents are countries for constant information updates. Wide Area
Networks, are used across the globe, many networks connect with one another
across continents to create one giant Wide Area Network. Wide Area Networks
use optic fibre as their communication medium. The largest example of a Wide
Area Network is the internet itself, which connects all users to the information
and data that is available on the internet.
MAN (Metropolitan Area Networks)

Metropolitan Area Networks are not commonly used these days, they are used
to create communication between systems in an entire city. Hence a
Metropolitan Area Network area falls between the sizes Local Area Networks,

and Wide Area Networks. Metropolitan Area Networks are used by city specific
businesses such as the New York Times in the state of New York.
CAN (Campus Area Networks)

Campus Area Networks are usually a connection of many small LAN networks
which are often used on university campuses and office buildings. Campus
Area Networks allow for easy file sharing between different departments as all
the files are usually shared on the server machines of each LAN network. This
type of network offers a lot of simplicity in the transfer and downloading of
SAN (Storage Area Network)

Storage Area Networks are primarily used as information databases. They are
not usually used by large organizations or similar entities. They are specifically
used for the storage of information, and easy retrieval of specific pieces of data
whenever required. Storage Area Networks are usually used by websites which
offer downloading services.
SAN (System Area Network)

System Area Networks are speed oriented networks which provide high speed
internet connections to a cluster of computers. These are primarily used for
server purposes, and allow other computers to connect to these System Area
Networks. Permission to different access points are given according to what
status a system is on the System Area Network, such as administrators or
simple users.
Client/Server Networks
Every computer has a distinct role, that of either a client or a server. A
server is designed to share its resources among client computers on the
network. The Client/Server is composed of:

These are located in secured areas, such as locked closets and data
centers, because they hold the organization's most valuable data and do not
have the accessed by operators on a continuous basis.
The server runs a special network operating system such as: Windows
NT Server, Windows 2000 or Novell Netware.

- The rest of the computers on the network function as client. A client
standard PC that is running an operating system such as DOS or Windows.




Example of Client/Server

Peer-to-Peer Network
In a peer-to-peer network, every computer is equal and can communicate
with other computer on a network to which it has been granted access rights.
Essentially, every computer in this network functions as both server and client.
Peer-to-peer network can be as small as two computers as many as hundreds
of units.
There is no theoretical limit to the size of a peer-to-peer network,
performance drops significantly and security becomes a major headache on
peer -based network with more than 10 computers. Also, Microsoft imposes a
10-station limit on computers running Windows 2000 Professional who are
sharing resources with other system. For this reason, it is better you switch to
a client/server network when your network climbs to 10 stations.

Two or more networks or network segments connected using devices that
operate at layer 3 (the 'network' layer) of the OSI Basic Reference Model, such
as a router. Any interconnection among or between public, private, commercial,
industrial, or governmental networks may also be defined as an internetwork.
In modern practice, the interconnected networks use the Internet
Protocol. There are at least three variants of internetwork, depending on who
administers and who participates in them:


Intranets and extranets may or may not have connections to the Internet.
If connected to the Internet, the intranet or extranet is normally protected from
being accessed from the Internet without proper authorization. The Internet is
not considered to be a part of the intranet or extranet, although it may serve as
a portal for access to portions of an extranet.
An intranet is a set of interconnected networks,
using the Internet Protocol and uses IP-based tools
such as web browsers and ftp tools, that is under the
control of a single administrative entity. That
administrative entity closes the intranet to the rest of
the world, and allows only specific users. Most
commonly, an intranet is the internal network of a
company or other enterprise.
An extranet is a network or
internetwork that is limited in scope to a
single organization or entity but which also
has limited connections to the networks of
one or more other usually, but not
necessarily, trusted organizations or entities
(e.g. a company's customers may be given
access to some part of its intranet creating
in this way an extranet, while at the same
time the customers may not be considered
'trusted' from a security standpoint).
Technically, an extranet may also be

categorized as a CAN, MAN, WAN, or other type of network, although, by

definition, an extranet cannot consist of a single LAN; it must have at least one
connection with an external network.
A specific internetwork, consisting of a worldwide
interconnection of governmental, academic, public, and
private networks based upon the Advanced Research
Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) developed by ARPA of
the U.S. Department of Defense also home to the World
Wide Web (WWW) and referred to as the 'Internet' with a capital 'I' to
distinguish it from other generic internetworks.


Ring Topology

Bus Topology


Star Topology