Introduction

Computer Network is everywhere. It supports the way we communicate, we learn, we work, and we play. Internet is the best-known example of a computer network. In simple terms, a computer network is the interconnection of two or more computers that facilitates computers to communicate with each other. Application of computer network includes the following, 

  • Sharing of resources such as printers
  • Exchange of data between users available in the network
  • Sharing of software and databases
  • Sharing of information over geographically wide areas
  1. Definition
  2. Types of Computer Network
  3. Advantages and Disadvantages Computer Network

1. Definition

A computer network is a set of devices capable of sending or receiving data connected by a communication link. The connection between the networked computing devices can be established using either cables or wireless media. The peripheral devices that can be part of the network are computers, printers, servers, mobile phones. The devices used to connect the network are routers, bridges, hubs, modems, repeaters.

The computers in the network use common communication protocols for the purpose of sharing information and resources. There are types of computer networks based on their geographical area such as LAN, MAN, WAN. 

2. Types of Computer Network

There are different types of computer networks which are generally differentiated based on their size and their functions. Four main categories of computer networks are LAN, MAN, WAN. 

A) LAN (Local Area Network)  

  • A LAN is a small network that connects devices/computers within a limited or a small geographical area such as an office, residence, school. Connected devices share the resources of a single server or processer.
  • It transfers data at a relatively higher speed than other networks. The speed can range between 100-1000Mbps.
  • It is a private network and provides higher security.
  • Lan can be set up in 2 ways, wired LAN which used cable. Ethernet is a popular technology used for wired LAN. Wi-Fi is an example of a wireless LAN. 

B) MAN (Metropolitan Area Network)

  • A MAN is a computer network that interconnects devices/computers at different sites in a large geographical area like a town or a city.
  • It has 2 or more LANs in a city connected to each other through telephone lines, routers, or bridges.
  • Most used connection media are cables, optical fibers.
  • For example, branches of a bank in a city communicate over a MAN.

C) WAN (Wide Area Network)

  • It is the largest of all the networks which extend over a very large geographical area such as states, countries, or continents.
  • WAN connects multiple smaller LANs or MANs in different cities or countries.
  • The computers or devices in WAN are connected using telephone lines, satellite links, or radio waves.
  • The data transfer speed is relatively lower because of the distances involved. 
  • Internet is the best example of WAN. ATMs network is another example.
  • WAN are widely used by the government, large corporates, education institutes.

PAN (Personal Area Network)

  • It is a network of mostly personal devices like computer, mobile phone, tablet owned by a single user within a small area in the range of 10 meters.
  • A wireless PAN can be established using technology like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
  • A wired PAN uses USBs.
  • It is typically used to share email, transfer music or videos.

3. Advantages and Disadvantages Computer Network

Benefits of the computer network are:

  • Data/File Sharing: It enables the sharing of digitally stored data between different users or allows remote access of data stored at a different location. 
  • Resource/Hardware sharing: Users on the network can share peripheral devices like printers, scanners, etc. 
  • Software programs or applications can also be shared among users leading to cost savings. This also facilitates the implementation of client/server applications.
  • Communication: Networks facilitates various efficient channels of user communication like emails, video-conferencing, chats, newsgroups, webinars 
  • Increased storage capacity: Users can access files or multimedia stored remotely on other PCs. Storage servers can also be designed to have a huge storage capacity.
  • Cost Efficiency:  Cost saves can be achieved through using a shared internet connection, storing data in a centralized database to which users have shared access, centralization of network administration thereby reducing the IT support required, and sharing of peripherals and applications software.  
  • Drives work efficiency: Access to a common database reduces data entry time and data entry errors. It also improves consistency as all the users have access to the same information. Scheduled backups from a single point, standard manuals, and directories can be available to users. 

Following are some of the disadvantages of the computer network  

  • Expensive Setup: The cost of setting up a computer network can be high given the hardware requirements like networking cable, servers, HUBs, routers, switches, etc.
  • Robustness: There is a lot of dependency on the main file server. If the main server breaks down, the data becomes inaccessible. The central server needs to be a powerful computer to ensure robustness which increases the cost.
  • Security: Unlike standalone computers, networks pose security risks as they are prone to unauthorized access of data by hackers using specialized hacking applications or tools. To prevent theft of confidential or classified data, organizations have to use security tools like Firewall.  
  • Malware Attack: There are chances of rapid spread of computer viruses in a networking environment. If one computer gets infected with malware, there are high chances of it spreading to other computers and a similar thing can happen if the server gets impacted. 
  • Maintenance and management of large networks require complicated installations and configurations. This requires a lot of training or deployment of skilled staff all the time.

Conclusion

Computer networking is a very interesting and precise science. All the nodes (computers/devices) gave to be connected in an orderly pattern called network topology. Also, all the nodes in a network have to follow clearly defined rules of communication called protocols. The overall design that lays out how the computer network is configured mainly focusing on the functions is called the network architecture. There is another way of differentiating the networks, public networks like the internet which is accessible to all, and private networks, generally used by companies where data is only accessible over internal machines called the intranet.  

In today’s time, the networks are not just about connectivity, they are critical to the success and the transformation of businesses.

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