A computer network (more commonly referred to simply as a ‘network’) is the interconnection of two or more computers. There are many reasons and advantages as to why computers are networked including, but not limited to:
- The sharing of resources and information
Examples of resources could be files, printers and various other devices
- The sharing of software applications
Examples include word processing software, graphics software etc.
- Increased productivity
Productivity is increased due to the network enabling the extremely easy sharing of data between users. A network can also enable the storing of data in one central location making it simple for users to retrieve, edit and work on the same and latest version of the data.
For a network to exist, the computers and devices must be connected to each other using a mixture of cables or even wireless technology. Through this connectivity, a communication path is created enabling data and information to be exchanged between the systems. All the systems on a network must follow the same set of communication rules that control how these systems communicate in order that data can be sent and received. These rules are known as protocols.
So, the requirements of a network are:
- A minimum of two computers
- A communication path
In the past, before the concept of networking came along, computers were not linked to a network and functioned on their own as standalone computers. If you needed to transfer data and information between non-linked computers, there were only really a couple of ways this could be achieved. You could copy the data to a disk and take it to the recipient’s computer, or you could re-type the information manually on the designated machine. This shows how systems such as the World Wide Web and email, which are the products of networks, benefit us greatly.
Components of a Network
Generally, the components of a network are as follows:
The purpose of a server is to manage and deliver network resources to users of the network. They are computers and devices with typical examples including mail servers and print servers. The server contains software dedicated to running a particular service. For example, a mail server will contain software for the purpose of running mail activities such as sending and receiving messages. The server delivers its services in the form of an output which can be classed as either direct or indirect. For example, if you requested a certain file from the server, it will act directly to transfer files to your machine. A server operating indirectly will simply prompt another device on the network for an output, such as triggering a printer for a print out.
Clients are the workstation PCs that most of us are more familiar with using. As part of a network, the client makes requests to the server for a particular service or resource, and the server responds by delivering an output. You are able to access a server through your client operating system, such as, Windows 7.
Communication media refers to the method by which the computers and devices are linked together. This could be via cables and/or by wireless technology. A common form of communication media that you may have heard of is known as Ethernet.
Shared data consists of the files that the server makes available to the network.
Resources can be hardware or software. Examples include files, hard drives, printers or any other items that network users can access.
Thank you for reading this article. Hopefully this gives some insight into what a network is, what components make up a network, and why networks are so important.