A network is defined in information technology as the connecting of at least two computer systems via a cable or a wireless connection. The most basic network consists of two computers connected by a cable. This is referred to as a peer-to-peer network. This network has no structure; both participants have equal privileges. Each computer has access to the other device’s data and can share resources like disc space, software, or peripheral devices (printers, etc.).

Today’s networks are increasingly complicated and do not consist of only two computers. Client-server networks are typically used in systems with more than ten participants. A central computer (server) in these networks distributes resources to the other network participants (clients).

What are the tasks and advantages of a network?

A network’s primary function is to provide participants with a single platform for exchanging data and sharing resources. Many aspects of daily life and the modern world would be unimaginable without networks.

Here’s an example from real life: Every workstation in a typical office has its own computer. It would be extremely difficult for a team to work on a project without a computer network because there would be no common place to share or store digital documents and information, and team members would be unable to share certain applications.

Furthermore, many offices only have one or a few printers that are shared by everyone. Without a network, the IT department would have to connect every single computer to the printer, which is technically difficult to implement. Because all computers are connected to the printer through one central node, a network elegantly solves this problem.

The following are the primary benefits of networks:

  • Information sharing
  • Resources are shared.
  • Program and data centralization
  • Data storage and backup in a central location
  • Processing power and storage capacity are shared.
  • Simple administration of authorizations and responsibilities

How does a network work?

The server is the central node in a typical client-server network. The server is linked to the other devices, which are referred to as clients. This connection can be wireless (WLAN) or wired (LAN).

Client-server architecture

The server is typically a central computer in larger networks, such as corporate networks. This computer only runs special server software and services, not regular applications and programmes. The server must always be running, whereas the other computers (clients) can be turned off.

In this server-based network, the server and client communicate as follows: The client sends a request to the server first. The server evaluates the request before sending the response. The client always connects to the server in this model, never the other way around.

1) Network protocols
Network protocols ensure that communication between network components runs smoothly. They manage data exchange and decide how and when communication begins and ends, as well as what data is transmitted. There are typically multiple network protocols, each of which performs a specific subtask and is organised hierarchically into layers.

2) Network addresses
It is also necessary to ensure that the transmitter and receiver can be identified correctly. This is accomplished through the use of network addresses. In computer networks, each computer is typically assigned an IP address that, like a phone number, uniquely identifies the computer. This internal IP address is only used for communication between local network participants. External IP addresses, which are automatically assigned by the Internet provider, are used for Internet communication.

There is also a distinction between IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. IPv4 addresses were once common, but only about 4.3 billion of them could be assigned before they were depleted. Additional IP addresses were desperately needed due to the Internet’s massive expansion. As a result, the new IPv6 standard was created, which allows for up to 3.4 x 1038 (340 sextillion) addresses. This should suffice for the time being.

What types of networks are there?

Networks are typically classified into different network types based on transmission type and range, that is, how and how far data is transmitted.

1) Wireless vs. wired
Networks are classified as wireless or wired based on their mode of transmission. Wi-Fi networks based on the IEEE 802.11 standard are examples of wireless networks, as are LTE networks used for mobile devices and smartphones. Broadband Internet is also referred to as a wired network, such as DSL.

2) Network range
Typically, networks are classified by range as follows:

  • Personal Area Network (PAN): A PAN is used to connect devices over a short distance of about 10 metres. Bluetooth technology and Apple’s Airdrop ad hoc Wi-Fi service are two examples.
  • Local Area Network (LAN): One of the most common networks, local area networks are used in homes and small and medium-sized businesses.
  • Metropolitan Area Network (MAN): These networks serve cities or specific geographic areas.
  • Wide Area Network (WAN): A Wide Area Network is the nationwide broadband or cellular network in the United States.
  • GAN (Global Area Network): The Internet is the most well-known example of a global network.

It should be noted that there is some overlap between the various network types: When you connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi, you are a part of both a WAN and a GAN.

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