In this article I'm just going to cover
the basics of what a network is and the types of networks. I'll go into
more detail in later articles.
network is simply a means for computers to speak to each other, or
communicate with each other. With a network, computers can receive
emails from each other, send files to each other, instant message each
other and a variety of other things. This is something that we take for
granted today but there was a time when networks were not so
sophisticated and not all that efficient either.
There are basically two types of
The simplest network is a LAN or
Local Area Network. This is where all the computers in the network
are located in one place such as an office building. Within this type of
network you have 2 ways to connect.
The simplest way is peer to peer. This
is where 2 or more computers are hooked up directly to each other. In
other words if you have 5 computers you would have computer 1 hooked
into computer 2 which would be hooked into computer 3 and so on. In this
type of connection each computer is dependent on the other. So if
computer 3 would go down then computers 1 and 2 would not be able to
communicate or exchange information with computers 4 and 5 and visa
versa. That is the main problem with a peer to peer network. Also in
peer to peer networks the write process between computers leads to data
corruption problems. This is not something they teach you in school but
something you learn from experience.
The more common type of LAN connection
is client server. This is where all the computers in the network are
connected to each other via a central computer. This kind of connection
does require more work in set up but is more efficient, carries data
better and if one computer goes down the others aren't affected.
However, should the server go down then all the computers on the network
would be affected as far as their ability to get information from the
other computers and the server itself. They, however, would still be
able to do work locally on their own such as with a word processing
program, unless the word processing program was located on the server.
Then it would not be available. Usually, however, most applications are
installed on each computer. What is most commonly lost when a server
goes down is the ability to retrieve data that is common to everyone in
the network, say an in house database of all employees.
The second type of network is a WAN
or wide area network. This is where several LAN networks or even
single computers are connected to a much larger network. A perfect
example of a WAN is the Internet. This is where users from all over the
world can interact with each other through email, chat rooms and instant
messaging. WANs are enormous to say the least and are very intricate in
their design, requiring hubs from all over the world to stay connected.
One hub goes down and it can affect connections for millions of people
though there are protocols instituted to reroute connections if a hub
does go down.
The above is a very simplified overview
of computer networks. In future articles I'll go into detail on the
hardware and software required to set up these networks and some of the
finer points. Stay tuned.