What is a computer network?
A computer network is a set of connected computers. We can create a computer network when two or more noted are connected. A computer is called as a node in a computer network. Those computers can be connected through wired or wireless connections. We will discuss it later in this lesson. Let’s learn basics of computer networks.
Types of network connections
The communication medium plays a major role in computer networks. A communication medium is a method we use to transfer the data through the network. It can be either a wired or wireless medium. The sender and receiver are two computers in the network. The protocols are a set of instructions and guidelines use to communicate.
The wired connection is differentiated from the wireless network connection from the physical cables that use for data communication. Let us discuss three common wired transmission mediums
Fibre Optic Cables
This is the most expensive wired medium which has the highest data transmission rate. Fibre optics often use in long-distance commination. A fibre optic cable is a thin, flexible, transparent medium made of very fine glass or plastic fibres.
Twisted Pair Cable
The name of the cable comes with two wires that are twisted around each other. These wires are the most used in a network as it is cheaper and have a considerable speed of data transmission. We can see those wires at our homes if we use a telephone.
The coaxial cable offers better data rates and it is consisting of a central copper conductor and surrounded by a copper shield. Normally we use coaxial cable to transmit signals from your Antenna to the Television.
Wireless communication enables devices to connect remotely to a network without using physical wires. A wireless network uses infrared, Bluetooth, radio waves to share the information and resources between devices.
Infrared (IR) is a common, inexpensive, easy to use wireless communication technology. It is useful for indoor areas and can be used only for short distances. These signals are unable to penetrate walls. We use IR signals in remote controllers.
Bluetooth technology is a short-range wireless communications technology to replace the cables connecting electronic devices, allowing a person to have a phone conversation via a headset, use a wireless mouse and synchronize information from a mobile phone to a PC. It is a high-speed wireless technology cover up to 10 meters distance.
Wi-Fi is a wireless network that uses radio waves. By using this technology, we can exchange information between two or more devices. Wi-Fi has been developed for mobile computing devices; such as laptops.
Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation used in television, mobile phones, and radios. Long-range radio signals enable astronauts to communicate with the earth from the moon and carry information from space probes as they travel to distant planets. For navigation of ships and aircraft the radio range, radio compass (or direction finder), and radio time signals are widely used.
Main components of a computer network
A computer network is made up of several devices. Those components facilitate us to transfer data among the devices in the network. Let us discuss the basic components that you need to set up a network.
Servers are computers that hold shared files, programs, and the network operating system. Servers provide access to network resources to all the users of the network.
The computers are the clients of the network. It can receive and send data to another computer. The above diagram shows several client computers connected to servers.
Network Interface Card (NIC)
Each computer contains a NIC. Today this card comes with an inbuilt component of the computer motherboard. It is a must to have a NIC to connect to the internet. The main purpose of NIC is to format the data, send the data, and receive the data at the receiving node.
Both switches and hubs are hardware devices that connect multiple devices on a computer network. A switch contains more advanced features than a hub.
Routers are used to join multiple computer networks. Routers allowed us to connect our Local Area Network (LAN) to the internet.
The modem receives information from your ISP(Internet Service Provider – Ex: SLT, Dialog Broadband, Mobitel) through the phone lines, optical fibre, or coaxial cable in your home (depending on your service provider) and converts it into a digital signal.
A firewall is a network security device that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic and decides whether to allow or block specific traffic based on a defined set of security rules.
How we connect the devices in a computer network?
The diagram below shows a typical local area network. As you can see in the picture the Server, Clients are connected through the switch. The wireless router allows connecting to the internet. The modem converts the signal into an analog signal.
Why we use computer networks?
We use a computer network to share resources and information. The devices like printer, scanner are limited resources. We cannot place a dedicated printer for each computer. Therefore, we share a single printer among computer networks.
The other reason that we use a computer network is communication. Computer users in the network can communicate through the network. We will discuss both uses below.
Sharing resources using a computer network
Computer networks allow us to share data, software, and hardware such as a printer. Most organization uses a computer network to share resources such as printers with all the connected devices.
As we know about the software licenses and paid versions of the software, we will have to pay a considerable amount of money if we use individual software licenses. However, buying multiple user software licenses for a computer network is relatively low cost.
Sharing a File/Folder
A file or folder can share within a network very easily and quickly. We create shared folders and users can access the shared folder. The above picture shows a shared file location. As you can see there are several folders in the shared location. In Windows, we can use the built-in file sharing option on File Explorer.
Sharing a Printer
The ability to share printers is one of the major draws of setting up a network. By setting up a network printer, you will be able to print from any computer in your home/ laboratory/ office.
Communication using a computer network
LAN Messenger is a free and open-source cross-platform instant messaging application for communication over a local network. It does not require a server. Several useful features including event notifications, file transfer, and message logging are provided. Currently, the platforms supported are Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Advantages of Computer Networks
Ability to access the Internet
Can use a single internet connection. It is a cost-effective and secure method to allow client computers to connect to the internet.
Ability to share software and hardware
Using network-connected peripheral devices like printers, scanners, and copiers, or sharing software between multiple users, saves money.
Ability to communicate with network users, using e-mail, short messaging services, etc.
The network allows us to communicate within the network and if it has full access to the internet then we get most of the benefits. We can use messaging software such as LAN Messenger or Instant Messaging services as Skype, WhatsApp, Viber to send files, messages among the users.