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A computer network is interconnection of various computer systems located at different places. In computer network two or more computers are linked together with a medium and data communication devices for the purpose of communicating data and sharing resources. The computer that provides resources to other computers on a network is known as server. In the network the individual computers, which access shared network resources, are known as nodes.
Characteristics of a Computer Network
The primary purpose of a computer network is to share resources:
- You can play a CD music from one computer while sitting on another computer
- You may have a computer that doesn’t have a DVD or BluRay (BD) player. In this case, you can place a movie disc (DVD or BD) on the computer that has the player, and then view the movie on a computer that lacks the player
- You may have a computer with a CD/DVD/BD writer or a backup system but the other computer doesn’t have it. In this case, you can burn discs or make backups on a computer that has one of these but using data from a computer that doesn’t have a disc writer or a backup system
- You can connect a printer (or a scanner, or a fax machine) to one computer and let other computers of the network print (or scan, or fax) to that printer (or scanner, or fax machine)
- You can place a disc with pictures on one computer and let other computers access those pictures
- You can create files and store them in one computer, then access those files from the other computer(s) connected to it
Concept of Networking:
A computer network, often simply referred to as a network, is a collection of hardware components and computers interconnected by communication channels that allow sharing of resources and information. Networks may be classified according to a wide variety of characteristics such as the medium used to transport the data, communications protocol used, scale, topology, and organizational scope. The rules and data formats for exchanging information in a computer network are defined by communications protocols.
Properties of Network
1. Facilitate communications:
Using a network, people can communicate efficiently and easily via email, instant messaging, chat rooms, telephone, video telephone calls, and video conferencing.
2. Permit sharing of files, data, and other types of information
In a network environment, authorized users may access data and information stored on other computers on the network. The capability of providing access to data and information on shared storage devices is an important feature of many networks.
3. Share network and computing resources
In a networked environment, each computer on a network may access and use resources provided by devices on the network, such as printing a document on a shared network printer. Distributed computing uses computing resources across a network to accomplish tasks.
BENEFITS OF NETWORK
- File sharing: Network file sharing between computers gives you more flexibity than using floppy drives or Zip drives. Not only can you share photos, music files, and documents, you can also use a home network to save copies of all of your important data on a different computer. Backups are one of the most critical yet overlooked tasks in home networking.
- Printer / peripheral sharing: Once a home network is in place, it’s easy to then set up all of the computers to share a single printer. No longer will you need to bounce from one system or another just to print out an email message. Other computer peripherals can be shared similarly such as network scanners, Web cams, and CD burners.
- Internet connection sharing: Using a home network, multiple family members can access the Internet simultaneously without having to pay an ISP for multiple accounts. You will notice the Internet connection slows down when several people share it, but broadband Internet can handle the extra load with little trouble. Sharing dial-up Internet connections works, too. Painfully slow sometimes, you will still appreciate having shared dial-up on those occasions you really need it.
- Multi-player games: Many popular home computer games support LAN mode where friends and family can play together, if they have their computers networked.
- Internet telephone service: Voice over IP (VoIP) services allows you to make and receive phone calls through your home network across the Internet.
- Home entertainment: Newer home entertainment products such as digital video recorders (DVRs) and video game consoles now support either wired or wireless home networking. Having these products integrated into your network enables online Internet gaming, video sharing and other advanced features.
TYPES OF NETWORK
There are many different types of networks. However, from an end user’s point of view there are three basic types:
- Local Area Network
- Metropolitan Network
- Wide Area Network
Local Area Network (LAN):
A local area network (LAN) supplies networking capability to a group of computers in close proximity to each other such as in an office building, a school, or a home. A LAN is useful for sharing resources like files, printers, games or other applications. A LAN in turn often connects to other LANs, and to the Internet or other WAN.
Most local area networks are built with relatively inexpensive hardware such as Ethernet cables, network adapters, and hubs. Wireless LAN and other more advanced LAN hardware options also exist. LAN is a computer network that spans a relatively small area. Most LANs are confined to a single building or group of buildings. However, one LAN can be connected to other LANs over any distance via telephone lines and radio waves. Most LANs as (shown in Fig. 2.6) connect workstations and personal computers. Each node (individual computer) in a LAN has its own CPU with which it executes programs, but it is also able to access data and devices anywhere on the LAN.
This means that many users can share expensive devices, such as laser printers, as well as data. Users can also use the LAN to communicate with each other, by sending e-mail or engaging in chat sessions. There are many different types of LANs-token-ring networks, Ethernents, and ARCnets being the most common for PCs.
Wide Area Networks (WANs)
The term Wide Area Network (WAN) usually refers to a network which covers a large geographical area, and use communications circuits to connect the intermediate nodes. A major factor impacting WAN design and performance is a requirement that they lease communications circuits from telephone companies or other communications carriers. Transmission rates are typically 2 Mbps, 34 Mbps, 45 Mbps, 155 Mbps, 625 Mbps (or sometimes considerably more).
Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)
A Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) is one of a number of types of networks (see also LAN and WAN). A MAN is a relatively new class of network, it serves a role similar to an ISP, but for corporate users with large LANs.
IMPORTANT TERMS USED IN NETWORKING
It is a new communication approach which is similar to electronic mail except that it is audio message rather than text messages that are processed. A sender speaks into a telephone rather than typing, giving the name of the recipient and the message. That sender’s voice signal is then digitized and stored. The system can then either deliver the message at a specified time in future or it can be retrieved from a database by the recipient. The message is reconverted back into its analog format when it is delivered or retrieved so that the recipient hears it as the original sender’s voice on a telephone. Voice messaging requires a computer with an ability to store the audio messages in digital form and then convert them back in an audio form upon verification. Each user has a voice mailbox in secondary storage and special equipment converts the audio message to and from the digital form. The main advantage of voice mail over electronic mail is that the sender does not have to type. Voice mail also makes it easy to include people in the firm’s environment in an communication network.
A hub is typically the least expensive, least intelligent, and least complicated of the three. Its job is very simple: anything that comes in one port is sent out to the others. That’s it. Every computer connected to the hub “sees” everything that every other computer on the hub sees. The hub itself is blissfully ignorant of the data being transmitted. For years, simple hubs have been quick and easy ways to connect computers in small networks.
A switch does essentially what a hub does but more efficiently. By paying attention to the traffic that comes across it, it can “learn” where particular addresses are. For example, if it sees traffic from machine A coming in on port 2, it now knows that machine A is connected to that port and that traffic to machine A needs to only be sent to that port and not any of the others. The net result of using a switch over a hub is that most of the network traffic only goes where it needs to rather than to every port. On busy networks this can make the network significantly faster.
A router is the smartest and most complicated of the bunch. Routers come in all shapes and sizes from the small four-port broadband routers that are very popular right now to the large industrial strength devices that drive the internet itself. A simple way to think of a router is as a computer that can be programmed to understand, possibly manipulate, and route the data its being asked to handle. For example, broadband routers include the ability to “hide” computers behind a type of firewall which involves slightly modifying the packets of network traffic as they traverse the device. All routers include some kind of user interface for configuring how the router will treat traffic. The really large routers include the equivalent of a full-blown programming language to describe how they should operate as well as the ability to communicate with other routers to describe or determine the best way to get network traffic from point A to point B.
A repeater connects two segments of your network cable. It retimes and regenerates the signals to proper amplitudes and sends them to the other segments. When talking about, ethernet topology, you are probably talking about using a hub as a repeater. Repeaters require a small amount of time to regenerate the signal. This can cause a propagation delay which can affect network communication when there are several repeaters in a row. Many network architectures limit the number of repeaters that can be used in a row. Repeaters work only at the physical layer of the OSI network model.
A bridge reads the outermost section of data on the data packet, to tell where the message is going. It reduces the traffic on other network segments, since it does not send all packets. Bridges can be programmed to reject packets from particular networks. Bridging occurs at the data link layer of the OSI model, which means the bridge cannot read IP addresses, but only the outermost hardware address of the packet. In our case the bridge can read the ethernet data which gives the hardware address of the destination address, not the IP address. Bridges forward all broadcast messages. Only a special bridge called a translation bridge will allow two networks of different
architectures to be connected. Bridges do not normally allow connection of networks with different architectures. The hardware address is also called the MAC (media access control) address. To determine the network segment a MAC address belongs to, bridges use one of:
- Transparent Bridging: They build a table of addresses (bridging table) as they receive packets. If the address is not in the bridging table, the packet is forwarded to all segments other than the one it came from. This type of bridge is used on ethernet networks.
- Source route bridging: The source computer provides path information inside the packet. This is used on Token Ring networks
There is a device called a router which will function similar to a bridge for network transport protocols that are not routable, and will function as a router for routable protocols. It functions at the network and data link layers of the OSI network model.
A gateway can translate information between different network data formats or network architectures. It can translate TCP/IP to AppleTalk so computers supporting TCP/IP can communicate with Apple brand computers. Most gateways operate at the application layer, but can operate at the network or session layer of the OSI model. Gateways will start at the lower level and strip information until it gets to the required level and repackage the information and work its way back toward the hardware layer of the OSI model.
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