A computer network is formed when different computers are connected to function in the same or different geographical area. According to Wikipedia, it is a set of computers connected together for the purpose of sharing resources. Most commonly shared resources today is connection from the Internet. Other shared resources can also include a printer or a file server.
A Network consists of two or more computers which are linked together in order to share resources (such as printers and CDs, routers, switches, hub, DVD, projectors etc), exchange files, and can also allow electronic communications. Although these days, there are various types of networking namely, –
- Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)
- Personal Area Network (PAN)
- Local Area Network (LAN)
- Wide Area Network (WAN)
- Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)
- Campus Area Network (CAN)
- Storage-Area Network (SAN)
But the two very common types of networks used in most organizations today include Local Area Network (LAN) Wide Area Network (WAN).
Things to consider when planning a computer network
The first thing to consider when planning a computer network is deciding what scale network you’re trying to design or re-design. The number and type of vendors you’ll work with, the technologies at your own convenience, and the decisions you’ll have to make eventually will vary considerably depending on the type of network link you are building whether it’s a WAN links or LAN infrastructure.
Network Size/ Scale
The Scale/size of the network is another important determination in network planning, for often it determines or influence your other decisions. While there are other scales discussed in networking write-ups, we will focus on the two or three network scales that impact small and medium sized organizations which are LANs, WANs, and CANs.
Local area network (or LAN) – this type of network is usually designed and implemented at the scale of a single building or office. Its main function is the interconnection of the computing resources within that organization most times, LANs use Ethernet and not the twisted-pair cabling or wireless technology.
Wide area network (or WAN) – in this network, it connects a single office or branch LAN to its organization’s headquarter network, when all has been connected, all the millions of networks together make up the Internet. Most will define WAN as a network that crosses one or more jurisdictional boundaries (metropolitan, regional, or national). WAN links usually fall under the views of ISPs and telecommunications companies. Usually, very few organizations have the resources to build and maintain their own WAN links, and it’s usually more cost-effective to lease them from the local telecommunication companies or private internet service providers.
A campus area network (or CAN) – here in this network, multiple LANs belonging to the same organization when they’re in close geographic proximity are connected together. Since most organization operate at the scale of a single office or Head office with branches. CANs are only a used for extremely large organizations. As with WANs network, an organization can build its own CAN network, but most opt for lease from their local Internet Service Providers.
Network Cabling and Other Hardware Options
All system computing relies on physical components and operations at a fundamental level, and computer networking is no exception. Data cables (known also as transmission media) are responsible for carrying messages to and fro between the computers and other devices in the system that makes up the foundation of your network. All the devices in your network have to be compatible with the choice of data cable you are using, this decision usually determines many of your other choices. While there are several types of cable variants out there which are all standardized and available for purchase in the market, the most common variants fall into four main categories which are as stated below:
- Coaxial cable
- Twisted pair cables
- Optical fiber
Out of all these four cable types, the twisted pair cables or wireless transmission are the best bet for most LANs. While Coaxial cables and fiber optic cables usually operate at higher speeds, they tend to be more expensive and difficult to install. They are used primarily by organizations with enough resources that are in need of high-speed and high-bandwidth networks.
All standards for transmission media are set by engineering organizations such as the IEEE and these standards changes consistently but currently the most commonly used types of twisted pair cabling (in the slower to faster order of arrangement) are Cat 5, Cat 5e, and Cat 6 cables. But the fastest wireless standard as of late 2010 till date is the 802.11n. This cable supports a maximum assumable rate of 11 Mbps and goes up to 150 feet.
Equipment Types and Definitions
Computer networking equipment has a set of functions similar to those of the Post office Service. Receiving thousands or millions of messages communicated each day, both cases have to send the message to the right destination or at least redirected to another messenger who’s closer to the recipient. For these systems to work accurately, every recipient or sender expecting to send or receive messages must have their own private and unique address. The essential pieces of networking equipment keep track of nearby addresses and send electronic messages (also known as data packets) closer to the destinations.
In the post office the role of the local mailman is to distribute all packages while also in computer networks this role is usually played by a device called a switch (also called a network switch or an Ethernet switch) which distributes messages among the computers and other devices that is connected to the system on a single LAN segment arrangement. Cisco has been known to be the leading manufacturer of switches, routers, networking landlines and other networking equipment.
If you’re sending a message that goes beyond your geographical area or your neighborhood, there are billions of addresses in the world for a single switch to keep track of all of them. That is where the Routers come in play. Routers can be compared to the post office’s regional distribution centers where any package or message with a non-local address will be redirected to the router which will be responsible for forwarding it to another router closer to the final destination of that message. Just as every entity who takes part in the post office’s service needs a personal mailbox or P.O. Box, every new computer has their own personal network card (also referred to as NIC) that is responsible for sending and receiving messages on accord of the operating system and applications using that system. All features such as size, shape, and further engineering specifications of this NIC vary depending on the type of network its involved with. For instance, an Ethernet NIC having a port on the back that accepts a standard RJ45 connector, and a wireless NIC having an antenna on it that functions as a sender and receiver of radio waves. Regardless of all type and features, manufacturers inscribe a unique number known as a MAC address into each network card as its own personal identification.
Knowing Your Personal Address
And finally, just as the post office system uses two numerical addressing models which are the street addresses and zip codes for identifying recipients and routing efficiently, networks and networking equipment also depend on two sets of addresses to deliver messages quickly and efficiently. Understanding of these addressing protocols is something usually given to IT staff or consultants, but some of them are so important to the maintenance of a functioning networking system, so that you know where to look for help in case your experts are unavailable. IP addresses and the MAC Addresses are the other major form of device identification on the modern Internet.
Hiring an external contractor or IT support person to help build and develop effective networks, understanding the basic principles and definitions for building a network will help ensure that the results work best for their needs of the companies. We at microchips will ensure that you get services that will suit your organization’s budget, IT staff, and needs most office needs appropriately.