Computer Networks for Beginners

Updated on February 9, 2020
Al Stine profile image

Postgraduate Theoretical Computer Science and Information Technology and a Bachelor of Science in Geographic information Systems.

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Computers have become one of the most important fundamental building blocks of human society. They play an important role in almost all sectors of society, this includes education, health, infrastructure, communication, transport, trade, and information. The underlined importance of computers in these sectors of human society has created the need to create links and channels that aid the transfer and sharing of data and information from one computer to the next, or from one sector of society to the other sector. The transfer and sharing of data and information can be extended across geographical boundaries, this may include boundaries within the city, town or province. Data and information can also be shared across the state or country lines of communication; this may extend from one continent to the other. The wide range of data transfer and sharing by computers can only be achieved through the creation of computer networks. Computer networks are defined as the interconnection of two or more computers in order to communicate and share available resources.

The concepts of computer networks in this article will include, a basic description of a computer network, the components of a network and the basic uses of a network.

What is a Computer Network?

A computer network consists of two or more computing devices that are connected in order to share the components of the network (its resources) and the information and data you store there. The most basic computer network consists of just two connected computing devices. It can be expanded when additional computers and devices join and add their resources to the network. It is worth noting, computing devices are not confined to Laptops and Desktop computers, but can include other devices such as; Mobile phones, Printers, Tablets, Switches, Headsets, Smartwatches, TVs, and many other network-connected devices.

A simple network of two linked computers.
A simple network of two linked computers. | Source

When more computing devices are added and connected to a network and share their resources, the network becomes a more powerful tool. A network with more devices has more data and information and becomes more capable of accomplishing more tasks through those added computers or additional resources. The real power of networking computers and devices becomes apparent if the network is allowed to grow, then connecting it to other distinct networks, enabling communication and resource sharing across both networks.

The networks can also be extended across geographical boundaries and borders. This may include networks within the city, across country borders, and across continents. In order to operate and expand a computer network, distinct components of a network are required. These are devices, media, and services that facilitate and aid the transfer of data and information in a network. As the computer network expands, different types of computer network components are added.

The distinct computer network components are grouped in three; Devices, media, and services.

A more complex network of several linked computers.
A more complex network of several linked computers. | Source

Computer Network Components

Components of a computer network are categorized into three distinct groups; Devices, Media and Services.

Devices

Devices are part of the physical elements or hardware of the network, these may include; Routers, desktop computers, laptops, switches, servers, hubs, and printers. Devices are categorized into two groups: ‘Intermediary devices’ and ‘End devices’. Intermediary devices are devices that interconnect end devices and ensure that data and information flow across the network. End devices are devices at the end of the intermediary devices, they form the interface between users in the network.

Intermediary Devices

  • Routers
  • Switches
  • Firewall
  • Hub
  • Wireless Access Points

A Router is an example of an Intermediary network device.
A Router is an example of an Intermediary network device. | Source

Endpoint Devices

  • Laptops
  • Desktop Computers
  • Printers
  • Servers
  • Smart phones
  • Fax Machines

An endpoint network device, Laptop.
An endpoint network device, Laptop. | Source

Media

Data and information in the network travel through a medium, this is the channel in which data and information move from its source to its destination. There are two types of network media namely Guided and Unguided network media.

Guided Network Media

These are commonly known as wired communication or bounded transmission media. The electromagnetic signals travel between the communicating devices through a physical medium/conductor. As the medium for transmission is a physical conductor, it also provides direction to the signal. Examples include;

  • Twisted pair.
  • Coaxial cables.
  • Fiber optic cables.

Network media cables connected to a network device
Network media cables connected to a network device | Source

Unguided Network Media

Commonly known as wireless communication. It does not require any physical medium to transmit electromagnetic signals. In unguided media, the electromagnetic signals are broadcasted through the air to everyone. These signals are available to one who has the device capable of receiving those signals. Examples include;

  • Radio waves.
  • Microwaves.
  • Infrared waves.

Wireless network transmitter.
Wireless network transmitter. | Source

Services

A network service is an application running at the network that provides data storage, manipulation, presentation, communication or other capabilities. Examples include;

  • Email.
  • File sharing.
  • Instant messages.
  • Worldwide web.
  • Printing.

E-mail application network service.
E-mail application network service. | Source
File sharing network service
File sharing network service | Source

Importance of Computer Networks

Computer networks help users on the network to share resources and communicate.

Business Applications

Companies use networks and computers for resource sharing, this reduces the cost of purchasing extra hardware. Examples include: sharing printers by multiple users, sharing one server for information and data retrieval. The shared resources may also include software, instead of the company purchasing and installing software of each computer, the software can be shared through the network.

Networks also enable easy communication within the company or across different branches of the company. Examples include real-time video conferences.

Business application of a computer network.
Business application of a computer network. | Source

Home Application

Homes contain many networked devices, e.g. computers, Smart TVs and smartphones. A single ISPs can connect all the devices under one subscription and enable the devices to be connected to the internet.

The network also enables the user to purchase and sell goods and services while at home. A growing trend of employees working from home also utilizes the use of computer networks connected to the work station at their place of work.

Home applications of a computer network.
Home applications of a computer network. | Source

Mobile Applications

Tablets, laptops, and smartphones are popular mobile devices, these devices can be connected to a workplace or home network and enable them to access resources from the network while in transit.

Mobile applications of computer networks
Mobile applications of computer networks | Source

Notes

Computer networking offers a diverse range of technological solutions to businesses, homes, and institutions in various formats. Networks, depending on the size can be inexpensive to set up and can enable the user to have access to maximum available resources at any time or place.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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    © 2020 AL

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