Computer Network – Concept, components, types and examples

We explain what a computer network is, the elements that compose it and how it is classified. Also, advantages and disadvantages.

Computer network
A computer network allows information to be shared over small or large distances.

What is a computer network?

A computer network, a data communications network, or a computer network is the interconnection of different number of computer systems through a series of telecommunications devices and a physical medium (wired or wireless).

Its function is to share information in data packages. They are transmitted by electrical impulses, electromagnetic waves or other means, using a special encoding. For this, the system translates the processes of the different computers into the same language, through a series of communication standards.

Computer networks are not different, in their exchange logic, from other communication processes: they have a sender, a receiver and a message, a means through which to transmit the message and a series of codes or protocols to guarantee its correct understanding. . Only, in this case, those who send and receive messages are computers.

By having a number of computers on the network, we can create an internal communication between them, which also serves for sharing Internet access points or managing peripherals (like a printer). In addition, it allows the fast sending of data and files without the need to use secondary storage devices (such as disks or pen-drives).

Networks are present today in almost all daily areas, especially those related to bureaucracy or the administration of resources. In fact, the Internet connection that we access from our computer, cell phone or other devices is nothing more than an immense network of computers.

Types of computer networks

Commonly, computer networks are classified, first, according to their geographic scope and size:

  • LAN networks. Its name comes from Local Area Network (in English: “Local Area Network”), since they are the smallest and most extensive networks, such as those that may exist between computers in the same phone booth or cyber café.
  • MAN networks. Its name comes from Metropolitan Area Network (in English: “Metropolitan Area Network”) and designates medium-sized networks, such as those used in large libraries or large companies, connecting different areas and geographically distant from each other.
  • WAN networks. Named for the acronym of Wide Area Network (In English: “Wide Area Network”), these are large-scale networks and extensive reach, such as the global network of networks, the Internet.

There are other possible classifications of computer networks, according to their specific topology, their functional relationship or directionality of the data.

Basic elements of a computer network

Commonly a computer network contains the following elements:

  • Server. Computers on a network do not have the same hierarchy, nor do they perform the same functions. For example, servers are responsible for processing the flow of network data, serving all other connected computers (that is, “serving” them) and centralizing control of the network itself.
  • Clients or workstations. These are the computers that do not serve the others, but are part of the network and provide access to it, requesting the resources managed by the server.
  • Transmission media. It refers to wiring, electromagnetic waves, or the physical medium that allows the transmission of network information, whatever it may be.
  • Hardware elements. All the technological pieces that enable the physical establishment of a network, that is, that allow it. We are talking about network cards, modems and routers, or repeater antennas that extend the connection wirelessly.
  • Software elements. Similarly, programs are required to manage and operate the communications hardware of each workstation, which includes the Network Operating System (NOS). Network Operating System), which in addition to supporting the operation of the network, provides antivirus and firewall services; as well as communication protocols (TCP / IP) that allow machines to share the language.

Advantages of a computer network

computer network advantages
We use computer networks for social interactions, shopping, and much more.

A computer network is a very useful and valuable tool, to centralize and disperse information stored of a type of organization (companies, institutions, etc.). It is so important in the contemporary world that we constantly use them without even realizing it.

Thanks to computer networks, we can carry out all kinds of operations quickly and over enormous distances. Some of them are:

  • Social interactions, teleconferences, video calls.
  • Electronic purchase operations and capital movements.
  • Data transmission, email and resource sharing in real time.
  • Transmission stream of stored audiovisual content.
  • Satellite exploration and other surveillance and military reconnaissance technologies.

Disadvantages of a computer network

The weak side of a computer network has to do with the cyber attacks, which violate confidentiality information and can lead to dangerous activities.

We are talking about malicious software (viruses, adware, etc.) or cyber terrorists (hackers), whose attacks can cause loss of information (and therefore capital), privacy violations or damage to equipment and software. The world of networks is diverse and complex.

Examples of computer networks

Here are some specific examples of computer networks:

  • A home network. Like the WiFi networks that anyone can install in their own home, in order to serve a couple of computers and / or cell phones. Its scope will barely exceed the margins of the department.
  • The serial network of a call center. The so-called cybercafés or phone booths became very popular with the penetration of the Internet, before the arrival of the Smartphones. They contain a series of computers that share their Internet connection, and that are available for the use of the public, framed in an internal network, at whose head was the computer of the manager of the premises.
  • A network of university campuses. Called CAN (Campus Area Network), they are actually MAN networks adapted to the various buildings and interests of the university community.
  • Internet. The largest WAN available today: communicating various technological devices over enormous distances, from one side of the world to the other. This gigantic network involves computers everywhere, operating from servers and workstations by the millions.