Computer Networks – Concept, network types and elements

We explain what computer networks are and what types exist. Also, its elements and what is a network topology.

Computer networks
A computer network shares information transmitted by electrical impulses.

What are computer networks?

Computer networks, data communications networks or computer networks are understood to be a number of computer systems connected to each other by a series of wired or wireless devices, thanks to which they can share information in data packets, transmitted by electrical impulses, electromagnetic waves or any other physical medium.

Computer networks are not different in their exchange logic from other known communication processes: they have a sender, a receiver and a message, as well as a means through which to transmit it and a series of codes or protocols to guarantee its understanding. . Of course, in this case, those who send and receive messages are automated computer systems.

When computers are networked, it is possible to create internal communication, share an internet access point or peripheral management (printers, scanners, etc.), as well as fast data and file delivery without the need for secondary storage devices. This is achieved thanks to a series of communication standards that “translate” the processes of the various computers into the same language (the most common of which is TCP / IP).

In today’s hypercomputed world, computer networks they are present in almost all everyday areas, especially in those linked to the bureaucracy or the administration of resources. In fact, it could be argued that the Internet, which we access from computers, cell phones, and other devices, is nothing more than a vast global computer network.

Types of computer networks

Red lan
LAN networks are smaller, like those found in departments.

Commonly, computer networks are classified according to their size into:

  • LAN networks. Acronyms for Local TOarea Network (in English: “Local Area Network”), these are the smallest networks, such as those that exist in a phone booth or cyber café, or an apartment.
  • MAN networks. Acronyms for Metropolitan TOarea Network (in English: “Metropolitan Area Network”) designates medium-sized networks, such as those used on university campuses or in large libraries or companies, that connect different remote areas.
  • WAN networks. Acronyms for Wide TOarea Network (in English: “Wide Area Network”), refers to the networks of greater size and scope, such as the global network of networks, the Internet.

They are also usually classified according to the technology with which the computers are connected, as follows:

  • Guided media networks. Those that interlace the computers through some physical cable system, such as twisted pair, coaxial cable or fiber optics.
  • Unguided media networks. They connect their computers through scattered and area-ranging media, such as radio waves, infrared, or microwaves.

There are other possible network classifications, depending on their topology, their functional relationship or data directionality.

Elements of a computer network

Usually in computer networks the following elements are presented:

  • Servers. In a network, computers do not always have the same hierarchy or functions. The servers are the ones that process the flow of data, serving all the other computers on the network (“serving them”, hence its name) and centralizing control of the network.
  • Clients or workstations. This is the name given to computers that are not servers, but are part of the network and allow users to access it, using the resources managed by the server.
  • Transmission media. This is the name given to the wiring or electromagnetic waves, as the case may be, which allow the transmission of information.
  • Hardware elements. Those pieces that allow the physical establishment of the network, such as the network cards in each computer, the modems and routers that support the transmission of data, or the repeater antennas that extend the connection (in the case of being wireless).
  • Software elements. Finally, there are the programs required to manage and put into operation the communications hardware, and that includes the Network Operating System (NOS). Network Operating System), which, in addition to supporting the operation of the network, provides antivirus and firewall support; and communication protocols (such as TCP and IP) that allow machines to “speak” the same language.

What is network topology?

Computer network
The linear topology has the server in the lead and the clients are spread out along.

Network topology is called the interconnection model according to which the relationships between clients and servers are arranged. There are three models of network topology:

  • Linear or by bus. The server is at the head of the network and the clients are distributed along a line from it, the only communication channel being only one, called bus or backbone (“spine”).
  • In star. The server is in the center of the network and each client has a unique connection, so that any communication between the machines must go through it first.
  • Ring or circular. All the machines are connected in a circle, in contact with the closest ones and under equal conditions, although the server continues to have its hierarchy.