Computer networking is a means by which computers are interconnected to share data and information, resources, and all other network devices such as printers.
Computers, as we now know, apply to all fields of endeavors, be it agriculture, education, medicine, technology, transportation, and so on. Therefore, there is an obvious need for an organization to have an inter-network of its computers to further aid data sharing and retrieval, and efficient management and use of computing resources.
The world today is a global village with the advent of the Internet, which is a combination of millions of computer systems inter-networked to share information. The growth of the Internet has been seen to be sporadically improving, as it provides useful information and platforms for all classes of people, entrepreneurs, students, artisans, craftsmen, and all other categories of people and professions.
Types of Computer Network
Computer networks can be classified based on different attributes such as physical size, mode of connection, types of devices, etc. For an easy introduction, let’s look at its classification in terms of physical size. You will often hear the following.
Local Area Network (LAN)
Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)
Wide Area Network (WAN)
Local Area Network (LAN)
LAN a type of computer network that deals with usually a small area and mostly restricted to one place; for instance, the networking of a cyber cafe, a computer lab, or just a building of an organization.
The networking of a home or a small building is known as a SOHO LAN (Meaning Small Home Office Local Area Network). In this type of networking, there are usually few computers and other network devices, e.g., switches and routers involved (details about the devices are explained below).
Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)
MAN is a type of computer network that is larger than a LAN but not up to a WAN (Wide Area Network). It is an intermediary between LAN and WAN. It spans across more areas than in LAN and has a larger amount of computers; it can also be seen as a combination of more than one LANs.
In this type, the use of routers are well employed for network segregation and integration, and it requires more administrative checks due to its size.
Wide Area Network (WAN)
This is the largest form of computer network spanning across thousands of hectares of land area. It can go across states and countries; there is no limit to the amount of computer and networking devices or resources involved. WAN employs the use of all necessary networking devices like switches, routers, hubs, bridges, repeaters, etc. This type of networking usually requires a full-time administrative check, as its failure can lead to massive data loss or theft.
An easily familiar example is the Internet.
Network Devices and Terms
There are various network devices available, and many terminologies used. Let’s find about them the following.
A router is used to connect different networks together. I.e., for two or more LANs to be interconnected, you need a router. It is responsible for the path determination of sent data. The router is regarded as a layer three device, due to the fact that it operates at layer 3 of the OSI (Open System Interconnection) model of communication, and it makes use of IP addresses at its interface.
The switch is responsible for connecting the computers together. The switch is a major backbone of LANs. As it provides an avenue for different computers to be interconnected. This device is known to operate at layer 2 of the OSI model standard of communication. Hence it is a layer two device. The switch is an improved form of a bridge.
You might have in your home. A wireless router helps to connect multiple devices without wire.
Commonly known as wi-fi network and used to distribute the Internet to multiple devices at home, shop, or office.
An access point is used in place of a switch in wireless networking.
OSI model concept designed to standardize the system of communication between devices in a network. It consists of seven layers.
Hub is also known as a multi-port repeater due to its similarity with the repeater, though there are specific devices called repeaters. The hub was also used to connect computers and share data amongst them, but it is now majorly used as a repeater to repeat signals from long distances. The hub is known as a layer one device (on the OSI model), likewise the repeater.
Ethernet to the cabling and ports system involved in networking. The network cables are referred to as Ethernet cables, and they are used to connect a computer to all other networking devices or for a computer to computer connection. The most common of which is the RJ45 connector.
In Cisco devices, Ethernet ports on a router or switch are known as fast ethernet ports, most of which are denoted by letters and numbers according to how they arranged. For instance, the first ethernet port on a router is labeled Fa0/0, while that of a switch is Fa0/1.
IP means Internet Protocol.
The IP address is a 32-bit address given to computers, switches, and routers, so as for them to be easily located by other devices on the network. This exists in two versions currently, which are IPv4 (IP version 4) and IPv6 (IP version 6).
IPv4 is the most commonly used. It is written as a set of 12 numbers separated by dots in three(s), e.g., 192.168.231.254 or it can be written shorter if the first number is zero, i.e., 010.002.001.001 can be written as 10.2.1.1
IPv6 is currently not very common in use. It was developed when the challenges of increasing IP address depletion had to be met. It is written in the form 2031:0000:130F:0000:0000:09C0:876A:130B. It contains both numbers and alphabets.
Want to find out your public Internet IP? try this My IP tool.
MAC (Media Access Control) address is a 64-bit manufacturer’s address burnt on the motherboards of computers, routers, and switches. Every computer, switch, or router has a MAC address that is unique to itself. This is a source of unique identity to electronic devices for easy recognition. It is as unique as the fingerprint of human beings.
Subnet mask helps to determine the class of an IP address, as it is assigned to computers, routers, or switches alongside an IP address to clarify its class or network.
For class A IP address – subnet mask, is written as 255.0.0.0
For class B IP address – subnet mask is written as 255.255.0.0
For class C IP address – subnet mask is written as 255.255.255.0
Domain Name Service (DNS)
DNS is a service of translating or transforming human-readable names to IP addresses and vice versa. You may use a DNS record lookup to find out the resolving IP address.
Dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP)
DHCP is a service of automatically assigning IP addresses to host devices such as computers. This function is carried out by a router (only when it is configured to do so).
Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN)
VLAN is a method of logically separating a LAN and making it look like different networks in one. Physically its one network, but logically they are different networks. This is done by a switch (only when configured to do so).
Wi-Fi is a method of connecting computers to a network without the use of cables, i.e. wireless networking, which involves the use of Wi-Fi-enabled computers, access points, wireless routers, etc.
This is the ability of a network to expand such that it gives room for more devices to be interconnected and integrated into the network without causing any major changes to the whole network.
I hope this gives you an idea about basic computer networking terms. If you are non-techies and interested in learning more about Networking, then check out this brilliant online course.
Idris is a software engineer, with backgrounds in computer networking.
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