Computer networks are the basis of communication in IT. They are used in a huge variety of ways and can include many different types of network. A computer network is a set of computers that are connected together so that they can share information. The earliest examples of computer networks are from the 1960s, but they have come a long way in the half-century since then.
What Do Networks Do?
Computer networks are used to carry out a large number of tasks through the sharing of information.
Some of the things that networks are used for include:
Communicating using email, video, instant messaging and other methods
Sharing devices such as printers, scanners and photocopiers
Sharing software and operating programs on remote systems
Allowing network users to easily access and maintain information
Types of Network
There are many different types of network, which can be used for different purposes and by different types of people and organization. Here are some of the network types that you might come across:
Local Area Networks (LAN)
A local area network or LAN is a network that connects computers within a limited area. This might be in a school, an office or even a home.
Personal Area Networks (PAN)
A personal area network is a network that is based on an individual's workspace. The individual's device is the center of the network, with other devices connected to it. There are also wireless personal area networks.
Home Area Networks (HAN)
A home area network connects devices within a home environment. It might include personal computers, tablets, smartphones, printers, TVs and other devices.
Wide Area Networks (WAN)
A wide area network is a network that covers a larger geographical area, usually with a radius of more than a kilometer.
A campus network is a LAN or set of connected LANs which is used by a government agency, university, corporation or similar organization and is typically a network across a set of buildings that are close together.
Metropolitan Area Networks (MAN)
Metropolitan area networks are networks that stretch across a region the size of a metropolitan area. A MAN is a series of connected LANs in a city, which might also connect to a WAN.
Enterprise Private Networks
An enterprise private network is used by a company to connect its various sites so that the different locations can share resources.
Internetworks connect different networks together to build a larger network. Internetworking is often used to describe building a large, global network.
Backbone Networks (BBN)
A backbone is a part of a network that connects different pieces and provides a path for information to be exchanged.
Global Area Networks (GAN)
A global area network is a worldwide network that connects networks all over the globe, such as the internet.
Computer networks can have different designs, with the two basic forms being client/server and peer-to-peer networks. Client/server networks have centralized servers for storage, which are accessed by client computers and devices. Peer-to-peer networks tend to have devices that support the same functions. They are more common in homes, while client/server networks are more likely to be used by businesses
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