What is a computer network?

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

  1. 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 packets . They are transmitted by electrical impulses, electromagnetic waves or other means, using special coding. 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 ensure their correct understanding . Only, in this case, those who send and receive messages are computers.

By having a number of networked computers, we can create an internal communication between them, which also serves to share Internet access points or peripheral management (such as 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 every day, especially those related to bureaucracy or resource management. 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.

  1. Types of computer networks

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

  • LAN networks . Its name comes from the Local Area Network (in English: “Local Area Network”), as they are smaller and larger networks, such as those that may exist between computers in the same booth or cyber café.
  • MAN networks . Its name comes from the Metropolitan Area Network (in English: “ Metropolitan Area Network ”) and designates intermediate-sized networks, such as those used in large libraries or large companies , connecting different areas and geographically remote from each other.
  • WAN networks . Named for the acronym of Wide Area Network (in English: “ Wide Area Network “), these are large and wide-ranging networks, 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 data directionality.

  1. Basic elements of a computer network

Commonly a computer network contains the following elements:

  • Server . Computers in a network do not have the same hierarchy, nor do they perform the same functions. For example, servers are responsible for processing the data flow of the network, serving all other connected computers (ie, “serving them”) and centralizing the control of the network itself.
  • Clients or work stations . These are the computers that do not serve others, but are part of the network and provide access to it, requesting resources managed by the server.
  • Transmission media . It refers to wiring, electromagnetic waves, or the physical environment that allows the transmission of network information, whatever.
  • Hardware elements . All the technological pieces that enable the physical establishment of a network, that is, that allow it. We talk about network cards, modems and routers, or repeater antennas that extend the connection wirelessly.
  • Software elements . Similarly, it requires programs to manage and operate communications hardware for each workstation, including the Operating System Networking (US, of the English Network Operating System ), which also sustain the operation of the network, provides antivirus and firewall services ; as well as thecommunicative protocols (TCP / IP) that allow the machines to share the language.
  1. 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 the stored information of a type of organization (companies, institutions, etc.). It is so important in the contemporary world that we use them constantly without even realizing it.

Thanks to computer networks we can perform all kinds of operations quickly and over huge distances. Some of them are:

  • Social interactions , teleconferences, video calls.
  • Electronic purchase operations and capital movements.
  • Data transmission , email and share resources in real time.
  • Transmission stream stored media content.
  • Satellite exploration and other surveillance and military recognition technologies.
  1. Disadvantages of a computer network

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

We talk about both malicious software ( viruses , adware, etc.) or cyberterrorists (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.

  1. 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 cybercafes or call centers were very popular with Internet penetration, before the arrival of Smartphones . They contain a series of computers that share their Internet connection, and are available for public use, framed in an internal network, whose head was the computer of the local manager.
  • A university campus network . Called CAN (Campus Area Network), they are actually MAN networks adapted to the various buildings and interests of the university community.
  • Internet . The biggest WAN available today: communicating various technological devices over huge distances, from one side of the world to the other. This gigantic network involves computers everywhere, operating servers and workstations for millions.

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