What Is a Computer Network

What Is a Computer Network?

A computer network is a system that connects two or more computing devices for transmitting and sharing information. Computing devices include everything from a mobile phone to a server. These devices are connected using physical wires such as fiber optics, but they can also be wireless.

The first operational network, known as ARPANET, was established in the late 1960s and was supported by the United States Department of Defense. When computers were enormous and difficult to move, government researchers used to share information. We’ve come a long way since that primitive network. The internet, a network of networks that connects billions of devices worldwide, is the centre of today’s world. Networks are used by businesses of all sizes to connect their employees’ devices and common resources such as printers.

Traffic monitoring systems in cities are an example of a massive computer network. These systems provide information on traffic flow and incidents to officials and emergency responders. A simpler example is sharing documents with coworkers who work remotely using collaboration software such as Google Drive. A computer network is at work every time we connect through video call, stream movies, share files, chat via instant messages, or just access something on the internet.

Computer networking is the branch of computer science concerned with the design, maintenance, and security of computer networks. It combines computer science, computer engineering, and telecommunications.

Key Components of a Computer Network

A computer network is composed of two basic components: nodes or network devices and links. The linkages bind two or more nodes together. Communication protocols determine how these links transport information. The communication endpoints, or origin and destination devices, are frequently referred to as ports.

1) Network Devices
Network devices, often known as nodes, are computational devices that must be joined in a network. Among the network devices are:

  • Computers, mobiles, and other consumer devices: These are end devices to which users have direct and regular access. An email, for example, is sent from the mailing application on a laptop or mobile phone.
  • Servers: These are the application or storage servers where the majority of the processing and data storing takes place. The servers receive all requests for specific operations or data.
  • Routers: Routing is the process of deciding the network path that data packets will take. Routers are devices that redirect packets between networks so that they can eventually reach their destination. They improve the efficiency of huge networks.
  • Switches: Repeaters are electrical devices that receive network signals and clean or reinforce them, similar to transformers in power grids. Hubs are repeaters that have numerous ports. They route the data to the next accessible port. Bridges are more intelligent hubs that only send data to the destination port. A switch is a bridge with several ports. To communicate with numerous network devices, multiple data connections can be inserted into switches.
  • Gateways: Gateways are hardware devices that serve as “gateways” between two separate networks. They can take the form of firewalls, routers, or servers.

2) Links
Links are transmission media that come in two varieties:

  • Wired: Coaxial cables, phone lines, twisted-pair cabling, and optical fibres are examples of wired technology used in networks. Optical fibres transport light pulses that represent data.
  • Wireless: Radio or other electromagnetic signals can also be used to establish network connections. This type of transmission is known as ‘wireless.’ Communication satellites, cellular networks, and radio and technology spread spectrums are some of the most prevalent instances of wireless links. Wireless LANs use spectrum technology to connect devices in a small area.

3) Communication protocols
A communication protocol is a set of rules that all nodes involved in information transfer must obey. The internet protocol suite (TCP/IP), IEEE 802, Ethernet, wireless LAN, and cellular technologies are all examples of common protocols. TCP/IP is a conceptual model that standardises network communication. These communication linkages are suggested to have four functional layers:

  • Network access layer: This layer specifies how data is physically sent. It describes how hardware transmits data bits via physical cables or fibres.
  • Internet layer: This layer is in charge of encapsulating data into comprehensible packets and enabling it to be sent and received.
  • Transport layer: This layer allows devices to keep talking by ensuring the connection is authentic and reliable.
  • Application layer: This layer specifies how high-level apps can connect to the network and start data transfers.

The majority of the present internet structure is based on the TCP/IP architecture, however the similar but seven-layered open systems interconnection (OSI) model continues to have a substantial influence.

IEEE802 is an IEEE standard family that deals with local area networks (LAN) and metropolitan area networks (MAN) (MAN). Wireless LAN, often known as WLAN or Wi-Fis, is the most well-known member of the IEEE 802 family.

4) Network Defense
While nodes, connections, and protocols are the building blocks of a network, a contemporary network cannot survive without protections. When enormous amounts of data are generated, transported, and processed across networks, security is crucial. Firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), intrusion prevention systems (IPS), network access control (NAC), content filters, proxy servers, anti-DDoS devices, and load balancers are a few examples of network security tools.

Types of Computer Networks
Computer networks are categorized according to numerous characteristics, including transmission medium, network size, topology, and organizational goal. The various types of networks on a geographical scale are:
1) Nanoscale networks: These networks allow microscopic sensors and actuators to communicate with one another.
2) Personal area network (PAN): A PAN is a network that is used by a single individual to connect many devices, such as laptops and scanners.
3) Local area network (LAN): Local area networks connect devices in a specific geographic region, such as schools, hospitals, or corporate buildings.
4) Storage area network (SAN): A storage area network (SAN) is a dedicated network that allows for block-level data storage. This is utilised in storage devices such as disc arrays and tape libraries.
5) Campus area network (CAN): Campus area networks are a group of LANs that are linked together. Larger organisations, such as universities and governments, use them.
6) Metropolitan area network (MAN): A metropolitan area network (MAN) is a massive computer network that spans an entire city.
7) Wide area network (WAN): Larger areas, such as huge cities, states, and even nations, are covered by wide area networks.
8) Enterprise private network (EPN): An enterprise private network is a single network used by a major corporation to connect its several office locations.
9) Virtual private network (VPN): A VPN is a private network that is stretched on top of a public network.
10) Cloud network: A cloud network is a WAN whose infrastructure is offered through cloud services.

Networks can be categorised as follows based on their organisational intent:
1) Intranet: An intranet is a collection of networks managed and controlled by a single body. It is generally the most secure sort of network, with only authorised users having access. In a local area network, an intranet is often located behind the router.
2) Internet: The internet (or internetwork) is a network composed of several networks linked together by routers and overlaid by networking software. This is a worldwide network that connects governments, researchers, businesses, the general public, and individual computer networks.
3) Extranet: An extranet is comparable to an intranet but connects to certain external networks. It is typically used to distribute resources to partners, clients, or remote staff.
4) Darknet: The darknet is an internet-based overlay network that can only be accessed with specific software. It employs one-of-a-kind, specialised communication protocols.

Key Objectives of Creating and Deploying a Computer Network

There is no industry that can exist without well-designed computer networks, including education, retail, banking, technology, government, and healthcare. The network becomes increasingly sophisticated as an organisation grows in size. Before embarking on the difficult effort of designing and establishing a computer network, consider the following main objectives.

1) Resource sharing
Critical assets are shared across divisions, continents, and time zones in today’s global companies. Clients are no longer restricted by their physical location. A network makes data and hardware available to all relevant users. This also aids in the processing of interdepartmental data. For example, the marketing team examines client data and product development cycles to enable top-level executive choices.

2) Resource availability & reliability
A network guarantees that resources are not isolated and are accessible from various sites. The great reliability is due to the fact that different supply authorities are frequently present. Important resources must be replicated across many machines in order to be accessible in the event of an incident such as a hardware outage.

3) Performance management
The workload of a corporation only grows as it expands. When one or more processors are added to the network, the overall performance of the system improves and this growth is accommodated. Saving data in well-designed databases can significantly improve lookup and retrieval speeds.

4) Cost savings
Large mainframe computers are an expensive investment, therefore adding processors at strategic spots in the system makes more sense. This enhances performance while while saving money. Networks save operating time and, as a result, money by allowing employees to access information in seconds. Centralized network administration also implies fewer investments in IT support are required.

5) Increased storage capacity
Employees that work with large amounts of data will appreciate network-attached storage devices. For example, due to the large amount of records crunched by the data science team, no specific data repositories are required. Centralized repositories make the process even more efficient. With unprecedented quantities of client data coming into firms’ systems, the ability to increase storage capacity is critical in today’s world.

6) Streamlined collaboration & communication
Networks have a significant impact on a company’s day-to-day operations. Employees can more effectively share data, check each other’s work, sync their calendars, and discuss ideas. For the unrestricted flow of information and interactions, every modern organisation relies on internal messaging services such as Slack. Email is still the most formal way of communicating with clients, partners, and vendors.

7) Reduction of errors
Networks reduce errors by ensuring that all involved parties acquire information from a single source, even if they are viewing it from different locations. Backed-up data provides consistency and continuity. Standard versions of customer and employee manuals can be made available to a large number of people without much hassle.

8) Secured remote access
Computer networks encourage flexibility, which is vital in uncertain times like now, when natural disasters and pandemics are wreaking havoc on the planet. A secure network ensures that users may access and work on sensitive data even while they are not on business premises. Mobile portable devices that are network-registered can even use multiple layers of authentication to ensure that no bad actors gain access to the system.

Top 10 Best Practices for Computer Network Management in 2022

The process of configuring, monitoring, and troubleshooting all network-related hardware, software, and connections is known as network management. The five functional areas of network management are fault management, configuration management, performance management, security management, and (user) accounting management.

If computer networks are not properly built and maintained from the start, they can quickly grow into unmanageable behemoths. The top ten computer network management practises are listed below.

1) Pick the right topology
Network topology refers to the pattern or hierarchy by which nodes are connected to one another. The topology may speed up, slow down, or even break the network depending on the company’s architecture and requirements. Before beginning from scratch, network architects must choose the best one. Examples of common topologies include:

  • Bus network: Each node is only connected to one other node.
  • Ring network: Each node is connected to two others, forming a ring.
  • Mesh network: Every node in the system must attempt to be connected to every other node in the system.
  • Star network: A central node server is linked to multiple other nodes. This is faster since data doesn’t have to travel through each node.
  • Tree network: Here, nodes are arranged in hierarchies.

2) Document & update constantly
The documentation of the network is critical because it serves as the backbone of operations. Documentation must include the following:

  • Technical parameters of equipment, such as wires, cables, and connectors
  • Hardware
  • The software that powers the hardware and ensures a smooth and secure data flow.
  • Firmware
  • A written record of network operators’ and users’ policies and procedures.

This should be audited on a regular basis or during re-hauls. This not only simplifies network management, but also allows for more efficient compliance checks.

3) Use the right tools
The network topology is only the first step in building a robust network. To manage a highly accessible and dependent network, the right tools must be deployed in the right places. The following network tools are essential:

  • Network monitoring solutions: Complete network visibility is provided by a network monitoring solution. Visual maps can help you determine network performance. It is capable of tracing packets, providing granular insight into network traffic, and assisting in the detection of anomalies. Newer monitoring systems use artificial intelligence to identify scaling requirements and cyber threats using historical and real-time data.
  • Configuration management tools: A network is made up of many interconnected parts. As a result, there are a number of configuration parameters to keep track of. Configuration management technologies address this issue by providing network-wide configuration tools. They also allow network administrators to ensure that all compliance requirements have been met.
  • IP address managers: Larger networks require an IP address manager to plan, track, and manage information associated with a network’s IP addresses (IPAM).
  • Security solutions: Firewalls, content filtering systems, and intrusion detection and prevention systems all help to protect networks carrying more sensitive loads. No network is complete without them. Obtaining these tools, however, is insufficient. They must also be correctly placed within the network. Every network junction, for example, requires the installation of a firewall. DDoS protection devices must be installed at network perimeters. Load balancers should be strategically placed throughout the system, for example, before a cluster of database servers. This must be explicitly stated in the network architecture.

4) Establish baseline network & abnormal behavior
A baseline allows administrators to understand how the network performs in terms of traffic, user access, and so on. With a baseline in place, warnings can be strategically placed to detect irregularities quickly. The normal range of behaviour must be documented at both the user and organisational levels. Routers, switches, firewalls, wireless access points, sniffers, and dedicated collectors can all provide baseline data.

5) Protect the network from insider threats
Malicious actors are kept out of the network by firewalls and intrusion prevention systems. Insider threats must also be addressed, as hackers employ a variety of social engineering ploys to target employees with network access. For access management and control, one approach is to use a least-privilege paradigm. Another option is to use stronger authentication mechanisms such as single sign-on (SSO) and two-factor authentication (2FA). Employees must also be trained on a regular basis to deal with security issues. Escalation procedures must be documented and widely disseminated.

6) Use multiple vendors for added security
While sticking with a single hardware provider makes sense, a diverse set of network security technologies is a significant benefit for a large network. Security is a dynamic and ever-changing environment. Hardware advancements are rapid, as are cyber threats. It is impossible for a single vendor to be up to date on all risks. In addition, different intrusion detection solutions use different detection algorithms. A good combination of these technologies improves security; however, they must be interoperable and support common logging and interfacing.

7) Segregate the network
Enterprise networks can become large and cumbersome. Segregation divides them into zones, which are logical or functional units. To separate networks, switches, routers, and virtual LAN solutions are commonly used. A separate network has the advantage of limiting the potential damage from a cyberattack and protecting critical resources. Another advantage is that it enables more functional network classification, such as distinguishing between programmer and human resource needs.

8) Use centralized logging
Centralized logs are essential for gaining a comprehensive picture of the network. Immediate log analysis can help the security team identify suspicious logins and IT admin teams identify overburdened network systems.

9) Consider using honeypots & honeynets
Honeypots are distinct systems that appear to have legitimate procedures and data but are, in fact, a ruse for internal and external threats. Any breach of this system results in no actual data loss. A honeynet is a fictitious network section that serves the same purpose. While this increases network costs, it allows security personnel to keep an eye out for malicious gamers and make necessary adjustments.

10) Automate wherever possible
New devices are being added to systems all the time, while old ones are being phased out. Users and access controls are always changing. All of this must be automated to avoid human error and the presence of vulnerable zombie systems in the network, which costs money and security. Automation is also important in terms of security. It is recommended that response to attacks be automated, such as blocking IP addresses, terminating connections, and gathering additional information about attacks.


A effective network boosts productivity, security, and creativity while minimising overhead expenses. This is only possible with solid design and implementation, as well as a thorough understanding of the business requirements. While network development may appear to be completely technical, it involves business input, particularly in the early stages. Network management also entails changing workflows and adapting to new technologies.

Comments are closed.