Computer Networking, Types of computer network and components needed for computer networking

A computer network consists of a collection of computers, printers and other equipment that is connected together so that they can communicate with each other.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of networking configuration, peer – to- peer networks and client/ server networking.

 Peer – to – peer networking
These are more commonly implemented where less than ten computers are involved and where strict security is not necessary. All computers have the same status, hence the term ‘peer’, and they communicate with each other on an equal footing. Files such as word processing or spreadsheet documents can be shared across the network and all the computers on the network can share devices, such as printers, scanners or internet connections which are connected to any one computer.

Client/server networking
These are more suitable for larger networks. A central computer or ‘server’ acts as the storage location for files and applications shared on the network. Usually the server is a higher than average performance computer. The server also controls the network access of the other computers which are referred to as ‘client’ computer. Typically, teachers and students in school will use the client computers for their work and only the network administrator (usually a designated staff member) will have access right to the server.  

Differences between Peer – to – Peer Networks and Client/Server Networks
Peer – to – Peer Networks
Client/Server Networks
·        It is easy to set up.
·        It is more difficult to set up.
·        This type of network is less. expensive to install
·        The client/Server is expensive to install.
·        It can be implemented on a wide range of operating system.
A variety of operating systems can be supported on the client computers, but the server needs to run an operating system that supports networking.
·        More time consuming to maintain the software being used (as computers must be managed individually).
·        Less time consuming to maintain the software being used (as most of the maintenance is managed from the server).
·        Very low level of security supported or none at all. These can be very cumbersome to set up, depending on the operating system being used.
·        High levels of security are supported, all of which are controlled from the server. Such measures prevent the deletion of essential system files or the changing of settings.
·        It is ideal for networks with less than 10 computers
·        No limit to the number of computers that can be supported by the network
·        It does not require a server “special computer”
·        This network requires a server running a server operating system
·        This kind of network demands a moderate level of skill to administer
·        This network demands that the network administrator has a high level of IT skills with a good working knowledge of a server operating system

Components of a Network
A computer network comprises the following components:
·        A minimum of at least 2 computers
·        Cable that connect the computers to each other, although wireless communication is becoming more common
·        A network interface device on each computer (this is called a network interface card or NIC)
·        A ‘switch’ used to switch the data from one point to another. Hubs are outdated and are little used for new installations.
·        Network operating system software.

Network Interface Card (NIC)
A NIC (pronounced nick) is also known as a network card. It connects the computer to the cabling, which in turn links all of the computers on the network together. Each computer on a network must have a network card. Most modern network cards are 10/100 NICs and can operate at either 10Mbps or 100Mbps.
Only NICs supporting a minimum of 100Mbps should be used in new installations. Students’ computers with a wireless connection to a network also use a network card

Hub and Switch
A hub is a device used to connect a PC to the network. The function of a hub is to direct information around the network, facilitating communication between all connected devices. However in new installations switches should be used instead of hubs as they are more effective and provide better performance. A switch, which is often, termed a ‘switch hub’.
Switches and hubs are technologies or ‘boxes’ to which computers, printers, and other networking devices are connected. Switches are the more recent technology and the accepted way of building today’s networks. With switching, each connection gets “dedicated bandwidth” and can operate at full speed. In contrast, a hub shares bandwidth across multiple connections such that activity from one PC or server can slow down the effective speed of the other connections on the hub.
Dual speed 10/100 autosensing switches are recommended for school networks
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