Networks are fostered behind one principle: connecting systems together. Generally this is thought of in the context of of computers and printers, but more importantly than this, networks connect people. Without their existence, you wouldn’t be able to connect to the internet or read this article.
Not all networks are the same
This is ruled by what’s called “network topology”, or configuration. Every network is different in how they’re set up and how big they are. Generally, home and business networks use the Tree Topology due to sharing a internet line with other residences, but some corporations and universities use the Star Topology to accommodate an intranet network.
Smaller networks are considered local area networks, or “LAN”, while larger networks are wide area networks or “WAN”. Let’s look at the differences between the two:
LAN networks are typically used for home and small businesses with a small network topology, and are seen as a cheaper alternative to WAN networks. They are generally used within smaller locations such as a school, home or computer lab.
One of the benefits of using LAN networks over WAN are wireless access points, or “WAPs”, which can enable the wireless capabilities of a LAN network for a limitless amount of workstations and servers operating on the same network.
With the greater use of LAN networks, the prices of the WAPs have become so affordable that workstations readily use the wireless capabilities in homes and businesses. Something to keep in mind is Network Interface Controllers, which help enable the network to communicate directly with your network address. These can be found in wireless adapters or any device that can connect to your router, and can be considered LAN adapters.
WAN networks cover larger geographic areas such as states or countries and can communicate to remote locations in seconds. For example, this can be shown when trying to connect from a US location, like Los Angeles, to a Chinese location, such as Beijing. They can use dedicated transoceanic cabling or satellite uplinks to connect to the internet, and can save a lot of money in frequent global communications.
Both LAN and WAN have unique features and benefits that enable the network to function, depending on the network topology. Deciding which one is best for your network can be a challenge since you have to factor in your function needs. Choosing the right network itself can make or break your setup, as can your selection of network topology.
How do networks, you know, work?
So you now know the different networks that most people and businesses use, but how do you ultimately make them work? Put simply, they connect multiple devices together to a single device called a router, which connects to the internet. There’s clearly a lot more to them than that though.
Routers help with forwarding packet data on a network as well as guiding that data as traffic to and from the internet. Without this, any requests that you make from the internet would not be processed through to your device due to the data not being organized in a readable format.
This isn’t always sufficient for all users, however, and a network switch may need to be used for filtering data in and out of the network through a series of ports. This is officially called packet switching. This is a process by which data is processed and transported across the network through the hardware. Switches allow different types of networks to be utilized on the same hardware for flexibility – both of time-saving networking (for a cost savings) and of adding and removing networks off of your switch.
Hopefully this information has helped you better understand networking as a whole.