what is a network?

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A computer network is a number of computers linked together to allow them to share resources. Networked computers can sharehardwarehardwareThe physical components of a computer.,softwaresoftwareA general term used to describe an application or a program.anddata [data:information without context, eg a list of students with numbers beside their names is data, when it's made clear that those numbers represent their placing in a 100 metre race, the data becomes information ].

Most computer networks have at least one server. A server is a powerful computer that provides one or more services to a network and its users. For example, file storage andemailemailelectronic mail - a message written or typed on a computer and sent electronically rather than by post.

LANs and WANs

There are two main types of network:

  1. Local Area Network (LAN)
  2. Wide Area Network (WAN)

LAN

A LAN covers a small area such as one site or building, eg a school or a college.

Shows multiple workstations connected in a circle, including a server. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/ict/images/lan.gif)

LAN - Local Area Network

WAN

AWANcovers a large geographical area. Most WANs are made from several LANs connected together.

Shows a WAN, made from several smaller networks, which could be local area networks (LAN). Each of the smaller networks has it's own server and multiple workstations connected. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/ict/images/wan.gif)

WAN - Wide Area Network

  • TheInternetInterneta global network connecting millions of computersis a WAN.
  • A network of bank cash dispensers is a WAN.
  • A school network is usually a LAN.
  • LANs are often connected to WANs, for example a school network could be connected to the Internet.
  • WANs can be connected together using the Internet, leased lines or satellite links.

Advantages and disadvantages of networks

Advantages

  • Sharing devices such as printers saves money.
  • Site (softwaresoftwareA general term used to describe an application or a program.) licences are likely to be cheaper than buying several standalone licences.
  • Files can easily be shared between users.
  • Networknetworka group of interconnected computersusers can communicate byemailemailelectronic mail - a message written or typed on a computer and sent electronically rather than by postandinstant messengerinstant messengeran application that allows users to send instant messages (text) to one another.
  • Security is good - users cannot see other users' files unlike on stand-alone machines.
  • Data [datainformation without context, eg a list of students with numbers beside their names is data, when it's made clear that those numbers represent their placing in a 100 metre race, the data becomes information ]is easy tobackup [backupto copy data onto a separate storage device in case the original device should fail, be damaged or the data stored on it get corrupted ]as all the data is stored on thefile serverfile servera networked computer that provides large amounts of shared storage, it can be accessed by workstations on the same network.

Disadvantages

  • Purchasing the network cabling and file servers can be expensive.
  • Managing a large network is complicated…

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