A network is a collection of computers connected to each other. The network allows computers to communicate with each other and share resources and information. The Advance Research Projects Agency (ARPA) designed "Advanced Research Projects Agency Network" (ARPANET) for the United States Department of Defense. It was the first computer network in the world in late 1960's and early 1970's.[citation needed
The following list presents categories used for classifying networks.
Based on their scale, networks can be classified as Local Area Network (LAN), Wide Area Network (WAN), Metropolitan Area Network (MAN), Personal Area Network (PAN),Virtual Private Network (VPN) etc.
 Connection method
Computer networks can also be classified according to the hardware and software technology that is used to interconnect the individual devices in the network, such as Optical fiber, Ethernet, Wireless LAN, HomePNA, or Power line communication.
Ethernet uses physical wiring to connect devices. Frequently deployed devices include hubs, switches, bridges and/or routers.
Wireless LAN technology is designed to connect devices without wiring. These devices use radio waves or infrared signals as a transmission medium.
Computer networks may be classified according to the functional relationships which exist among the elements of the network, e.g., Active Networking, Client-server and Peer-to-peer (workgroup) architecture.
 Network topology
Computer networks may be classified according to the network topology upon which the network is based, such as Bus network, Star network, Ring network, Mesh network, Star-bus network, Tree or Hierarchical topology network,
Network Topology signifies the way in which devices in the network see their logical relations to one another. The use of the term "logical" here is significant. That is, network topology is independent of the "physical" layout of the network. Even if networked computers are physically placed in a linear arrangement, if they are connected via a hub, the network has a Star topology, rather than a Bus Topology. In this regard the visual and operational characteristics of a network are distinct; the logical network topology is not necessarily the same as the physical layout.
Types of networks
Below is a list of the most common types of computer networks in order of scale.
Personal Area Network (PAN)
A personal area network (PAN) is a computer network used for communication among computer devices close to one person. Some examples of devices that are used in a PAN are printers, fax machines, telephones, PDAs and scanners. The reach of a PAN is typically about 20-30 feet (approximately 6-9 meters), but this is expected to increase with technology improvements.
Personal area networks may be wired with computer buses such as USB and FireWire. A wireless personal area network (WPAN) can also be made possible with network technologies such as IrDA and Bluetooth.
Local Area Network (LAN)
This is a network covering a small geographic area, like a home, office, or building. Current LANs are most likely to be based on Ethernet technology. For example, a library may have a wired or wireless LAN for users to interconnect local devices (e.g., printers and servers) and to connect to the internet. On a wired LAN, PCs in the library are typically connected by category 5 (Cat5) cable, running the IEEE 802.3 protocol through a system of interconnected devices and eventually connect to the Internet. The cables to the servers are typically on Cat 5e enhanced cable, which will support IEEE 802.3 at 1 Gbit/s. A wireless LAN may exist using a different IEEE protocol, 802.11b, 802.11g or possibly 802.11n. The staff computers (bright green in the figure) can get to the color printer, checkout records, and the academic network and the Internet. All user computers can get to the Internet and the card catalog. Each workgroup can get to its local printer. Note that the printers are not accessible from outside their workgroup.
Typical library network, in a branching tree topology and controlled access to resources
All interconnected devices must understand the network layer (layer 3), because they are handling multiple subnets (the different colors). Those inside the library, which have only 10/100 Mbit/s Ethernet connections to the user device and a Gigabit Ethernet connection to the central router, could be called "layer 3 switches" because they only have Ethernet interfaces and must understand IP. It would be more correct to call them access routers, where the router at the top is a distribution router that connects to the Internet and academic networks' customer access routers.
The defining characteristics of LANs, in contrast to WANs (wide area networks), include their higher data transfer rates, smaller geographic range, and lack of a need for leased telecommunication lines. Current Ethernet or other IEEE 802.3 LAN technologies operate at speeds up to 10 Gbit/s. This is the data transfer rate. IEEE has projects investigating the standardization of 100 Gbit/s, and possibly 40 Gbit/s.
Campus Area Network (CAN)
This is a network that connects two or more LANs but that is limited to a specific and contiguous geographical area such as a college campus, industrial complex, office building, or a military base. A CAN may be considered a type of MAN (metropolitan area network), but is generally limited to a smaller area than a typical MAN. This term is most often used to discuss the implementation of networks for a contiguous area. This should not be confused with a Controller Area Network. A LAN connects network devices over a relatively short distance. A networked office building, school, or home usually contains a single LAN, though sometimes one building will contain a few small LANs (perhaps one per room), and occasionally a LAN will span a group of nearby buildings. In TCP/IP networking, a LAN is often but not always implemented as a single IP subnet.
Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)
A Metropolitan Area Network is a network that connects two or more Local Area Networks or Campus Area Networks together but does not extend beyond the boundaries of the immediate town/city. Routers, switches and hubs are connected to create a Metropolitan Area Network.
Wide Area Network (WAN)
A WAN is a data communications network that covers a relatively broad geographic area (i.e. one city to another and one country to another country) and that often uses transmission facilities provided by common carriers, such as telephone companies. WAN technologies generally function at the lower three layers of the OSI reference model: the physical layer, the data link layer, and the network layer.
Global Area Network (GAN)
Global Area networks (GAN) specifications are in development by several groups, and there is no common definition. In general, however, a GAN is a model for supporting mobile communications across an arbitrary number of wireless LANs, satellite coverage areas, etc. The key challenge in mobile communications is "handing off" the user communications from one local coverage area to the next. In IEEE Project 802, this involves a succession of terrestrial Wireless local area networks (WLAN).
Two or more networks or network segments connected using devices that operate at layer 3 (the 'network' layer) of the OSI Basic Reference Model, such as a router. Any interconnection among or between public, private, commercial, industrial, or governmental networks may also be defined as an internetwork.
In modern practice, the interconnected networks use the Internet Protocol. There are at least three variants of internetwork, depending on who administers and who participates in them:
Intranets and extranets may or may not have connections to the Internet. If connected to the Internet, the intranet or extranet is normally protected from being accessed from the Internet without proper authorization. The Internet is not considered to be a part of the intranet or extranet, although it may serve as a portal for access to portions of an extranet.
An intranet is a set of networks, using the Internet Protocol and IP-based tools such as web browsers and file transfer applications, that is under the control of a single administrative entity. That administrative entity closes the intranet to all but specific, authorized users. Most commonly, an intranet is the internal network of an organization. A large intranet will typically have at least one web server to provide users with organizational information.
An extranet is a network or internetwork that is limited in scope to a single organization or entity but which also has limited connections to the networks of one or more other usually, but not necessarily, trusted organizations or entities (e.g. a company's customers may be given access to some part of its intranet creating in this way an extranet, while at the same time the customers may not be considered 'trusted' from a security standpoint). Technically, an extranet may also be categorized as a CAN, MAN, WAN, or other type of network, although, by definition, an extranet cannot consist of a single LAN; it must have at least one connection with an external network.
The Internet is a specific internetwork. It consists of a worldwide interconnection of governmental, academic, public, and private networks based upon the networking technologies of the Internet Protocol Suite. It is the successor of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) developed by DARPA of the U.S. Department of Defense. The Internet is also the communications backbone underlying the World Wide Web (WWW). The 'Internet' is most commonly spelled with a capital 'I' as a proper noun, for historical reasons and to distinguish it from other generic internetworks.
Participants in the Internet use a diverse array of methods of several hundred documented, and often standardized, protocols compatible with the Internet Protocol Suite and an addressing system (IP Addresses) administered by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority and address registries. Service providers and large enterprises exchange information about the reachability of their address spaces through the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), forming a redundant worldwide mesh of transmission paths.
Basic Hardware Components
All networks are made up of basic hardware building blocks to interconnect network nodes, such as Network Interface Cards (NICs), Bridges, Hubs, Switches, and Routers. In addition, some method of connecting these building blocks is required, usually in the form of galvanic cable (most commonly Category 5 cable). Less common are microwave links (as in IEEE 802.11) or optical cable ("optical fiber").
Network Interface Cards
A network card, network adapter or NIC (network interface card) is a piece of computer hardware designed to allow computers to communicate over a computer network. It provides physical access to a networking medium and often provides a low-level addressing system through the use of MAC addresses. It allows users to connect to each other either by using cables or wirelessly.
A repeater is an electronic device that receives a signal and retransmits it at a higher power level, or to the other side of an obstruction, so that the signal can cover longer distances without degradation. In most twisted pair ethernet configurations, repeaters are required for cable runs longer than 100 meters away from the computer.
A hub contains multiple ports. When a packet arrives at one port, it is copied to all the ports of the hub for transmission. When the packets are copied, the destination address in the frame does not change to a broadcast address. It does this in a rudimentary way: It simply copies the data to all of the Nodes connected to the hub.
A network bridge connects multiple network segments at the data link layer (layer 2) of the OSI model. Bridges do not promiscuously copy traffic to all ports, as hubs do, but learn which MAC addresses are reachable through specific ports. Once the bridge associates a port and an address, it will send traffic for that address only to that port. Bridges do send broadcasts to all ports except the one on which the broadcast was received.
Bridges learn the association of ports and addresses by examining the source address of frames that it sees on various ports. Once a frame arrives through a port, its source address is stored and the bridge assumes that MAC address is associated with that port. The first time that a previously unknown destination address is seen, the bridge will forward the frame to all ports other than the one on which the frame arrived.
Bridges come in three basic types:
Local bridges: Directly connect local area networks (LANs)
Remote bridges: Can be used to create a wide area network (WAN) link between LANs. Remote bridges, where the connecting link is slower than the end networks, largely have been replaced by routers.
Wireless bridges: Can be used to join LANs or connect remote stations to LANs.
A switch is a device that performs switching. Specifically, it forwards and filters OSI layer 2datagrams (chunk of data communication) between ports (connected cables) based on the MAC addresses in the packets. This is distinct from a hub in that it only forwards the datagrams to the ports involved in the communications rather than all ports connected. Strictly speaking, a switch is not capable of routing traffic based on IP address (layer 3) which is necessary for communicating between network segments or within a large or complex LAN. Some switches are capable of routing based on IP addresses but are still called switches as a marketing term. A switch normally has numerous ports, with the intention being that most or all of the network is connected directly to the switch, or another switch that is in turn connected to a switch.
Switch is a marketing term that encompasses routers and bridges, as well as devices that may distribute traffic on load or by application content (e.g., a Web URL identifier). Switches may operate at one or more OSI model layers, including physical, data link, network, or transport (i.e., end-to-end). A device that operates simultaneously at more than one of these layers is called a multilayer switch.
Overemphasizing the ill-defined term "switch" often leads to confusion when first trying to understand networking. Many experienced network designers and operators recommend starting with the logic of devices dealing with only one protocol level, not all of which are covered by OSI. Multilayer device selection is an advanced topic that may lead to selecting particular implementations, but multilayer switching is simply not a real-world design concept.
Router e: Routers are networking devices that forward data packets between networks using headers and forwarding tables to determine the best path to forward the packets. Routers work at the network layer of the TCP/IP model or layer 3 of the OSI model. Routers also provide interconnectivity between like and unlike media (RFC 1812). This is accomplished by examining the Header of a data packet, and making a decision on the next hop to which it should be sent (RFC 1812) They use preconfigured static routes, status of their hardware interfaces, and routing protocols to select the best route between any two subnets. A router is connected to at least two networks, commonly two LANs or WANs or a LAN and its ISP's network. Some DSL and cable modems, for home (and even office) use, have been integrated with routers to allow multiple home/office computers to access the Internet through the same connection. Many of these new devices also consist of wireless access points (waps) or wireless routers to allow for IEEE 802.11g/b wireless enabled devices to connect to the network without the need for cabled connections.
The client-serversoftware architecture model distinguishes client systems from server systems, which communicate over a computer network. A client-server application is a distributed system comprising both client and server software. A client software process may initiate a communication session, while the server waits for requests from any client.
Client/server describes the relationship between two computer programs in which one program, the client, makes a service request from another program, the server. Standard networked functions such as email exchange, web access and database access, are based on the client/server model. For example, a web browser is a client program at the user computer that may access information at any web server in the world. To check your bank account from your computer, a web browser client program in your computer forwards your request to a web server program at the bank. That program may in turn forward the request to its own database client program that sends a request to a database server at another bank computer to retrieve your account balance. The balance is returned to the bank database client, which in turn serves it back to the web browser client in your personal computer, which displays the information for you.
The client/server model has become one of the central ideas of network computing. Most business applications being written today use the client/server model. So do the Internet's main application protocols, such as HTTP, SMTP, Telnet, DNS, etc. In marketing, the term has been used to distinguish distributed computing by smaller dispersed computers from the "monolithic" centralized computing of mainframe computers. But this distinction has largely disappeared as mainframes and their applications have also turned to the client/server model and become part of network computing.
Each instance of the client software can send data requests to one or more connected servers. In turn, the servers can accept these requests, process them, and return the requested information to the client. Although this concept can be applied for a variety of reasons to many different kinds of applications, the architecture remains fundamentally the same.
The most basic type of client-server architecture employs only two types of hosts: clients and servers. This type of architecture is sometimes referred to as two-tier. It allows devices to share files and resources. The two tier architecture means that the client acts as one tier and application in combination with server acts as another tier.
These days, clients are most often web browsers, although that has not always been the case. Servers typically include web servers, database servers and mail servers. Online gaming is usually client-server too. In the specific case of MMORPG, the servers are typically operated by the company selling the game; for other games one of the players will act as the host by setting his game in server mode.
The interaction between client and server is often described using sequence diagrams. Sequence diagrams are standardized in the Unified Modeling Language.
When both the client- and server-software are running on the same computer, this is called a single seat setup.
Characteristics of a client
Waits for replies
Usually connects to a small number of servers at one time
Typically interacts directly with end-users using a graphical user interface
Characteristics of a server
Never initiates requests or activities
Waits for and replies to requests from connected clients
A server can remotely install/uninstall applications and transfer data to the intended clients
Comparison to Peer-to-Peer architecture
Another type of network architecture is known as peer-to-peer, because each host or instance of the program can simultaneously act as both a client and a server, and because each has equivalent responsibilities and status. Peer-to-peer architectures are often abbreviated using the acronym P2P.
Both client-server and P2P architectures are in wide usage today.
 Comparison to Client-Queue-Client architecture
While classic Client-Server architecture requires one of the communication endpoints to act as a server, which is much harder to implement, Client-Queue-Client allows all endpoints to be simple clients, while the server consists of some external software, which also acts as passive queue (one software instance passes its query to another instance to queue, e.g. database, and then this other instance pulls it from database, makes a response, passes it to database etc.). This architecture allows greatly simplified software implementation. Peer-to-Peer architecture was originally based on Client-Queue-Client concept.
In most cases, a client-server architecture enables the roles and responsibilities of a computing system to be distributed among several independent computers that are known to each other only through a network. This creates an additional advantage to this architecture: greater ease of maintenance. For example, it is possible to replace, repair, upgrade, or even relocate a server while its clients remain both unaware and unaffected by that change. This independence from change is also referred to as encapsulation.
All the data is stored on the servers, which generally have far greater security controls than most clients. Servers can better control access and resources, to guarantee that only those clients with the appropriate permissions may access and change data.
Since data storage is centralized, updates to that data are far easier to administer than what would be possible under a P2P paradigm. Under a P2P architecture, data updates may need to be distributed and applied to each "peer" in the network, which is both time-consuming and error-prone, as there can be thousands or even millions of peers.
Many mature client-server technologies are already available which were designed to ensure security, 'friendliness' of the user interface, and ease of use.
It functions with multiple different clients of different capabilities.
Traffic congestion on the network has been an issue since the inception of the client-server paradigm. As the number of simultaneous client requests to a given server increases, the server can become severely overloaded. Contrast that to a P2P network, where its bandwidth actually increases as more nodes are added, since the P2P network's overall bandwidth can be roughly computed as the sum of the bandwidths of every node in that network.
The client-server paradigm lacks the robustness of a good P2P network. Under client-server, should a critical server fail, clients’ requests cannot be fulfilled. In P2P networks, resources are usually distributed among many nodes. Even if one or more nodes depart and abandon a downloading file, for example, the remaining nodes should still have the data needed to complete the download.
Specific types of clients include web browsers, email clients, and online chat clients.
Specific types of servers include web servers, ftp servers, application servers, database servers, mail servers, file servers, print servers, and terminal servers. Most web services
are also types of servers.
Computer network diagram
A sample network diagram
A computer network diagram is a schematic depicting the nodes and connections amongst nodes in a computer network or, more generally, any telecommunications network.
The physical network topology can be directly represented in a network diagram, as it is simply the physical graph (mathematics) represented by the diagrams, with network nodes as vertices and connections as undirected or direct edges (depending on the type of connection). The logical network topology can be inferred from the network diagram if details of the network protocols in use are also given.
A network diagram is a general type of diagram, which represents some kind of network. A network in general is an interconnected group or system, or a fabric or structure of fibrous elements attached to each other at regular intervals, or formally: a graph.
A network diagrams is a special kind of cluster diagram, which even more general represents any cluster or small group or bunch of something, structured or not. Both the flow diagram and the tree diagram can be seen as a specific type of network diagram
Diagram of different network topologies.
In computer science the elements of a network are arranged in certain basic shapes (see figure):
Ring: The ring network connects each node to exactly two other nodes, forming a circular pathway for activity or signals - a ring. The interaction or data travels from node to node, with each node handling every packet.
Mesh is a way to route data, voice and instructions between nodes. It allows for continuous connections and reconfiguration around broken or blocked paths by “hopping” from node to node until the destination is reached.
Star: The star network consists of one central element, switch, hub or computer, which acts as a conduit to coordinate activity or transmit messages.
Fully connected: Self Explanatory
Line - Everything connected in a single line.
Tree: This consists of tree-configured nodes connected to switches/concentrators, each connected to a linear bus backbone. Each hub rebroadcasts all transmissions received from any peripheral node to all peripheral nodes on the network, sometimes including the originating node. All peripheral nodes may thus communicate with all others by transmitting to, and receiving from, the central node only.
Bus: In this network architecture a set of clients are connected via a shared communications line, called a bus.
Main article: Network model
The network model is a database model conceived as a flexible way of representing objects and their relationships. Its original inventor was Charles Bachman, and it was developed into a standard specification published in 1969 by the CODASYL Consortium. Where the hierarchical model structures data as a tree of records, with each record having one parent record and many children, the network model allows each record to have multiple parent and child records, forming a lattice structure.
Main article: Network topology
Network topology is the study of the arrangement or mapping of the elements (links, nodes, etc.) of a network, especially the physical (real) and logical (virtual) interconnections between nodes.
Any particular network topology is determined only by the graphical mapping of the configuration of physical and/or logical connections between nodes. LAN Network Topology is, therefore, technically a part of graph theory. Distances between nodes, physical interconnections, transmission rates, and/or signal types may differ in two networks and yet their topologies may be identical
Definition: Ethernet is a physical and data link layer technology for local area networks (LANs). Ethernet was invented by engineer Robert Metcalfe.
When first widely deployed in the 1980s, Ethernet supported a maximum theoretical data rate of 10 megabits per second (Mbps). Later, Fast Ethernet standards increased this maximum data rate to 100 Mbps. Today, Gigabit Ethernet technology further extends peak performance up to 1000 Mbps.
Higher level network protocols like Internet Protocol (IP) use Ethernet as their transmission medium. Data travels over Ethernet inside protocol units called frames.
The run length of individual Ethernet cables is limited to roughly 100 meters, but Ethernet can be easily extended to link entire schools or office buildings using network bridge devices
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Definition: Fast Ethernet supports a maximum data rate of 100 Mbps. It is so named because original Ethernet technology supported only 10 Mbps. Fast Ethernet began to be widely deployed in the mid-1990s as the need for greater LAN performance became critical to universities and businesses.
A key element of Fast Ethernet's success was its ability to coexist with existing network installations. Today, many network adapters support both traditional and Fast Ethernet. These so-called "10/100" adapters can usually sense the speed of the line automatically and adjust accordingly. Just as Fast Ethernet improved on traditional Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet improves on Fast Ethernet, offering rates up to 1000 Mbps instead of 100 Mbps.
Advantages and disadvantages of a bus network
Easy to implement and extend
Well suited for temporary or small networks not requiring high speeds (quick setup)
Cheaper than other topologies.
Cost effective as only a single cable is use
Cable faults are easily identified
Limited cable length and number of stations.
If there is a problem with the cable, the entire network goes down.
Maintenance costs may be higher in the long run.
Performance degrades as additional computers are added or on heavy traffic.
Proper termination is required (loop must be in closed path).
Significant Capacitive Load (each bus transaction must be able to stretch to most distant link).
It works best with limited number of nodes.
It is slower than the other topologies
Definition: A network adapter interfaces a computer to a network. The term "adapter" was popularized originally by Ethernet add-in cards for PCs.
Modern network adapter hardware exists in several forms. Besides traditional PCI Ethernet cards, some network adapters are PCMCIA devices (also know as "credit card" or "PC Card" adapters) or USB devices. Some wireless network adapter gear for laptop computers are integrated circuit chips pre-installed inside the computer.
Windows and other operating systems support both wired and wireless network adapters through a piece of software called a "device driver." Network drivers allow application software to communicate with the adapter hardware. Network device drivers are often installed automatically when adapter hardware is first powered on
A network adapter allows a computing device to interface with a local network. Adapters are a required component to include when building a network.
Types of Network Adapters
A network adapter is typically a small unit of hardware. Several types of hardware adapters exist:
Traditional PCI adapters fit inside a desktop personal computer (often called a NIC).
A newer type of PCI adapter, "PC Card" adapters (sometimes called PCMCIA cards) insert into the side of a notebook computer.
A USB adapter plus into a standard USB port of any computer
A media adapter connects to the Ethernet port of an Xbox or Playstation game console or other home entertainment product, providing a bridge to Wi-Fi wireless capability.
Every common adapter supports either Wi-Fi (wireless) or Ethernet (wired) standards. Special-purpose adapters that support very specialized network protocols also exist, but these are not found in homes or most business networks.
Determine Whether a Network Adapter Is Present
Newer computers often include a network adapter when sold. Determine whether a computer already possesses a network adapter as follows:
In desktop computers. look for an RJ-45 jack on the back of the computer. The RJ-45 jack appears similar to a phone line jack but is slightly larger.
In notebook computers, look for a thin, removable metal device roughly the size of credit card, but thicker.
For notebook computers running Windows that may contain integrated adapter chips, open the Windows Device Manager. Device Manager can be accessed from the Hardware tab of the System Properties section of Windows Control Panel
In any type of computing device, look for a small external device with LED lights connected to a USB port
Purchasing a Network Adapter
A network adapter can be purchased separately from most manufacturers that supply routers and other forms of networking equipment. When purchasing a network adapter, some prefer to choose the brand of adapter that matches their router. To accommodate this, manufacturers sometimes sell one or two network adapters together with a router in a bundle called a home network kit. Technically, however, network adapters all offer very similar functionality according to the Ethernet or Wi-Fi standard they support.
Installing a Network Adapter
Installing any network adapter hardware involves two steps:
1. Connecting the adapter hardware to the computer
2. Installing any required software associated with the adapter
For PCI adapters, first power down the computer and unplug its power cord before proceeding with installation. A PCI adapter is a card that fits into a long, narrow slot inside the computer. The computer's case must be opened and the card firmly inserted into this slot.
Other types of network adapter devices can be attached while a computer is running normally. Modern computer operating systems automatically detect newly connected hardware and complete the basic software installation required.
Some network adapters, however, additionally require custom software installation. Such an adapter will often be accompanied by a CD-ROM containing the installation media. Alternatively, the necessary software can be downloaded for free from the manufacturer's Web site.
Software installed with a network adapter includes a device driver that allows the operating system to communicate with the hardware. In addition, a software management utility may also be supplied that provides a user interface for advanced configuration and troubleshooting of the hardware. These utilities are most commonly associated with Wi-Fi wireless network adapters.
Network adapters can normally be disabled through their software. Disabling an adapter provides a convenient alternative to installing and uninstalling it. Wireless network adapters are best disabled when not in use, for security
The network model is a database model conceived as a flexible way of representing objects and their relationships. The network model original inventor was Charles Bachman, and it was developed into a standard specification published in 1969 by the CODASYL Consortium