It’s probably safe to say that modern business is dependent on electronic communication and computer communication. Ask any person who works in a corporate environment how many e-mails they receive and send in a day or how many times they need to print a document, and the number you will hear will probably be quite large. Thus, one essential thing to have in any modern office is a reliable computer network. A computer network is a group of computers and machines that are linked together through one of a variety of different methods in order to share, transfer, and communicate information.
A computer network typically includes computers, printers, and fax machines, but they can also include any type of machine or device that’s linked in. A slow and unreliable computer network means that the computers and machines cannot communicate, which means that people can’t communicate with each other, which directly translates to poorer work productivity, not to mention frustration and annoyance.
But before you know how to find a reliable computer network or how to improve your existing one, it’s helpful to know about the many different types of networks and their capabilities:
Local Area Network
One type of network is called a LAN (Local Area Network). A LAN is one of the major two types of computer networks and is most likely found in homes or small offices as it covers smaller physical areas than other types of networks. It’s a computer network that typically connects computers to word processors and other office equipment. Although a LAN covers only a limited area, it can connect a large number of computers and electronic equipment. For instance, schools and airports are two types of large, centrally-located organizations that often use a LAN. And the fact that it covers a specific, small geographic area means that the network doesn’t require leased telecommunication lines. Perhaps the most crucial defining characteristic of a LAN is its high data transfer rates. Because the network is serving a limited area, data can move from device to device much more quickly.
Wide Area Network
Essentially the opposite of a local area network is a WAN (Wide Area Network). This type of network is the second major type of computer networks available, and unlike a LAN, a WAN covers a wide geographic area. Whether you need to connect computers across the country or across the globe, a WAN is a good solution. As opposed to a LAN, a WAN is not confined to a network within a specific building. And the most popular type of wide area networks is the Internet. And both the LAN and WAN come with wireless options, meaning that computers and other machines can be connected without using cables.
Internetwork is another category of computer networks that overlaps with both land area networks and wide area networks. Basically, an internetwork uses routing technology to connect two or more different computer networks. In other words, an internetwork connects to LANs or two WANs. An internetwork connects communication between or among public, private, commercial, industrial, or governmental networks. Within the internetwork category, there are three different types of networks: intranet, extranet, and internet. The difference among these networks is dependent on who administers the network and who participates in them.
The intranet uses something called the Internet Protocol (IP) and related tools, including web browsers and file transfer applications. Internet Protocol assures that any packet of information sent from one computer or device arrives at its destination safely and in the same condition when it was sent. IP does this by assigning a unique address, a number, to each device connected to the network. The intranet is controlled by a single administrative entity. The administration’s specific responsibility is to ensure that the network is closed to all unauthorized users and those outside the network. In most cases, the intranet is used within a single organization.
An extranet must have at least one connection to an external network to be considered an extranet. It is a network that only services a single organization, but that usually connects to networks of trusted organizations. For instance, a business organization may allow their network to connect to a network of customers or suppliers. In other terms, the extranet is usually a network that includes extraneous connections from an intranet.
The Internet is the most popular type of internetwork that allows interconnection and intercommunication across worldwide networks. The Internet can connect a variety of different networks, including governmental, academic, public, and private networks. Most people are familiar with this internetwork, as the Internet is the underlying backbone of the World Wide Web. Although this type of internetwork is popular and can be used in businesses, it is can also be the least secure type of network, especially is an organization doesn’t have the right anti-virus software, firewalls, and other necessary precautions.
The above is a simple overview of the most common types of computer networks. There are many other types of networks that could be beneficial to a variety of different organizations. Whether you need to connect computers in a single state or need California computer networking to extend all the way to New York, there are networks designed to meet your specific needs. By knowing about the different types of computer networks, you can better know which one is right for you and your business to help enhance communication and improve efficiency and productivity.