Computer Networks

Most people working in an office with more than a couple of computers will be using some form of network. As networks become easier to setup and maintain more home users are also setting up networks to share resources such as disk space, printers, Internet connections and access to software.

A network is basically two or more computers connected through a cable, wire or wireless network which share resources. Network software controls how the computers communicate.

There are dozens of different types of networks and this article focuses on home and small business networks.

The cloud is a group of computers linked together to provide users with the ability to access software applications, files and resources. Most modern cloud systems are run on internet servers so people can access these resources from any internet accessable computer. cloud users login to an account and are able to access these resources, open files and work on documents that are stored on these servers. Most cloud servers are linked to other servers which provide the flexability to expand and move information around between servers to provide users with a seamless system. One benefit is that it isn't necessary to install program or applications on a computer as they can be accessed through the cloud.

To connect computers each on the computers needs a network card with a connection that allows a cable to be connected to it or for a wireless connection, within the range of a wireless router. Two computers can be connected directly using a bi-directional cable but if the computers are some distance away a router is necessary. The router connects all the computers in your local network together. A router also allows more than two computers to connect. A router can also be used to connect two local area networks together to create a wide area network.

Some form of network software is required. This network protocol software is installed through the network preferences. NetBIOS was commonly used though recently a secure TCP/IP protocol has been developed. The network protocol determines how computers become part of the network and how they are recognized. The network must have a name and you can use some creativity at this point. Each computer can also have an unique name that other computers on the network can access them with. The router is usually setup to assign each computer on the network with a unique identifier called an IP address.

If all goes well this is all you need but if there is a conflict it can be resolved by establishing exactly how the computer will communicate. To solve these types of conflict your network needs a set DNS server address and each computer in the network needs to be manually assigned a IP address. The addresses usually are in the range of 192.168.x.x where x means any number between 0 and 255. Once these numbers have been entered your network should be functioning with each computer able to see the other computers on the network.

You must also decide which resources you want to share. You may want to make a disk or folder available, a printer or tape backup system so that everyone can use it. You may also want to have parts of the network that are either not accessible or accessible only through a password. File and print sharing must be enabled on the computer that will share it's resources or host computer and they determine how they are accessed by other computers or clients.

An Internet connection can also be shared with other computers on the network. Sharing an Internet connection also raises some security issues. If your home network isn't setup properly adding an internet connection and connecting your home or office network to this existing system can cause problems. Though you may want to allow a computer in another room of the house to access files or run programs on your computer you probably don't want the kid down the block to have that same access.

Security on networks begin with passwords. Everyone who wishes to access the network must logon with a username and password. If someone cancels the password challenge they will be able to access the files and programs on that individual computer but can't access any of the network resources. Specific passwords for important folders or disks can also be set or access to folders or disks can be forbidden.

Unlike server/client networks where the server must be running before the computers can communicate, a peer-to-peer network allows any computer to communicate with another member of the network directly. When a computer in the peer-to-peer network is turned on the computer recognizes the network and can access resources on the other computers and also become accessible to the other computers in the network.

Networks can also be open to remote secure access through a virtual private network. A VPN allows a computer to connect to a computer or network through the Internet.

This ends the Introduction to Computers.

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