If you know your way around a computer but aren’t too familiar with the terminology or meanings of certain terms and phrases related to computer networking, then here is a newbie’s guide to help you get up to speed on what you need to know!
Types of Computer Network
There are three basic types of computer network:
- LAN – short for Local Area Network. This refers to the connection of computers at a single location such as a home or office;
- WAN – short for Wide Area Network. This refers to two or more LANs being connected to each other to create a more complex network. Connections are usually made between each site using high-speed fibre-optic broadband links or leased lines;
- VPN – short for Virtual Private Network. Business and organisations with remote or home workers would use a VPN connect to securely connect to an office LAN or WAN.
The most common types of network you will come across are LANs and sometimes VPNs. WANs are only used by large companies or organisations across different sites across the UK or around the world.
Making a Connection to the Outside World
In order for one or more computers to connect to the outside world, they would have to go through a device known as a router. If you have broadband Internet at home, then you will be using either an ADSL or cable router.
ADSL routers are used for broadband connections over standard telephone lines (from providers such as BT and Sky), whereas cable routers use fibre-optic connections from providers such as Virgin Media.
The speed with which a router connects or “syncs” to an ISP (Internet Service Provider, the company that provides you with Internet access) depends on the service you pay for, and in the case of ADSL connections, your line quality and how far away you are from your local telephone exchange.
Many routers offer Wi-Fi (wireless) as well as Ethernet (wired) connectivity, so that both desktop and mobile devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets can access the Internet. For Ethernet connectivity, there are usually four ports on the back of the router; this means that up to four desktop computers or network devices can connect to it.
Connecting your Computers to the Outside World
Most offices, and even many homes, have more than four computers or devices that need Internet and network connectivity, so to extend the number of Ethernet ports available to them, a device called a switch is used.
You simply connect an Ethernet cable from one port on the back of the switch to a port on the back of your router, and it then you can connect more computers to your network.
Switches can be daisy-chained, and these devices range from simple desktop units to rack-mountable devices that fit inside enclosures called server racks (these are only normally found in large offices).
As you can imagine, if you have a lot of users in your office or have the need to connect a lot of computers to the network and the Internet at home, you will be using up a lot of cables.
So for the sake of neatness and quality of service, a professional network cabling services company is usually employed to set up any network cable infrastructure in a home or office with the need for several users.