A network is simply a collection of computers or other hardware devices that are connected together, either physically or logically, using special hardware and software that allows the devices to exchange information and cooperate. Networking is the term that describes the processes involved in designing, implementing, upgrading, managing, and otherwise working with networks and network technologies.
Connectivity and Communication - Networks connect computers and the users of those computers. Individuals within a building or workgroup can be connected through local area networks (LANs); LANs in distant locations can be interconnected to form larger, wide area networks (WANs). Once computers are connected, it is possible for network users to communicate with each other using technologies such as electronic mail. This makes the transmission of business (or nonbusiness) information easier, more efficient, and less expensive than it would be without the network.
Data Sharing - One of the most important uses of networking is to allow the sharing of data. Before networking was common, an accounting employee who wanted to prepare a report for her manager would have to produce it on her PC, put it on a floppy disk, and then walk it over to the manager, who would transfer the data to her PC’s hard disk.
True networking allows thousands of employees to share data much more easily and quickly than this. It also makes possible applications that enable many people to access and share the same data, such as databases, group software development, and much more.
Hardware Sharing - Networks facilitate the sharing of hardware devices. For example, instead of giving each employee in a department an expensive color printer, you can place one printer on the network for everyone to share.
Internet Access - The Internet is itself an enormous network, so whenever you access the Internet, you are using a network. The significance of the Internet today is hard to exaggerate!
Internet Access Sharing - Small computer networks allow multiple users to share a single Internet connection. Special hardware devices allow the bandwidth of the connection to be easily allocated to various individuals as they need it, and these devices permit an organization to purchase one high-speed connection instead of many slower ones.
Data Security and Management - In a business environment, a network allows the administrators to manage the company’s critical data better. Instead of spreading data over dozens or even hundreds of small computers in a haphazard fashion as users create it, administrators can centralize data on shared servers. This makes it easy for everyone to find the data and makes it possible for the administrators to ensure that the data is regularly backed up. Administrators can also implement security measures to control who can read or change various pieces of critical information.
Performance Enhancement and Balancing - Under some circumstances, you can use a network to enhance the overall performance of some applications by distributing the computation tasks to various computers on the network.
Entertainment - Networks facilitate many types of games and entertainment. The Internet itself offers many sources of entertainment. In addition, many multiplayer games operate over a LAN. Many home networks are set up for this reason, and gaming across WANs (including the Internet) has also become quite popular.
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