Types of Computer Networks9 min read

Introduction

Computer networks come in a variety of shapes and sizes. We may classify them based on their size as well as their intended use. Networks in which, computers and other devices like printers can be connected to each other through some transmission media. Many computers are connected, and as per the need act as sender and receivers in a network, to make data communication, possible. In this article, we will look at the different types of computer networks.

Through networking, not only software or data but also hardware situated at a far place can be shared. The topology, or configuration, of a network, is crucial in determining its efficiency. Network topology refers to how a network is organized, including the physical and logical description of how links and nodes are linked.

Need of Networks

  1. Sharing Resources: In any organization, you can purchase multiple computers but with every computer, you cannot purchase a laser printer because it will be very costly. But due to sharing ability of networking, you can share one printer with every computer connected in a network.
  2. Sharing Information: Due to networking, you can share information from one to another.
  3. Communication: Due to networking you can send or receive messages from one computer to another.

Different Types of Computer Networks

  • LAN (Local Area Network)
  • MAN (Metropolitan Area Network)
  • WAN ( Wide Area Network)
  • VAN (Value-Added Network)
Different types of networks
Different types of networks

1. LAN (Local Area Network)

A LAN is the Network of two or more computers directly linked within a small well-defined area such as a room, office building, or computer.

A LAN can consist entirely of microcomputers or of a combination of microcomputers and large systems. The main advantage of a LAN is that it allows users to share computers and peripheral devices such as laser printers, color plotters, hard discs, and modems, which reduces hardware and software costs. Another benefit is that users can share the same data.

A LAN is a data communication system that allows a number of independent devices to interact directly with one another over a physical communication medium within a decent-sized geographical area. A local area network (LAN) is a digital communication system capable of interconnecting a large number of computers and peripherals within a small geographical area (less than one kilometer), typically within the same building or campus. LAN transmission channels generally use coaxial cables, optical fiber cables, and special interface units rather than telephone lines & modems. The attached computers may be of different types and be performing a variety of functions such as data processing, word processing, electronic mail, etc. yet they would be able to communicate with each other whenever the need arises. Ethernet developed by Xerox Corporation, Omninet developed by Corvus System are examples of a LAN.

The LAN is one of the types of computer networks that brings to its users, the obvious benefits of a network viz. information-sharing and resource-pooling, etc. It allows a large number of users to share storage devices, printers, programs, data files and integrated a wide range of functions into a single system. A well-integrated LAN can eliminate the need to circulate paper documents by distributing electronic memos and other material to each worker terminal.

Features of LAN
  1. It is restricted to a limited geographical area of few kilometers.
  2. The computers are connected to each other through direct cable connections via special interface cards.
  3. Every node in the network can communicate with any other node in the network.
  4. The data is transmitted at very higher speeds.
Advantages of LAN
  1. The sharing of information amongst various users on the network.
  2. Access & sharing of computer devices such as laser printers etc. by each user on the network.
  3. Future up-gradation or expansion of the network is economical since only nodes (generally disk-less) are added.
  4. The security & integrity of data and software on the central computer can be maintained by restricting access to users.
  5. Electronic Mail & Message Broadcasting over the LAN not only makes the communication faster and economical but paves the way for a ‘paper-less office.
  6. Data Management becomes easy since the critical data is maintained in the Central computer only.
  7. Legal Network-based software which provides access to a specified number of users on the LAN cost much less than the equivalent number of single-user software copies.

2. MAN (Metropolitan Area Network)

A MAN is a public or private network that connects various locations in a metropolitan city, including the suburbs. It covers a much larger area than a LAN. It is one of the types of computer networks that typically spans an entire city but uses LAN technology. It is owned by multiple organizations. MANs that distribute television signals include cable television networks.

Metropolitan Area Network Applications :

  1. The Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) is used to communicate between banks in a region.
  2. It can be used to make a reservation for a flight.
  3. The MAN can be used in a city-based college.
  4. It can also be used for military contact.

3. WAN (Wide Area Network)

A WAN is a network of two or more LANs that are connected together. WANs are spread over large geographical areas. WAN is one of the types of computer networks that is usually limited to use by large organizations and government agencies due to the high costs involved in building and maintaining them.

For Example:

A company may have its corporate headquarters and manufacturing facilities in one city and its marketing office in another city. Each site requires resources, data, and programs on a local level, but it must also share data with the other site. To accomplish this type of data communication, the company could attach a router to each LAN to create a WAN. The Reservation centers are good examples of WAN.

WAN is a digital communication system that interconnects different sites, computer installations, and user terminals spread over great distances (nationwide or even worldwide) and may also enable LANs to communicate with each other. Telephone lines, microwave links, and satellite links are the transmission mediums used in WAN. The basic component of a WAN is a host computer that is linked to subordinate computers via various interconnected communication lines. ARPANET, developed by the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the United States, connects over 40 universities and research institutions spread across the United States and Europe, and INFONET, developed by CMC, India, are two examples of WAN.

Features of a WAN
  1. It is spread over a large geographical area.
  2. The computers are generally connected to each other through telecommunication channels (telephone or satellite links).
  3. A public authority normally holds the control over the data transmission amongst the users.
  4. The data is transmitted at relatively slower speeds as that of a LAN
Internet

The Internet is the ultimate WAN since it connects many thousands of computers and LANs around the world. Internet is an Interconnection of Networks. It is an open interconnection of networks that enables connected computers to communicate directly.

These networks are spread all over the world, but they are interconnected, allowing them to communicate with one another in seconds. Consider sending a message to a friend in America and receiving a response in a matter of minutes. Internet is not owned by any individuals, organizations, or country, it is free for all open service facilities.


4. VAN (Value-Added Network)

Value-Added Network, (VAN) are private, multipath, data-only, third-party, managed networks that multiple organizations use on any subscription basis. VAN provides an alternative for the firm, to avoid designing and managing their own networks. Because VANs are used by many organizations, they may result in cost savings in operation and network management.

A network management company is responsible to set up the VAN. Other businesses interested in using the network can purchase subscriptions from the company. Subscribers pay a monthly fee in addition to the volume of data they transmit. the network. Subscribers only pay for the amount of data they send, plus a service charge. The network may choose to use twisted-pair lines, satellite links, and other communication channels rented by the value-added carrier. VANs bring in – economies in cost of services and network management. VAN can add message storage, tracking and relay services as well as teleconferencing services.


Client / Server Networking

In this type of networking, the server is very important. It stores data, and the server grants clients (workstations) permission to share the resources. In this type of network, the client PC can communicate only through the server. Every server has a special Network Operating System (NOS), by which every client PC can share the resources. Novell Network and Windows NT/ 2000, both are very popular Network Operating Systems. The Network Operating Systems are very useful for servers to do the administration.


Peer-to-Peer Networking

In Peer-to-Peer Networking, no PC is a server or a client. In this networking, every PC can access the other PC. No PC is a file server. NT/ 2000 windows 95/98, Windows for workgroups are using the operating system for constructing Peer-to-Peer Networking. Peer-to-Peer Networking allows each PC to store data and access the files of another PC.

In a peer-to-peer network, all nodes have equal relationships to one another and use similar types of software. If they are set up correctly, Windows 95 and its predecessor, window for workgroups, give users access to the hard disks and printers attached to other computers in the network.

Furthermore, some high-end peer-to-peer networks support distributed computing, allowing users to tap into the processing power of other computers on the network. That means people can transfer that tasks that take a lot of CPU power such as creating computer software to available computers, leaving their own machines free for other work.

Peer-to-peer LANs are most commonly used in small businesses (fewer than 50 employees) or schools, where the primary benefit of a network is shared storage, printers, and improved communication. Where large databases are used, LANs are more likely to include client/server relationships.

A peer-to-peer network could even include a network Server: in this case, a peer-to-peer LAN is equivalent to a file server network. A peer-to-peer network provides users with more access to other nodes than a file server network.


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