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Published by Trisha Shah

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Published by: Trisha Shah on Jan 04, 2011
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Information is of no use unless you share it. This is especially true in an increasingly competitiveworld. Organizations in the nineties operate in a world that has become devilishly competitive. Toensure its success, one of the parameters that an organization may need to work at is the speed withwhich it reacts to its environment: market fluctuations, changes in government policies, competitor’smoves. And this is where speed of exchange of information is of paramount importance.Many organizations today look to the computer as an invaluable means of obtaining, storing,processing and exchanging information; doing it fast and efficiently. And one way of making this assetthat an organization possesses, in the form of computer power, more formidable is to link it to make ita synergistic whole. This is called computer networking. It is a challenging concept, the impact of which is being increasingly felt throughout the world.
What is computer networking?
Well, first things first. What does the term network mean to you?Perhaps it means an arrangement, or a complex grid. For instance, you may often have come acrossphrases such as the state has a very good network of roads. This signifies that there is a good systemof roads that read out to every corner of the state. In other words, the cities towns, and villages of thestate are well connected through the extensive network of roads, it also signifies that these cities,towns, and villages are, at least partly, dependent on the interconnectivity that this network of roadprovides.We can extend this analogy to computers too. When we say that a group of computers is networked, itimplies that these computers are linked by means of a communication system. Technically speakingthe term computer network refers not just to the computers and the cables (or any other mode thatmay be used to communicate), but includes the software that helps them to communicate, and thetransmission methods used in such communication. In short, it encompasses the whole gamut of hardware and software components that make a computer network operate.A computer network can also be compared to telephone network in a city. A city may have millions of telephone instruments, and needs millions of telephone instruments, and needs demand that when auser in one part of the city dials a number, he or she be connected to another user in another part of the city. In fact, a telephone user in one part of the city can be connected to a user in any other partof the city through telephone lines. Is each telephone physically connected through cables to everyother telephone? No. That would be impossible. Each telephone connects to a local exchange. Anumber of local exchanges are connected to the district exchange, which in turn is connected to thecentral exchange of the city. Similarly in a computer network, each computer is capable of communicating with every other computer in the network, through each computer is not directlyconnected to every other computer through communication channels. Instead, there is a network of communication channels interconnecting these computers that make this possible. 
Reasons for networking
The first and most obvious reason is that once you link these computers and they are capable of communicating with each other, they form a huge information chain. This information chain ensuresthat information is available to users at the time and at the location where they need it.Another advantage of having a network is that it helps an organization to make better use of itshardware and software resources. Let us say an organization has a high speed mainframe computer inits office at Bombay. The power of this mainframe computer needs to be used by users in the Delhioffice. One alternative is to have a mainframe computer in Delhi, but that is not practical because it istoo expensive. A more feasible solution is to network this mainframe with computers in the Delhi officeso that the users in Delhi can use the mainframe while working on the computers. Similarly, softwareresources too can be shared amongst computer users once an organization networks these computers.
A network provides an improved communication link between users. On a network, letters, memos,and even long reports can be sent from an office in one part of the country to another, in a matter of minutes. By ordinary mail, it would have taken days.In general, a network helps an organization make optimum use of its resources and thus helps it tooptimize on cost.
LAN ConceptsTopology
A network’s topology refers to the way in which the workstations attached to the network areinterconnected. There are three basic LAN topologies:
Bus Topology
: With the bus topology, all devices on the network are connected to a singlecontinuous cable called a bus. The connecting interface is called a tap. Transmission from any stationtravels the length of the bus, in both directions, and can be received by all other stations. The bus hasterminators at either end which absorb the signal, removing it from the bus.Data is transmitted in small blocks, known as packets. Each packet has some data bits, plus a headercontaining its destination address. A station wanting to transmit some data sends it in packets alongthe bus. The destination device, on identifying the address on the packets, copies the data onto itsdisk.The main advantage of bus topology is that it is quite easy to set up. Another advantage of thistopology is that if one station on the LAN fails, it will not affect the rest of the network. However, bustopology also has some weakness. It offers limited flexibility for change. Furthermore, a signal on thebus must be strong enough to reach the receiver. This limits the geographic spread of the LAN.A variation of bus topology is the tree topology. The tree begins from the head end. The cables startfrom this point. Each cable may have branches, and these, in turn, may have additional branches,resulting in a complex layout. This is referred to as the tree topology. This topology is best suited forapplications which have a hierarchical flow of data and control.
Transmission takes place in the same way as in the bus topology. In both cases, there is no need toremove packets from the medium because when a signal reaches the end of the medium, it isabsorbed by the terminators.
Ring Topology :
A LAN following the ring topology is connected in a closed loop. This means thatevery network transmission passes serially through all the devices on the LAN.In the ring topology, data is transmitted in one direction only. Thus, the data packets circulate alongthe ring in either clockwise or anti clockwise direction. As a packet circulates past each station, thedestination station recognizes its address on the packet header, and copies the packet contents ontoit. After a packet travels a full circle, it is removed at the source station. The LAN has a set of repeaters joined in a closed loop by links. The repeater is a device capable of receiving data on onelink and transmitting it on the other link.Each workstation is attached to the LAN using the repeater, and the workstation transmits datathrough the repeater. In ring and bus LAN’s all transmissions are broadcast, i.e. any signaltransmitted on the network passes through all the LAN stations.Ring topologies have some disadvantages. They are quite difficult to set up in a building. Also, thebreakdown of any one station on the ring can disable the entire LAN. Adding or removing devicesbreaks the ring and can bring network operations to a halt.
Star Topology
: In a star topology, each workstation is directly linked to a central node. Devices canbe easily plugged or unplugged to the central node, as needs dictate.Any communication between stations, on a star LAN, must pass through the central node. The startopology offers the maximum flexibility for change. Another advantage of star LAN is that thebreakdown of one station does not affect any other device on the network. This topology also hassome weaknesses. If traffic between the workstation is high, an undue burden is placed on the centralnode. Also, if the central node goes down, so does the entire LAN.

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