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SECTION 4 Computer Networks. • Computers can be linked together to form a network. • Networked computers can share data, programs and other resources such as printers. They are also an important method of communication. • They may be slow at busy times and it may be impossible to work if there is a network fault. • There are two main types of network – local area networks on a single site(LAN's) and wide area networks(WAN's). A LAN connection is usually via a network cable or a wireless transmitter. Connection to a WAN (e.g. the internet) can be via an ordinary telephone line or via a special ISDN line. The ordinary phone line needs a dial-up or an ADSL modem to convert the computer's digital data into analogue sound signals and back again. • E-mail is an important method of communication. It has advantages and disadvantages compared to the more traditional methods of letter, telephone and fax. • A bus, ring or star network may be used to connect computers on a LAN while a mesh network is more common on a WAN. A mesh network is likely to use packet switching to transmit data, where the data is chopped into small sections before being labelled and transmitted. • Network security is very important to prevent unauthorised people seeing, damaging or stealing data. Every authorised user of the network has their own user ID and should keep a secure and secret password. When sending data over the internet, it may be essential to use encryption (codes) to stop the wrong person being able to read it. You may also wish to use a digital signature (another type of encryption authenticating who you are) to prove a document came from whom it claims. • The internet is a worldwide linking of mesh networks. It provides information, entertainment and opportunities for commerce including online booking systems, sales and auctions. An intranet is a system of websites inside a LAN. • A search engine can be used to find web sites relating to particular key words. A bulletin board is a type of forum where people of similar interests can discuss topics. Tele and video conferencing allows interactive conversations and meetings to take place over a WAN.