A network is developed by linking computer systems so that they can communicate with each other, share computing power and/or storage facilities. The network includes the individual computer systems, the connections and the hardware that allows communication to happen.

The connections could be cable, fibre-optic, or wireless (infra-red, microwave or radio) and may be between computers in one building or between computers in different parts of the world. They either link computers directly or more commonly link them through a hub or switch. The hardware includes the network cards fitted inside the computers and the hubs or switches.

Often the computers in a network are linked to a server, this is a powerful computer which holds the software to run the network. It also holds the shared resources of the network like the users’ files, software packages and printer queues. It usually has a much higher specification than the other computers on the network, with a very large hard disk drive.

Network Components:
A network is not just a number of computers connected by cables. Parts found in a typical network are:
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Network software - This may be part of the operating system, or it can be software designed specifically to manage a network. Cables - Connecting cables are usually used to connect devices on a network, although some networks make use of radio or microwaves to provide the link. Connectors - Connectors are used to connect network cables to terminals or other devices. Network cards - If a personal computer is to be used as a terminal in a network, a device called a network card must be built into it. The network card looks like a small circuit board and slots into one of the connectors on the main circuit board (called the mother board) inside the computer. Network cards have connectors on them for network cables.

You will not be expected to be specific about any particular network hardware and software but you should know what each component does.

Typical hardware devices that may form part of a network are:
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personal computers used as terminals one or more central processing units acting as dedicated file servers or print servers disk drives scanners printers

A Local Area Network (LAN) is a high-speed communications system designed to link computers and other data processing devices together within a small geographic area, such as a workgroup, department, or building. This allows users to electronically share vital computing resources, such as expensive hardware (e.g. printers and CD-ROM drives), application programs, and information. Local Area Networks implement shared access technology. This means that all of the devices attached to the LAN share a single communications medium, usually a coaxial, twisted-pair, or fiber-optic cable. A physical connection to the network is made by putting a network interface card (NIC) inside the computer and connecting it to the network cable. Once the physical connection is in place, the network software manages communications between stations on the network. LANs offer computer users many advantages, including shared access to devices and applications, file exchange between connected users, and communication between users via electronic mail and other applications. First appeared in the 1970s

Advantages of LAN
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Individual workstation might survive network failure. Ability to share hardware and software resources. Component and system evolution are possible. Support for heterogeneous forms of hardware and software. Access to other LANs and WANs . Private ownership. Secure transfers at high speeds & low error rates. Good quality printers can be shared so individual workstations do not need their own printer. When they print, the data is stored in a queue on the server. The data is then passed to the printer in turn. All the users work can be stored in a central place (the dedicated file server) so a user can access their work through any computer on the network. Software can be shared, software packages are stored on the server and downloaded to workstations as requested. Note that a licence still has to be bought for each copy of the software needed. Data can be shared because database files stored in the server are available to users around the network; data from CD-ROMs can also be shared across the network. Central back-up can take place automatically at regular intervals. A user will usually be able to retrieve work that has been deleted by mistake. Local email messages can be sent to people working at other computers on the network which can save time and paper. It is possible to set up a local intranet such as that on the KLB school network. The web pages of information can be accessed only over the LAN. An intranet is free because it does not involve phone links. There is control over users’ access rights to programs and data.

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Disadvantages of LAN
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Equipment and support can be costly. Level of maintenance continues to grow. Some types of hardware may not interoperate. Just because a LAN can support two different kinds of packages does not mean their data can interchange easily. A LAN is only as strong as it weakest link, and there are many links. Printing can be slow. Where a lot of computers are served by only one or two printers, long print queues may develop.

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A virus can spread more easily. If a virus gets into one computer, it is likely to spread quickly across the network because it will get into the central backing store. As data is shared there is a greater need for security. Users of the network have to have user ids and passwords which they may let others know or make too easy to guess. User ids prevent unauthorised users from logging onto the network or accessing someone's files. If the server fails, all the workstations are affected. Work stored on shared hard disk drives will not be accessible and it will not be possible to use network printers either. The cost of installing the equipment is greater. Cabling can be expensive to buy and to install. Damage to cables can isolate computers. Some sections of the network can become isolated and will not be able to communicate with the rest of the network. Because networks can be complicated to maintain, a network manager may be needed to run the system

Functions of a Local Area Network
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File server - A large storage disk drive that acts as a central storage repository. Printer server - Provides the authorization to access a particular printer, accept and queue print jobs, and provides a user access to the print queue to perform administrative duties. Interconnection - A LAN can provide an interconnection to other LANs and to wide area networks.

Wide Area Network
The term Wide Area Network (WAN) usually refers to a network which covers a large geographical area, and use communications circuits to connect the intermediate nodes. WANs are networks that span the distance between buildings, cities and even countries. Offices in different states might be connected by a WAN. This term is also used to refer to the Internet. Typically, a WAN consists of two or more local-area networks (LANs). Computers connected to a wide-area network are often connected through public networks, such as the telephone system. They can also be connected through leased lines or satellites. The largest WAN in existence is the Internet.

Advantages of WANs:

These are similar to those of LAN's except the scale of sharing etc. becomes far greater and can be world-wide.

Disadvantages of WANs:

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Again these are similar to those of LAN's except that issues such as security become even more important as potential hackers could possibly be trying to break into a computer system from anywhere in the world Not reproducible and configurable environment Difficult to generate a very large workload

WAN environment
• Life server analysis captures real WAN conditions • Network conditions are not reproducible and configurable • Difficult to generate a very large workload • Goal: an environment that is both realistic and reproducible

1. A WAN is generally slow. If we compare that to a LAN, we said that Ethernet could run up to 1000 Mbs, currently, certainly in South Africa, the fastest WAN is 155 Mbs, so you can see in a LAN we can talk up to 1000 Mbs whereas in a WAN, at the moment, currently, today in South Africa, we can only take, literally a 10th of the speed. 2. WAN's are expensive. If we look at the path of telecommunications, we need to connect two offices, one in Pretoria and one in Johannesburg together - it 's an expensive operation even for a slow line. 3. One of the differences between a WAN (Wide Area Network) and a LAN (Local Area Network) is the set-up cost. WAN generally are to connect remote offices and when we talk about remote offices we generally refer to the remote offices as those that are outside the campus. For example, if we have an office in Pretoria and we have an office in Cape Town, these are remote offices. There is no chance that we can connect the LAN between Cape Town and Pretoria. In a LAN we connect local offices whereas in a WAN we can connect remote offices.

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