An introduction to networks
In a world where more and more things depend on technology, networks are becoming increasingly important to keep us connected and to allow businesses to operate. Networks are used to connect all kinds of devices from mobile phones and computers to peripherals and even IoT devices. Then there are the components of a network such as routers, switches and wireless access points as a starting point for building a network. It is through these various components that your network is able to connect to and communicate with other networks such as the internet. As a starting point, let’s take a look at the different elements that make up a network.
Switches, Routers and Wireless Access Points
These three components serve very different purposes when they are added into a network.
Within your home or business, you will have at least one network and within this network there will be a series of switches. Switches are basic for most business networks. They serve as a controller and work to connect servers, printers and computers to a network in an office, school or factory. Switches allow devices on the network to communicate with each other and also with other networks. This will develop a network of shared resources. Switches can serve to both increase productivity and achieve cost savings for businesses. There are two basic types of switch that are important for networking; managed and unmanaged. Managed Switches – These can be configured to suit the specific purposes of the network. IT teams can monitor and adjust a managed switch remotely or locally which gives more accurate control over access and network traffic Unmanaged Switch – These switches don’t have any facilities to be configured. Many home networks will feature unmanaged switches.
A router is something that will connect one or more networks. They also enable computers who share this network to access the internet. A router will allow all computers on a network to share a single internet connection. If every computer on a network needed a separate internet connection this would be incredibly expensive for businesses. Routers act as dispatchers. They analyse information that is sent across a network and then decide which is the best route for this data to travel. All of this is completed in a matter of seconds before the data is then sent to where it needs to go. Routers enable your business to connect the world, while protecting your sensitive and confidential information from security threats and can even decide to give certain computers priority over others. As well as including these basic networking feature, a router will also include other functions to enhance the security of a router. Depending on your requirements you may want to use a router with a firewall, one with an Internet Protocol (IP) communications system, or use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Wireless Access Point
A Wireless Access Point will allow a device to connect to a wireless network without the use of cables. A wireless network makes it much easier to bring new devices online and offers businesses greater flexibility allowing people to work remotely or access networks while on the move. An access point serves as a kind of amplifier for your network. The router will provide the bandwidth but the access point will extend this bandwidth so the network can support many different devices. Access points offer much more than simply extending the scope of Wi-Fi. It also offers helpful information about devices that are using the network, while ensuring that the network is kept secure. In addition, access points support different IEEE standards. Each of these standards operate on various frequencies which can offer different bandwidths and support different channels.
The structure of networks
Network nodes can be connected in many different ways. In smaller networks, this isn’t usually a problem but as they become larger and more complex, network structure and nodes are an important consideration. Nodes can be connected in multiple ways such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and these are designed to operate using a very specific topology for the network. When creating a network and selecting connection protocols, an understanding of these topologies is required. The most common ones include; bus, ring, mesh, star and hybrid. Each one of these topologies will present their own unique benefits and drawbacks and the one that you choose will depend on the network that you are setting up. In the early years of ethernet networks they used the bus structure, but the networks that we use today use the star bus and hybrid structure to offer more reliability and features.
Perhaps one of the most significant changes to networking in recent years has been the introduction of wireless networking. They play an increasingly important role in our homes and workplaces. When setting up a wireless network there are four different deployments that you can choose. The one that works the best will depend on the purpose of the network.
This is a high performance, wireless solution which is relatively simple and best suited to small to medium sized businesses. When deployed, this network will offer effortless and fast Wi-Fi setup which can be installed and up and running in a matter of minutes. Suitable for small businesses who require basic networking capabilities.
This is one of the most widely used wireless networking systems and these are usually used in large organisations such as schools and university campuses where buildings and networks are in close proximity. When installed, this will consolidate the wireless network and offer increased wireless functionality.
Suitable for branch offices and small campuses, this type of deployment will bring greater consistency between wired and wireless connections. It uses an access switch which serves as a dual purpose between the switch and the wireless controller.
The cloud will be used to manage network devices which are used at multiple locations. It will require a central, cloud managed device which will allow full visibility of the network through a single dashboard.