Computer network components consist of 2 parts - the items that are to be connected and the equipment that connects them

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The equipment to be networked are those components that you want to be able to communicate with each other or hardware that you want to share

A network is defined as a group of interconnected computers but it really is more than that. The connected computers communicate with each other and share resources on the network. Common resources include printers, disk storage, databases and access to other networks such as the internet. The diagram below illustrates some typical components.

Hardware that connects the computers and peripherals

Something is needed to carry the electronic signals between your computers and whatever they connect to. You can use a wired or wireless connection. Network cable that looks like thick telephone wire can be used to carry the data packets to and from your computer. These packets can also be transmitted like radio signals from a wireless transmitter to a wireless receiver.

The following devices connect the members of the network:

  1. network hub
  2. network switch
  3. broadband modem
  4. computer network router
  5. router/switch
  6. nic card

1. Network Hub - The hub or network hub connects computers and devices and sends messages and data from any one device to all the others. If the desktop computer wants to send data to the lapop and it sends a message to the laptop through the hub, the message will get sent by the hub to all the computers and devices on the network. They need to do work to figure out that the message is not for them. The message also uses up bandwidth (room) on the network wires or wireless radio waves and limits how much communication can go on. Hubs are not used often these days.

computer network hub
2. Network Switch - The switch connects the computer network components but it is smart about it. It knows the address of each item and so when the desktop computer wants to talk to the laptop, it only sends the message to the laptop and nothing else. In order to have a small home network that just connects the local equipment all that is really needed is a switch and network cable or the switch can transmit wireless information that is received by wireless receivers that each of the network devices have. computer network switch3. Computer Network Router - A router is a device that connects 2 networks. If you happened to have 2 LANs (local area networks) in your home or office and wanted to connect them, the router is the device that you would need. For more information about routers see What does a router do?.

The network that most home networks connect to is the world's biggest WAN (wide area network), the Internet.

4. Router/Switch - In order to let all the computers on the local network communicate with each other and the Internet, most routers sold today include a switch. The router part connects your network to the Internet. The switch part lets the computers talk to each other and to the internet.

computer network router/switch

5. Broadband Modem - Most everyone wants to connect to the internet. A broadband modem is used to take a high speed Internet connection provided by an ISP (Internet Service Provider) and convert the data into a form that your local network can use. The high speed connection can be DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) from a phone company or cable from a cable television provider.

computer network broadband modem

In order to be reached on the Internet, your computer needs a unique address on the internet. Your ISP will provide this to you as part of your Internet connection package. This address will generally not be fixed which means that they may change your address from time to time. For the vast majority of users, this makes no difference.

If you have only one computer and want to connect to the Internet, you strictly speaking don't need a router. You can plug the network cable from the modem directly into the network connection of your computer. However, you are much better off connecting the modem to a router. The ip address your ISP provides will be assigned to the router. The router will assign a hidden addres (non routable) to each of the computers on the network. This is strong protection against hackers since they scan ip addresses for computers that are open to being attacked. The router is not a general purpose computer and will not be visible to them.

6. NIC card - In order to use your phone service you need to have a phone. Similarly to be able to talk on the network a computer or printer needs a NIC (network interface card) card (sort of redundant :-)) otherwise known as a network adapter. They come in 2 varieties, wired or wireless. Most modern desktop computers come with a wired nic and laptops come with both a wired and a wireless nic.

If your computer doesn't have a built in nic card, you can get a USB based adapter that you can plug into the USB port of your computer. This is portable and can be moved from computer to computer. You can get a wireless lan USB adapter or a wired one.

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