What is Networking?

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A 15 minute summary of the most hardcore principles of Network topologies.



It's all about the Net

Networking is an interesting subject..everyday we deal with it..don't think so? Well, the internet was created out of it! The fact that you are reading this article at this precise moment, means you're already into networking.

We'll start off with some buzzwords you'll hear many network engineers and tech slobs talk about. So, enough rambling, let's hit this.

What is a Hub?

A hub in action

A hub is one of the most simplest central connecting device. Hubs are used to connect computers together. Hubs enable computers on a network to communicate where the host sends data to a hub. Then, the hub sends the same data to all devices connected to the hub.

The bandwidth on a hub is shared because of its broadcast technology.

What is a Switch?

A switch in action

A switch is what we refer to as a smart hub. Switches work the same way as a hub, but can identify the intended recipient of the data by looking up the MAC addresses on the data headers. It's important to understand that switches can send and receive data at the same time.

Switches have addressable ports so bandwidth traffic is available to all computer ports at the same time.

What is a Router?

A router in action

A router, like a switch, enables computers to communicate but also enable communication between two networks such as a home network and a work network or the internet.

What is a Network Interface Card?

A Network Interface Card / Network Adapter Card

A Network Interface Card (NIC) also known as a Network Adapter is the hardware we normally use to send and receive data from a computer. The RJ45 cable is the most common type of network adapter connection.

Wired connections usually make use of RJ45 cables and Wired Network Interface Cards.

Examples of Devices using Wired Connections:

  • Workstations
  • PC Desktops
  • Servers

What is a Wireless Access Point?

Wireless Access Point

A Wireless Access Point (WAP) allows wireless devices to connect and behaves as a central connecting device for a network.

Examples of Devices using Wireless Connections:

  • Laptops
  • Smart Phones
  • Tablets
  • PCs equipped with Wireless network adapters.

What is Serial Data Transfer?

Serial Data Transfer refers to the transfer of of data one bit at a time. On a network cable, data travels in one direction in a single stream.

What is the Data Transfer Rate?

Data Transfer Rate (DTR) is defined as the maximum bits per second (bps) that can be transmitted over a network.

In Computing, the lowercase 'b' refers to bits whereas the uppercase 'B' refers to bytes. Bytes are usually used to represent data storage such as hard drives, memory, etc.

Broadcast transfers data to every host on a network.

Unicast transfers data to a specific host.

What is an Internet Protocol Address?

An Internet Protocol (IP) address refers to a unique address for every device connected to a network.

Every computer or device on a network such as a LAN or the internet will have a unique IP address.

A typical example of an Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) address could be 192.168.1.1.

Taking the 192.168.1.1 as an example:

  • 192.168.1 would be referred to as the Network ID
  • 1 would be referred to as the the Host ID.

What is a Virtual Local Area Network?

A Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) is a group of hosts with a common set of requirements that can communicate together as if they were on the same switch regardless of how they are physically located.

What is a Network Topology?

A Network topology defines the physical connections in a computer Network.

Common Examples:

  • Bus
  • Ring
  • Star
  • Mesh

The Bus Topology

Bus Network Topology

In earlier days of networking, the bus topology was the norm where signals go from one device to another in a linear unidirectional manner.

The problem with the bus topology was that if a point of failure happened at any point in the network, the whole network would be affected and would require lots of time debugging.

The Star Topology

Star Network Topology

The Star topology is the most common topology in Networking.

Each device is individually wired to a central connecting device such as hub, switch or SOHO router with twisted-pair cabling.

The Ring Topology

Ring Network Topology

You can think of the Ring topology as a closed circular loop.

In a LAN environment, every device is connected to a network using a closed loop. This is primarily used by token ring and Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI).

The Token Ring

A Token Ring network sends data logically in a ring manner and goes from one computer to the next.

Physically, token ring devices are connected in a Star topology. All devices in a Token Ring network are connected to a central connecting device referred as MultiStation Access Unit (MAU / MSAU).

The Mesh Topology

Mesh Network Topology

Every device is connected to each other which results in the non requirement of a central connecting device. This is a very expensive option.

Ethernet

Ethernet is the de facto standard is the most widely installed LAN technology.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.3 standards define how information is sent and received between network adapters, hubs, switches and other devices.

The 2 most common types of Ethernet include:

  • 802.3u or Fast Ethernet which runs at 100 Mbps.
  • 802.3ab or Gigabit Ethernet which runs at 1000 Mbps.

Frames

Computers on Ethernet networks communicate via frames.

A frame is a sequence of bits containing a detectable beginning and end of a packet in the stream of bits.

A frame is a data packet residing on Layer 2 of the OSI model.

Centralized Computing

Centralized Computing is done at a central location using termnials that are attached to a main system.

A scenario of centralized computing could be:

  • One Powerful Mainframe computer
  • One or more terminals (Also known as dummy terminals) consisting of a keyboard and display only with no processing power.

Client/Server Computing

The Client/Server model is an architecture that distributes applications between servers and client devices.

A Client is a device which requests services.(service requestor).

A Server is a device which responds back with the services.(service provider).

Peer to Peer Computing

A Peer-to-Peer (P2P) model distributes applications or workloads between devices.

Peers are essentially both service providers and service requestors.

File Sharing is an example of a P2P system.

Other examples include:

  • Skype
  • VoIP
  • Torrent File Sharing
  • Dropbox

Distributed Computing

Distributed Computing is a hybrid type of environment which includes Client/Server and Peer to Peer networks.

Every device in a distributed computing environment has its own processing power. This is the concept of thin clients.

I thoroughly enjoyed Microsoft's Virtual Academy Course - Networking Fundamentals explanation on `Microsoft's Virtual Academy Course - Networking Fundamentals.

I would recommend the video as an introduction should you feel the need to understand more about Networking.

Your turn...

What kind of topology do you set up at home or your office..maybe even a SOHO setup? Please share it with us by leaving a reply below.

More to come soon in Part 2. Stay tuned.


About the Author

Alvin Luchmun
Alvin Luchmun is a freelance developer, trainer and co-founder at and currently lives in London. Alvin is passionate about anything tech/biz related but is also a firm believer in agile clean code, he loves preaching about code to fellow humanoids!.

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