What is Computer Network?

A communication system for connecting computers/hosts. When two or more than two electronics devices are interconnected in order to share files, software, resources either by wired or wireless medium, it is called Computer Network.

  1. A computer network is a number of computers (also known as nodes) connected by some communication lines.
  2. Two computers connected to the network can communicate with each other through the other nodes if they are not directly connected.
  3. Some of the nodes in the network may not be computers at all but they are network devices (Like switches, routers etc.) to facilitate the communication.

Uses of the Computer Network:

  1. Exchange of information between different computers (File sharing).
  2. Interconnected Small Computers in place of large computers.
  3. Communication tools (voice, video).
  4. Some applications and technologies are example of Distributed system. (Railway reservation system, Distributed databases etc.)

Advantages of Networks

1. File Sharing

The major advantage of a computer network is that it allows file sharing and remote file access. A person sitting at one workstation that is connected to a network can easily see files present on another workstation, provided he/she is authorized to do so. This saves him/her the hassle of carrying a storage devices. Every time data needs to be transported from one system to another. Further, a central database means that anyone on that network can access a file and/or update it. If the files are stored on a server and all of its clients share that storage capacity, then it becomes easier to make a file available to multiple users.

2. Resource Sharing

Resource sharing is another important benefit of computer network. For example, if there are twelve employees in an organization, each having their own computer, they will require twelve modems and twelve printers if they want to use the resources at the same time. A computer network, on the other hand, provides a cheaper alternative by the provision of resource sharing. All the computers can be interconnected using a network, and just one modem and printer can efficiently provide the services to all twelve users.

3. Non-expensive Setup

Shared resources mean reduction in hardware costs. Shared files mean reduction in memory requirement, which indirectly means reduction in file storage expenses. A particular software can be installed only once on the server and saves the expense of buying and installing the same software as many times for as many users.

4. Flexible Handling

A user can log on to a computes anywhere on the network and access his files. This offers flexibility to the user as to where he should be during the course of his routine. A network also allows the network administrator to choose which user on the network has what specific permissions to handle a file. For example, the network administrator can allow different permissions to User A and User B for File XYZ. According to these permissions, User A can read and modify File XYZ, but User B cannot modify the file. The permission set for User B is read-only. This offers immense flexibility against unwarranted access to important data.

5. Increased Storage

Since there is more than one computer on a network which can easily share files, the issues of storage capacity gets resolved to a great extent. A standalone computer might fall short of storage memory. But when many computers are on a network, the memory of different computers can be used in such a case. One can also design a storage server on the network in order to have a huge storage capacity.

Disadvantages of Networks

1. Security Concerns

One of the major drawbacks of computer networks is the security issues that are involved. If a computer is a standalone computer, physical access becomes necessary for any kind of data theft. However, if a computer is on the network, a hacker can get unauthorized access by using different tools. In case of big organizations, various network security software need to be used to prevent theft of any confidential and classified data.

2. Virus and Malware

If even one computer on a network gets affected by a virus, there is a possible threat for the other systems getting affected too. Viruses can spread on a network easily, because of the inter-connectivity of workstations. Moreover, multiple systems with common resources are the perfect breeding ground for viruses that multiply. Similarly, if malware gets accidentally installed on the central server, all clients in the network that are connected to that server will get affected automatically.

3. Lack of Robustness

If the main file server of a computer network breaks down, the entire system becomes useless. If there is a central linking server or a bridging device in the network, and it fails, the entire network will come to a standstill. In case of big networks, the file server should be a powerful computer, which often makes setting up and maintaining the system doubly expensive.

4. Needs an Efficient Handler

The technical skills and know-how required to operate and administer a computer network is considerably high. Any user with just the basic skills cannot do this job. Also, the responsibility that comes with such a job is high, since allotting username-passwords and permissions to users in the network are also the network administrator’s duties. Similarly, network connection and configuration is also a tedious task, and cannot be done by an average user who does not have advanced knowledge of computers and/or networking.

5. Lack of Independence

Since most networks have a centralized server and dependent clients, the client users lack any freedom whatsoever. Centralized decision making can sometimes hinder how a client user want to use his own computer.

Computer networks have had a profound effect on the way we communicate with each other today, and have made our life easier. From the World Wide Web to your local office LAN, computers have become indispensable in daily life, and networks have become a norm in most businesses. If networks are designed and configured keeping in mind its pros and cons, they are the best piece of facility you could ever have.


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