Computer Network Basics
Even if you have fantastic IT support, it is always wise to be familiar with how your system works. Network integration can be difficult to understand. To make things easier, we will discuss here your computer network basics.
Please keep in mind that this is a review of how your network is able to access the resources of the Internet and bring them to your computer. When you send information out, or access a website, the path followed goes in the opposite directs.
The modem is used to receive the internet and transfer it to your Local Area Network (LAN). The signal arrives from your Internet Service Provider (ISP), which is most likely your cable company. The modem basically acts as your providers representative in your office.
The firewall is a program or device used to review the information going to and coming from a network. It is preset to reject information the user does not want sent or received. This security system is generally focused on preventing any type of computer threat, such as a virus, from getting into a network.
A firewall can be a piece of hardware the data is sent through on its way from the modem to the router, or it can be a piece of software installed on one or more devices. If it is software, the firewall will either be installed directly on the router or on each computer individually.
The router receives information from the modem and transmits it to the appropriate devices in your network. This can be done through ethernet cables or Wi-Fi. The router is the opposite of the modem in that it represents your network to the ISP, although the two devices work hand in hand to translate information from one system to the other.
The router also controls the IP sharing. This determines which information is sent to which device. For example, if you are searching for chairs on your desktop and your coworker is looking at Face Book on their smart phone, then the router makes sure that your see chairs on your screen and not Face Book.
Additionally, since the router is sending information that is being requested it acts as a de facto firewall by rejecting any information that is not specifically requested by a device in the network.
A switch allows for multiple hard wire connections to be given internet access with one line in. This line will have access to the router which can direct you out of the network. This is done to eliminate any delay or other issues that may arise by relying on Wi-Fi.
Although most devices connected to a network are computers and smart phones, many business networks will have a server. Servers are one or more computers or programs used to provide functionality to other computers or programs. They ‘serve’ information and data in support of the other devices.
In an office setting, for example, the server will usually hold a ‘shared’ drive. This is where multiple users can save files, giving everyone access to the same information.
Another example is a ‘proxy server’ which would be used to allow employees working remotely to connect to a company’s local network without being blocked by the security protocol.
Additionally, a server may enforce policies set by management. It will act as ‘parental controls’ to limit what websites an employee may go to on a company computer.
These are just a few examples of what a server can do to support a network.
In conclusion, the modems, routers, firewalls, switches and servers which make up your Local Area Network are what bring access to the Internet to your computer screen. These devices each play an important role in a businesses network and understanding the purpose of each can only serve to make you a better user.
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