When most people think of computer networks they think of large businesses. Many people have networked their home systems to enable a shared internet connection, shared files and even shared printing capabilities. The process of sharing resources and data between more than one computer is referred to as computer networking. When you link the computers together they are capable of not only sharing the internet connection, printer, FAX and other components but are also capable of sharing files, pictures, songs and other data stored on the hard disk.
The network can be divided into a local or small area network such as a LAN network where computers are shared within an office building or home space, MAN where two or more locations are connected through an area and WAN where the network can be created to connect to a home or office from anywhere in the country.
WAN is the most common use for connectivity, it allows the network to connect to millions of computers across the globe. The WAN network is the world's largest network and through connection if a router and running the proper software you can be connected to any location from just about anywhere in the world.
Computer networks can be wired or wireless, although there are not many people using the wired feature these days. Depending on the set up you need, how you need to access the main computer and how many you need to link together will determine the type of network you need to create.
There are two main ways to connect the computers, through client-server systems and through peer-2-peer servers. The client-server network has a main computer or computers that work as the server for the network. The data, files, pictures, docs and other information is stored on these servers that are then accesses from various computers that are on the network. The other computers in the network are called the clients and they are linked to the server to get any or all of their information.
Peer-2-Peer networks allow each computer to choose what information will be shared. There is no main server where it is all stored, each hard drive is open to the network and each computer on the network will be given the appropriate access to the hard drives on each system. Most home users have the peer-2-peer network setup where they can pick and choose what information is needed or wanted from each system in the home on the network. Most businesses use the client-server network with different topologies or structures or designs within their layouts.
The common language or communications between computers when networking are known as protocols. The most popular and commonly used protocols are the TCP / IP where it works with several protocols and not just a single protocol. The TCP / IP protocol can be used and will work with either wired or wireless connections and can be used through the client-server or peer-2-peer networks.
Setting Up a Home Network
There are some great programs out there that will walk you through setting up a home network in no time. You do not have to be a network engineer and it takes little knowledge of how the network actually works. You basically only have to the systems you wish to connect or link together in the network, an internet connection and the ability to follow simple instructions. If you are setting up a wireless internet connection you will not have to worry about running cables from one computer to the next and the only thing that will be done is some simple changes in the networking section of each computer. You can create a secure connection that is protected with a password to ensure that you do not have an open connection to outsiders who wish to snoop through your shared files. You get the option on each system to choose what you want to share and what you do not. You can create a folder that is for the network and put it on a virtual drive, this way no one can enter the actual computer's hard drive, just the file and what is stored on it. The process for computer networks is simple and easy to do and can make a multiple computer home run much smoother.