What Is Networking?
For such an extensive and involved subject, which includes so many different technologies, hardware devices and protocols, the definition of networking is actually quite simple. A network is simply a collection of computers or other hardware devices that are connected together, either physically or logically, using special hardware and software, to allow them to exchange information and cooperate. Networking is the term that describes the processes involved in designing, implementing, upgrading, managing and otherwise working with networks and network technologies.
Networks are used for an incredible array of different purposes. In fact, the definitions above are so simple for the specific reason that networks can be used so broadly, and can allow such a wide variety of tasks to be accomplished. While most people learning about networking focus on the interconnection of PCs and other true computers, you use various types of networks every day. Each time you pick up a phone, use a credit card at a store, get cash from an ATM machine, or even plug in an electrical appliance, you are using some type of network.
In fact, the definition can even be expanded beyond the world of technology altogether: I'm sure you've heard the term networking used to describe the process of finding an employer or employee by talking to friends and associates. In this case too, the idea is that independent units are connected together to share information and cooperate.
The widespread networking of personal computers is a relatively new phenomenon. For the first decade or so of their existence, PCs were very much islands unto themselves, and were rarely connected together. In the early 1990s, PC networking began to grow in popularity as businesses realized the advantages that networking could provide. By the late 1990s, networking in homes with two or more PCs started to really take off as well.
This interconnection of small devices represents, in a way, a return to the good old days of mainframe computers. Before computers were small and personal, they were large and centralized machines that were shared by many users operating remote terminals. While having all of the computer power in one place had many disadvantages, one benefit was that all users were connected because they shared the central computer.
Individualized PCs took away that advantage, in favor of the benefits of independence. Networking attempts to move computing into the middle ground, providing PC users with the best of both worlds: the independence and flexibility of personal computers, and the connectivity and resource sharing of mainframes. in fact, networking is today considered so vital that its hard to conceive of an organization with two or more computers that would not want to connect them together!
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