Applied IT (Year 11) - Networks (U2)
Purpose of Computer Networking
The concept of networking refers to the process of establishing links between devices to facilitate the transfer, exchange, or distribution of data and resources among interconnected devices. For instance, resources and information such as documents, emails, applications, peripheral devices (e.g. printers), processing units, general storage, security systems (e.g. firewall) and internet access can all be shared within a network, allowing members of the network to communicate effectively and work collaboratively together.
Resource Sharing – one of the biggest advantages computer networks offer is the ability to share resources among users, which is particularly useful in an office/school environment. This enables access to a shared printer or scanner, eliminating the need for multiple peripheral devices, and ultimately leading to cost savings. Of course, documents can also be easily shared by simply uploading them onto the network where users can access and download them. This is significantly more convenient than distributing it individually via email where in some cases, the file size may be too large.
Improved Performance – computing resources, such as processing and storage, can also be shared within a computer network. By offloading processing tasks to a dedicated external server/s, individual computers on the network can reduce their processing workload while gaining access to a more powerful processing unit (as the processing capabilities of a server far exceed that of an individual computer), thereby leading to enhanced performance.
Centralised Administration – a network can be managed and monitored from a single location by an authorised administrator who controls all the network’s available resources and manages backups on a centralised file server. This makes it easier to organise scheduled backups and helps streamline the data recovery process in the event of a disaster. However, it will most likely be necessary to train or employ a highly skilled network manager to set up the network and then ensure efficient and optimal network operation is maintained.
Better Security – centralised management also offers the advantage of improved security as the network handler can implement various security features, such as firewalls, encryptions, and access control to block certain distracting, unproductive, or potentially harmful websites. Additionally, the network traffic can also be monitored, making a computer network a more secure platform for resource sharing and collaboration.
Scalability – a computer network can be easily expanded or modified to suit the changing needs of the network users. This is achieved by simply adding more network components to support higher bandwidth transmissions, handle increasing amounts of data traffic or accommodate more devices. There is rarely any need to redesign the entire network configuration, which allows businesses to quickly adjust to growth in operations and evolving customer needs.
Security Issues – due to the interconnectivity of devices in a network and the frequent exchange of data and resources, a computer network can be particularly susceptible to security breaches. The more devices/users that are connected to a network, the larger the area of the attack surface and the higher the number of potential access points, providing more opportunities for malicious attacks. Once a virus/malware has infiltrated the network, it can easily spread throughout the network and affect all computers.
Lack of Independence – most networks depend on a central server to manage resources and provide services to its users, which means if that server fails, the entire network could be affected and shut down. However, there are often backup servers in place that can maintain the network’s functionality and prevent significant disruptions to business operations.
High Initial Set-up Cost – while networks are cost-effective in the long-term when it is up and running, it can be expensive initially to set it up due to the need to purchase all the necessary components and possibly hire an expert to route the cabling and ensure everything is functional.