Home Networking Network Fundamentals Part 1: What Is a Network?

Network Fundamentals Part 1: What Is a Network?

by Behrad
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Recently I was asked what I meant when I said that I “manage & maintain the network infrastructure” of the sites in our region. After a explanation I realized that a lot of people care about the devices, the apps, how they can use it but actually never cared or spend any time to read and understand the network / infrastructure fundamentals.

So this is why I wanted to spend some time about this since this is an important topic but never gets the attention it should get. Since this is a topic which can be a bit of too much information I think it’s best to break it down into small pieces.

Within networking you’re the road builder and you need to make sure that everything is up & running. Keep in mind that if a company loses their IT network infrastructure, simply the business is down and stops till it comes back online again. A great example is the outage of Facebook back in October 2021 where they lost the IP routes to the Facebook DNS systems, so basically the traffic couldn’t find it’s way and as a result Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp became globally unavailable for several hours.

This might sound a bit vague so let’s dive into this.

What is a network?

Let’s start with the very first basic. A network consists of two or more devices that are linked in order to share resources, exchange files or allow communications between them. I specifically mention devices, rather then computers, since most of us these days use a mobile phone, Tablet, Laptop, Raspberry Pi and/or NAS and have them sit in your network. The link it self may be through cables, radio waves, satellites or even infrared light beams. By saying this you now realize that all of us have a network at home!

How many types of network do we have?

Now we know what a network is but we have many network types.

  • PAN= Personal Area Network
  • LAN = Local Area Network
  • WLAN = Wireless Area Network (Same as above but Wireless)
  • CAN = Campus Area Network
  • MAN = Metropolitan Area Network
  • WAN = Wide Area Network
  • SAN = Storage Area Network 

But the most common ones are LAN and WAN and the focus for this post will be limited to these two.

LAN: Local Area Network

Local Area Network or simply called LAN is the network which all of us have at home; A group of devices connected together using a private addresses which are unique in relation to other computers within the network and with only one router found at the boundary of LAN, connecting them to the larger WAN. As it illustrates a LAN network is restricted / limited to a geographic area such as your home, office, school or a building.

When it comes to speed; we’re talking about 100 or 1000 Mbps. So transferring data within the network goes really fast. Think about LAN Party where multiple people would connect to the same LAN for playing Games. Fun fact; The largest LAN Party was held back in 2013 with 22.810 participants according to Guinness World Record.

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WAN: Wide Area Network

WAN’s definition is a quite broad and technically, you could say that any large network that spreads out over a wide geographic area is a WAN. Which also translates that the internet itself as a WAN.

However WAN is also used by large companies to connect their office / locations networks; each office off course has their own LAN. So a WAN also include multiple routers and switches.

They are usually managed by Service providers of Internet Service Provides. They simply interconnect LAN’s over wide geographical areas such as cities, countries or continents. (See why internet is also a WAN…)

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Conclusion:

When working in the networking part of the IT, you are basically the road builder with one clear goal; To create a road as fast and as efficient as possible for us to communicate. In a comparison; Think about any highway and you start to realize that the highway has signs, lanes, lights and off course it needs maintenance. Now taking this to the digital way, this is no difference for a network infrastructure; This also needs to be managed; Which traffic goes to where, how to route, how to keep things stable and off course on a save & secure way.

Explaining this as above makes things much easier to understand. Now even my little daughters can understand (and explain) what their dad does for living! 😉

For the next post I plan to write about the building blocks which you need in order to create the road… So stay tuned!

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1 comment

Donald Diaz 08 January 2022 - 18:13

Great content! Keep up the good work!

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