Learn the Fundamentals of Computer Networking
This course assumes that the student has no knowledge of computer networks. However, students must have access to a computer which is connected to the Internet.
- Understand computer networks, how they work and what they can do.
- Manage and plan your computer networks more efficiently.
- Study in your own time and at your own pace.
A computer network, commonly just called a network, is a system of interconnected computers (and devices) that operate interactively. Any number of computers may be connected into a network, from two to dozens, hundreds, thousands or even millions. Networks typically include other devices such as printers, external hard drives, modems and routers, etc.
There are 10 lessons in this course:
- Networking Terms, Concepts and Standards
- Network Topology, Architecture and Transmission Media
- Network Components and Hardware
- Network Design and Planning
- Network Upgrading and Project Management
- Network Protection and Maintenance
- Understanding Network Connecting Options
- Installation and Configuration of Network
- Basic TCP/IP Services and Applications
- Troubleshooting Tools for TCP/IP Networks
Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.
- Discuss the history and key developments in networking.
- Describe the main networking models, terminology and standards.
- Explain the different topologies, architectures and transmission media in computer networks.
- Explain the physical components within a network and how individual components connect to each other.
- Evaluate the needs of the organisation and design a logical network.
- Discuss reasons for network upgrade and techniques for managing a network upgrade.
- Explain the importance of network protection to prevent downtime and preserve valuable data.
- Identify and compare various connection options like dial-up connections and dedicated connections.
- Describe the installation process and configurations for networking.
- Describe the TCP/IP suites of utilities generally used by end users.
BIG DECISIONS FIRST
Setting up any computer network, should start with careful planning, and that involves a systematic consideration of all of your options.
Start by understanding very clearly what you want the network to do. You will need to decide early ion, what topography and architecture you want to use. You need to make decisions about the hardware you will need; and be able to find a good and reliable place to buy that hardware.
What is Topography?
Network topology refers to the configuration, or conceptual shape, of the communication network.
Physical vs. Logical Topology
The topology describes two aspects of the network:
- Physical – the connections of the devices in the network; and
- Logical – the methods and protocols for transmitting (or passing) data between the devices.
The terms physical and logical are used frequently when discussing networking. When referring to the physical topology of a network, we are talking about the actual configuration (or shape) of the cabling between the network devices.
The logical topology of a network refers to the way the network works, or the way in which the data is moved through the physical network topology. The two topologies are not interdependent, i.e. a network wired physically as a star may have data moved in a logical ring topology.
In the previous lesson we introduced the concept of network topologies, and briefly described three common types: star, bus and ring. There are, however, many more options, and deciding which should be used is determined by a mix of factors, for example:
- the purpose of the network,
- the needs and skills of the users,
- the cost of implementing and maintaining the network,
- the level of security required,
- the expandability of the network, and
- the availability of technical support etc.
Each topology will have different hardware and cabling requirements, and this will affect the cost of both implementing and maintaining the network. A budget should be established first, and with a clear understanding of the purpose of the network, it will be possible to begin to assess the suitability of the various network options.
Also of importance is the type of cable media that should be used. This will be determined by the standards and protocols that are chosen to enable the topology you require. The length of cable required is critical, and will affect not only the cost of the network, but the performance of it as well. Consider the distances between the systems and devices; are they in the same room, on the same floor, in the same building?
Another issue is the expected duration of the network. Is it intended that the network will be permanent, and grow over time as the business or organization grows, or is it a temporary solution? The ability for a network to grow, while maintaining fast data exchange and maximum functionality for users, is a key issue when designing a new network.
The computers in a star topology network are connected to a centralised hub or switch, and communications between the computers flows through the hub or switch. Different types of cables can be used in this topology, for example, coaxial, fibre optic or twisted pair cables.
The client computers in a bus network are connected by a shared line, called a bus. This conceptual architecture is also used on motherboards of computers, and in some versions of Ethernet networks.
One of the most common, though now largely superseded, ring topologies is the Token Ring architecture developed by IBM. It is architecturally similar to the star topology, except that it is wired such that data transfer between computers occurs in a ring (or circle).
Passing of data packets involves the use of token passing, which is a small piece of data that is used to determine the availability of communications to other devices in the network. The token moves around the network in a circular fashion and may be either a free or busy state. For a computer or device to send data it waits until it receives a free token, in which case it marks the token as busy and then sends its data. If a device receives data intended for it, it marks the token as free and passes it to the next device in the ring.
A tree topology consists of groups of star topology connected workstations, often by means of a linear bus. This network topology is one of the easiest to expand, by simply adding more star clusters to the backbone.
A fully or completely connected network is a mesh topology. In this type of configuration, every workstation or device on the network is connected to all others in the network. Mesh topologies are very expensive to implement, as there are large overhead costs with an excessive need for cabling. Also, these networks are difficult to maintain and expand.
These are methods and protocols used to move data between different devices.
Examples of such topologies include:
- Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) –This is a domestic telecommunications network used for telephones, fax, private branch exchange trunks, etc
- Internet Protocol Suite -This is commonly called a TCP/IP protocol suite. It’s a system that allows two or more computers to connect and transfer data between each other.
Different types of architecture….
- Dumb Networks –these have a core network, and then intelligent peripheral devices. The core network doesn’t control the application. An example might be the internet where the core supplies information, but it isn’t controlling who accesses it –each end user is in control of their own use of the internet.
- Intelligent computer networks –In these there is a control by the network over the peripherals (eg. Phone system)
- Context aware networks –These are networks which combine features of an intelligent network and a dumb network.
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