SETTING UP HOME & OFFICE COMPUTER NETWORKS
Computer networks are in essence, telecommunications systems. You mean like telephone systems? Yep, the difference being it's the computers within the network that do the "talking". Networks can be of any size – from a home network with a desktop computer and a few laptops linked up to today's biggest network, the Internet.
Networking allows us to do all sorts of things. Access the web, instantly share files, access and utilize shared storage drives and applications, connect to peripheral devices like printers/scanners, and more. The sharing or resources and information is what makes networks so powerful, and in today's world, necessary.
TYPES OF NETWORKS - PAN, LAN, MAN & WAN
PANs are what you'd find as the network of choice for an individual or family, small office or the like. A single wired internet connection and modem provide access to the network typically managed by a single computer that allows other computers or devices (printers, smart phones, televisions, video consoles) to connect and access the network as well. Today, most PANs are wireless (Wi-Fi). This level of networking provides a lot of conveniences like:
• Printing documents to a centrally located printer from anywhere in the house/office.
• Streaming videos to your television
• Transferring files like photos from your cell phone to your desktop computer
LANs are the next step up the ladder. Think of these as "office building" networks – a computer network at a single site designed primarily to share resources like data storage and printing. While you could have a LAN as small as two computers, this type of network is really designed to accommodate from dozens to thousands of computers. LANs are usually hard-wired relying on those hard connections to increase speed and security but wireless connectivity is becoming more common. When wireless is added to the equation, LAN becomes WLAN.
Beyond LAN lie networks like MAN and WAN. These are huge networks and not something that you'll ever need to contemplate. MANs can serve the needs of: colleges/universities or similar multiple building institutions, cities or regions. MANs are often a series of LANs connected to one another. WANs can be a grouping of LANs and MANs that eventually become large enough to service an entire country, even the entire globe. The Internet is the world's largest WAN.
NETWORK SECURITYMost networks are going to be connected to the Internet, and that's a great thing as you're then able to access all that wonderful info and entertainment waiting for you cyberspace. But, with great access comes potentially great exposure and risk. That brings us back to PANs and LANs. A huge benefit inherent in these networks is that they can be kept entirely private. Sensitive communications within the network can be kept, well, within the network, restricted from the Internet. Only those within the protected network can access them, and even then, setting up permissions as to who gets to see what makes keeping a tight control on security a breeze.
Security once again becomes a concern when a network user wants to access the LAN remotely. In other words, they're going to connect to the LAN via WAN, and so ends their control over security. In those situations, a Private Network is needed. One method is by way of an Enterprise Private Network (EPN). Think of EPNs as belonging to one company or organization controlled by that same group. The network has its hub where the system is managed and that in turn connects multiple locations. Essentially that network is much like it's own Internet separate the public internet. That's why you won't be finding EPNs at small businesses or homes. This is reserved for the big boys like telecommunications giants AT&T. High level enterprise-wide security and control comes at quite a price.