Networks: How They Work

By: Alisha Gomes

We are connected. Over oceans and continents, we can send and receive information. In other words, we are connected over a network of servers and computers. A computer network is simply a set of computers or other devices to share information. Computer networks support a wide range of applications such as access to the World Wide Web (or the Internet), email, audio, or video. In short, computer networks are the reason why the world is so interconnected. Therefore, the mechanisms of networks need to be understood.

Image Credit: Flickr @ Simon Cockell

Computer networking has existed for many years, and as we understand more about computers our methods of communication have become cheaper and faster. The basic relationship of a network is between a server and the client. On one end is the server. The server is a computer that holds the information; it can hold content that clients may want access to such as a website, file, or email. A client is a computer that requests to view or use the content on the server.

For example, if a client wants to access Google’s search page the client would type “” Then the server accepts the request from the client and sends out the page. In the simplest network, there would be one computer (client) attached to one end of an Ethernet cable and another computer (server) attached to the other end of the Ethernet cable. This way the client would be able to send out requests and the server can immediately feed it results.

However a more complex network, like the ones we have today, would not require two computers to be physically connected. Instead, a server can be located anywhere in the world. This, however, would mean that the client knows the location of the server. The location of the server, or its address, is its IP address. An IP address is a set of four numbers (between 1 and 254). As the world becomes larger and the number of computers increase, there will be a larger need for more possible sets of addresses for a computer. Similar to a house address, if a client knows the IP of the server, they will be able to communicate with it.

For communication to occur between two computers over a long distance, there is a need for better means of sending information. A network hub provides a useful solution. A network hub is an electronic device that receives a network signal and retransmits it at a higher power level so communication between the two computers can happen more effectively.

The advancement of computer networks has made communication over long distances more efficient for both parties involved. A better understanding of computer networks will allow you to better appreciate the intricacies of what is involved when you do almost anything online.

A better understanding of computer networks will also allow you to better understand how easy it is for communication between two computers to be intercepted.


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What Did You Learn?


1. What are computer networks?

Computer networks connect different parts of distributed architecture, whether that be virtual, hardware, or logical assets.

2. Why is understanding computer networks important?

Understanding computer networks is important because networks are how people throughout the world communicate with others on a daily basis. Understanding how it works can help you understand our society and how it functions. It can also help cybersecurity professionals and the public alike to understand how computer networks can also get intercepted by others. Intercepting networks for personal gain is illegal in most countries and it is important to understand how dangerous it can be if this happens.

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