Aaaargh! The computer network is down! If you’ve ever been at a computer keyboard and heard those five words, you know it can spell catastrophe for your project, your day, and maybe even your whole week. But have you ever wondered just what that computer network is all about?
The earliest computers were separate and stand-alone machines. If you wanted to share something from your computer with someone on another computer, you’d either just print the information on paper and walk it over to them or load it onto a disc that another computer could copy. It was time consuming and severely limited by where you were and where that other computer was.
Enter the computer network. The simplest computer network connects two computers by a cable so they—and their users—can communicate with one another and share data. You and your office mate might be in different rooms but your cable-connected computers would have the same software and access to each other’s information. For example, you might both work on the same Excel spreadsheet, to enter data and relevant info as it becomes available to you.
Today’s networks can link hundreds of computers without any wires at all. The two basic types of computer networks are Local Area Networks (LAN) and Wide Area Networks (WAN). LANs are generally hardwired, using cables and fiber optics to link computers and other hardware to a common server. Today, there are also many WLANs, or wireless Local Area Networks. LANs and WLANs both work within a limited geographic area such as an office or a company. WANs, on the other hand, encompass a much broader geographic area and connect LANs to one another. The biggest example of a WAN is the Internet.
Computer networks foster greater communication, increase efficiency and reduce costs. All that sharing they enable users to do is vital to modern business life. Whether you’re working in healthcare, entering patient data or creating and sharing budget projections in a business career, you couldn’t do it without computer networks. If you’d like to learn more about computers and their networks, check out the Information Technology programs at Career Quest Learning Centers today. Give us a call in Lansing at 877-481-4930.