Computer networks allow users to connect over distances. They also enable file sharing, hardware sharing and instant communication, making them a convenient tool for the home and a necessity for offices and organizations like universities. A computer network consists of several components, each of which is important to making the network function properly.
The purpose of a network is to join computers together. For this to work, the first step in setting up a network is to identify computers and users who may wish to participate in the network. The computers will also need to include software than enables them to connect to the network. Not every computer on the network needs to be running the same operating system. This is true even if users of different types of computers plan to share files, as long es each computer has the appropriate software for opening that file type.
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Modems are devices that enable computers to interpret data they receive from a network, and also allow them to send information in the proper format to be read by other computers on the network. The term modem actually means modulator/demodulator, referring to the two jobs the device performs.
Modems convert the analog electrical signal that travels over cable, telephone or fiber optic lines into a digital signal that the computer can accept and use to display information to the user. Some modems are built in to computers and others come as external devices.
Routers, also known as hubs, are another link in the network chain. A router, as its name implies, routes the network signal from the modem to the computer. In some network designs, routers may be unnecessary. But in other instances, such as home and office networks with multiple computers, they are essential.
Routers may simply split the signal, allowing several computers to plug in, or may broadcast a wireless signal. Wireless routers broadcast a Wi-Fi network that any nearby computers with a Wi-Fi antenna can connect to and use. This is why it;s always important to protect such wireless networks with a password to prevent unauthorized network access.
Servers are banks of digital drivers for mass storage of data. Networks use servers to contain the data users may wish to access, and also to provide storage space for network users, For example, on the Internet, email providers use their servers to store the messages users send to one another while web hosts use servers to contain all of the data that a web page displays to visitors.