What Is Computer Networking?

Computer networking permits multiple computers to communicate and share resources either through wired or wireless access. Networking uptime and reliability has become extremely good, but when problems occur it can affect important operations on a global basis, including financial transactions.


Early computer networks were developed by the U.S. government under the auspices of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to share data in the event of a nuclear attack.


Two types of computer networks are in use. Peer-to-peer networking has similar workstations connected to other computers in the network. A client/server network has a main computer serving other computers (clients).


Networks improve access to research and education, and allow groups of employees to collaborate. Small home networks allow users to share access to the web.


While the current utility of the web could not exist without computer networks, these networks also offer multiple opportunities for hacking and malicious attacks, both personal and governmental.


Early network speed in 1976 was very slow, around 300 bps. Available network speeds now reach 3 gbs. Terabit speeds, 1 million times faster than in 1976, are in sight (see "Additional Resources," below).