Networking software, in the most basic sense, is software that facilitates, enhances or interacts with a computer network. One type of networking software allows computers to communicate with one another, while another type of networking software provides users access to shared programs. Networking software is a key component of today's computer networks, including the Internet. Understanding the types of networking software is the first step in understanding how your computer network really works.
Computer networking software has been around as long as there have been computer networks. Computers need a language that they can speak in common to one another. In the early days of computer networking software, this was primarily computer network communications protocols. Protocols are network software that lets computers "talk" to one another. These types of programs rely on networking protocols to allow computers to communicate in a common manner. The most common type of protocol is TCP/IP.
Eventually, more types of networking software evolved, beyond just those basic network protocols.
Various network software may have various features. Some network software can perform accounting tasks. Some create a communication path between computers, other networks or individual users. Some of these programs store large amounts of data and distribute it to users or to other programs.
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Network software provides many benefits to the network. When used properly, network software can increase productivity, reduce the strain on the physical computer network and even provide more efficient ways for users to share information and to communicate. Network software is what makes most business computer systems work, and is an essential component of today's computing environment.
In addition to protocols, there are many other types of network software. There are network operating systems, sometimes known as NOS. A network operating system provides a framework for computers to understand one another, and from which the computers can run shared applications. Examples of network operating systems include .Net and Novell Netware.
Shared network applications are another type of computer networking software. These are applications that are stored on a central server, but run from the individual client computers. Examples include certain types of database applications such as Oracle.
There are also client-server network programs. These network programs have a component that's stored on the server, and a component that's stored on the client workstation. Microsoft Exchange is an example of this type of network program.
Computer network software is, in some ways, in the early stages. New theories regarding computer network software, based on the human brain's neural network, are emerging. As these new types of computer network software evolve, and as computer hardware becomes faster and able to store larger amounts of data, there is no telling exactly what the computer network software of tomorrow will look like.