Components of Computer Network (Hardware and Software)

Different components are used to create a computer network. The main components used to form a computer network are Hardware components and Software. Hardware components such as Computer, Transmission devices (such as NIC, hub, switch, bridge, gateway, repeater, and router), Channels (such as wires, microwaves, radio waves, and satellite), and Software (such as NOS and communication Protocol) are the required components to create a network.

9 Hardware Components and 3 Software Components You May Not Know in Computer Network

Hardware Components of Computer Network

Some of the hardware components used in a computer network are described below:

a. Computer

The computer is the main component of networking. It is used to send and receive information in the network. In a network, there may be at least two types such as microcomputers, minicomputers, and mainframe computers in the network. Some computers in the network act as a client, some act as a server, and other act as Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

b. Network Interface Card (NIC)

The NIC is a network-connecting device also known as a network adapter. This device is placed on the expansion slot of the motherboard. It provides a port on the back of the system unit to connect a computer to a network. It controls the flow of data between the computers in the network.

c. Hub

This is a network connecting device used in Local Area Network (LAN). It is a simple, inexpensive device that joins multiple computers together. Many network hubs are available today to support the Ethernet standard. Other types including USB hubs also exist, but Ethernet hub is the most commonly used in home networking. It is also called a multiport repeater.
The information sent from one computer to another passes through the hub. A hub can’t identify the source or intended destination of the information it receives, so it sends the information to all of the computers connected to it. A hub can send or receive information, but it can’t do both at the same time so it works slower than switches or routers.

d. Switch

The switch is a network-connecting device that joins multiple computers together within one local area network (LAN). Switches also work nearly identical to hubs but they can identify the intended destination of the information to only the computers that are supposed to receive it. Switches are capable of inspecting data packets as they are received, determining the source and destination device of each packet, and forwarding them approximately. Switches can send and receive information at the same time, so they work faster than hubs.

Difference between Switch and Hub

It is a more sophisticated network device and is more expensive than a hub.It is a very primitive device and is comparatively much cheaper.
A switch is an ‘intelligent’ device, which transmits the data packets from the source computer to only those destination computers to which the data packets are originally intended.A hub is a ‘dumb’ device that broadcasts the data packets to each and every networked computer, and not just the target computer.
There is optimum utilization of network bandwidth and bandwidth wastage is minimal.There is unnecessary wastage of network bandwidth which results in slow operation and data transfer speeds.
Switches are full-duplex devices, i.e. both, data transmission and reception can take place simultaneously.Hubs are half-duplex devices, i.e. both, data transmission and reception cannot take place simultaneously.

e. Router

The router is a network connecting device that joins multiple wired or wireless networks together. It connects two different networks having similar protocols. A complex network needs a device, which not only knows the address of each segment but also can determine the best path for sending data and filtering broadcast traffic to the local segment. Such a device is called a Router. Routers are usually used in a complex network situation because they provide better traffic management than other devices. Routers will only pass the information if the network address is known. This ability to control the data passing through the router reduces the amount of traffic between networks.

Difference between Router and Switch

Basically, a router is used to connect two or more different networks.A switch connects different computers within the same network.
Routers are much more sophisticated and intelligent network devices, as compared to switches.In comparison with routers, switches are less intelligent and less sophisticated.
A router works on the principle of IP (Internet Protocol) and addresses.A switch works on the basis of MAC (Media Access Control) addresses.
Routers have their own inbuilt operating systems and they need to be configured before use.Most switches do not require and prior configuration and are usually ‘ready-to-use’.

f. Bridge

Bridge connects the different network segments or different networks having similar protocols. The bridge reduces the amount of traffic on a LAN by dividing it into two segments. They are operated at the data link layer (Layer 2) of the OSI model. Bridges inspect the incoming traffic and decide whether to forward or discard it. This device is used to join two different networks or two segments within the same network. Generally, it is used to join similar LANs having the same communication protocols.

g. Gateway

The gateway connects two networks having dissimilar communication protocols. A network gateway is an internetworking system capable of joining two networks together that uses different base protocols. Gateways make communication possible between different architectures and environments. They repackage and convert data going from one environment to another so that each environment can understand the other environment’s data. Generally, it is used to join two different networks having different protocols.

h. Repeater

A repeater is a network device that increases the length of the network by amplifying weak signals. Repeaters take the weak signal from the computers and other devices on the LAN and regenerate the signal to maintain its integrity while traveling along with longer media. So, it enables the signal to maintain its integrity while traveling along with a longer media. So, it enables signals to travel longer distances over a network. Repeaters do not have any capability of directing network traffic or deciding what particular route that certain data should take. They are simply devices that sit on the network and boost the data signals that they receive.

i. Media Connectors

Media connectors are the necessary devices that are used to connect communication media with network devices. They provide data communication through a network adapter. According to the network system and communication media, we need to choose a suitable and correct connector for smooth data transmission. There are different types of media connectors such as RJ-45, BNC (British Naval Connector/ Bayonet Naur Connector), T-connector, Terminal, etc.

Software Components of Computer Network

Some of the basic software components used in a computer network are described below:

a. Network Software

A special type of software that is used to control and manage all the resources used in a computer network is called network software. This kind of software is designed to help set up, manage and monitor computer networks. It is also called Network Operating System (NOS). Novell Netware is the most popular Network Operating System. The network software is also available in different operating system software such as Windows, Linux, etc. The networking software is available to manage and monitor networks of all sizes, from the smallest home networks to the largest enterprise networks. Especially NOS(s) are used in the server computers.

b. Communication Protocol

Certain rules are needed for sending and receiving information between the computers in the network. Such rules are called protocols. A protocol is a set of rules that govern data communications. A protocol defines what is communicated, how it is communicated, and when it is communicated. The Network Control Protocol (NCP) was the first protocol. Later, the Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) was developed. This protocol is still in use today. Some of the common protocols used in the Network are:

1. TCP/ IP (Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol)

TCP/ IP is the communication protocol that defines how electronic devices (such as computers, network devices) should be connected to the network and how data should be transmitted between them., The TCP /IP is composed of two protocols.

1. a. Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)

TCP is a protocol that is responsible for verifying the correct delivery of data between computers. TCP adds support to detect errors or lost data and to trigger retransmission until the data is correctly and completely received.

1. b. Internet Protocol (IP)

IP is responsible for moving packets of data from node to node. IP forwards each data packet based on a destination address (IP address).

2. SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol)

The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol is used for the transmission of e-mail messages. SMTP protocol takes care of sending email messages from one computer to another computer.

3. FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a standard network protocol used to exchange and manipulate files over a TCP/IP-based network, such as the internet. FTP can be used with the transfer of files for program internal functions such as downloading, uploading messages, information, etc.

4. HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol)

Hypertext Transfer Protocol is used on the world wide web which is used to make communication between web client and the webserver.

5. POP (Post Office Protocol)

Post Office Protocol is an application layer of Internet Standard protocol used by local e-mail clients to retrieve e-mail from a remote server over a TCP/ IP connection.

6. Telnet Protocol

Telnet is a telecommunication network protocol used on the Internet or local area network to provide a bidirectional interactive text-oriented communications facility using a virtual terminal connection. This protocol is also useful for a remote login system.

c. Device Driver

A device diver is a program or software that controls the overall functionality of the hardware devices. Devices driver enables the computer to use any device and run successfully. For example MODEM driver controls the functionality of the MODEM and the NIC driver controls the functionality of the NIC. Without a device driver, we are not able to work with hardware devices.

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