In the simplest sense, networking means connecting computers so that they can share files, printers, applications, and other computer-related resources. The advantages of networking computers together are pretty obvious:
This definition of networking focuses on the basic goals of networking computers: increased manageability, security, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness over non-networked systems. We could also focus on the different types of networks:
We could also focus on the networking architectures in which these types of networks can be implemented:
Or we could look at the networking technologies used to implement each networking architecture:
We could also consider the hardware devices that are used to implement these technologies:
On a more general level, networking also involves the standards and protocols that underlie the technologies and hardware mentioned, including the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) networking model of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO); the X-series, V-series, and G-series standards of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU); Project 802 of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE); the Requests for Comments (RFCs) of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF); and others from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the ATM Forum, and the Gigabit Ethernet Alliance.
Other standards and protocols include the following:
We could also look at who provides networking technologies (especially WAN technologies):
We could also look at the vendor-specific software technologies that make computer networking possible (and useful):
On a more detailed level, we could look at the tools and utilities that you can use to administer various NOS's and their networking services and protocols, including the following:
We could also look at applications that are network-aware, such as the Microsoft BackOffice network applications suite that includes Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft SNA Server, and Microsoft Proxy Server. We could look at some of the terminology and technologies associated with these applications, how the software is licensed, and the GUI or command-line tools used to administer them.
As you can see, there is more to networking than hubs and cables. In fact, the field of computer networking is almost overwhelming in its scope and complexity, and one could spend a lifetime studying only one small aspect of it. But it hasn't always been this way. Let's take a look at how we got to this point.