The Ping: How Does a Network Work?

From outside the IT field, most people would define a network as a combination of all computer devices. That answer is more of a high-level overview.  So, what is a network? Simply stated, a network is an infrastructure or an environment which allows all your devices to communicate and share data/resources with each other, either wirelessly or wired in a secure environment 

Networks can be comprised of a group of workstations, printers, firewalls, wireless access points, switches and several other components.  We’re going to touch on more of these items in greater detail in the next article. Now, what exactly does a network do? Networks allow your devices to communicate through various network protocols. The most popular protocol is TCP/IP. TCP/IP stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. The TCP portion “manages how a message is assembled into smaller packets before they are then transmitted over the internet and reassembled in the right order at the destination address,” – TechTarget. The message is sent in smaller parts, or sections, called packets.  

What connects all these devices? Previously, networks were connected by a hub.  Depending on the size of the network it could be as simple as just one hub or larger networks require many hubs.  A hub is a device that connects multiple computers at one point with ethernet cables. (Ethernet cables are physically similar to a phone cable but can transport much more data.) Hubs are seldom used anymore as they are inefficient at routing the packet to its intended recipient due to the tendency to become overloaded transmitting to everyone.   

Nowadays, switches, the improved version of the hub, are used. If one computer wants to speak to another, the switch sends the message directly to that computer. This also allows multiple computers to talk at the same time and not interfere with each other. Still, switches can only speak to other computers connected to the same network. To speak to a computer on another network, the message must be sent through a router.

Hooked yet? Stay tuned next week for how routers and firewalls work! Let us know if you have any questions about how your devices communicate your network!  

Your UniVista Team
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