What is a network?

A network is two or more computers (or other electronic devices) that are connected together, usually by cables or Wi-Fi.

Some computer networks will have a server. A server is a powerful computer that often acts as a central hub for services in a network, eg emails, internet access and file storage. Each computer connected to a server is called a client.

A computer that is not connected to a network is called a standalone computer.

What are the benefits of a network?

Using a network allows you to share:

  • hardware, such as a printer
  • software, allowing multiple users to run the same programs on different computers
  • data, so that other people can access shared work and you can access your data from any computer on the network

Networking is critical if you want to use your computer to communicate. Without it you couldn’t send an email, a text or an instant message.

We use a huge network on a daily basis and this is called the internet. Around three billion people use the internet to share data, news and resources, amongst many other things.

Demonstration of globally connected devices

What problems can occur with a network?

If we connect computers or devices together in a network we can expose ourselves to some problems.

If the network breaks, this can make a number of tasks it is used for quite difficult. For example, it might not be possible to share photographs and opinions with friends.

If computers and devices are networked together, we can expose ourselves to hackers and viruses. Most viruses are spread over a network and most hackers use a network to access other people’s computers. Without a network connection, a hacker would have to physically get to your computer.

Demonstration of the various weaknesses in a network which can be manipulated