There have been many different types of network data cabling and wiring designs over the years that ranged from simple to complex. However, designing a network for today’s business or government office is not a difficult or complicated process for experienced installers. Computer networking has become a much simpler process thanks to standards from IEEE and ANSI and continuing education for network experts. Computer networks consist of multiple components including network interfaces, hubs, switches, routers, and cabling. However, not all the components are needed in every type of network because of unique circumstances. How, then, to choose between the varieties of media and architecture for your project? A good place to start is with some basic definitions.
Most network designs start with a physical piece of hardware in each connected device that allows it to talk other computers. It is often integrated into a computer’s motherboard, but may also be a separate component called a Network Interface Card (NIC) installed alongside the motherboard. The main function of the NIC is to encode and decode signals pulsing through the digital network.
This network component is used to connect multiple computers on a network. The hub acts like a lawn sprinkler, spraying signals from one source (the hose) to many (the sprinkler nozzles). It may have multiple inlets and outlets, making sure that connections between all the parts of the network have access to all other points of origin. Hubs work very well when there are only a few computers in a local network, but can slow down when it’s required to broadcast signals for more than about 10 devices.
These are “smart” hubs that keep track of each computer plugged into it. Extra intelligence enables a network switch to transmit information only to a specific destination computer rather than all the computers on the network. This device helps to decongest computer networks and is ideal for business networks with 10 or more computers.
Routers are even smarter switches that are aware of other networks, unlike hubs and switches that are only aware of the closed loop of the individual group of devices they facilitate. The main function of routers is to connect two or more individual local area networks to one another. Routers not only provide links between local networks, their dynamic updating system allows them to detect when a certain pathway is offline for some reason and send data signals along an alternative route.
Other important network components used in most networks include cabling and software. Network software refers to applications that enhance the interaction of computers in a network. There are two main types of network software. The first type allows computers to communicate with each other based on the bandwidth available to them, while the other enables each user on a network to access shared programs so that distant workstations can collaborate.
Types of Network Protocols
A Protocol is simply a mutually agreed-upon way of handling something. A state dinner in the White House is governed by numerous protocols as to where people sit in relation to the President, or how a person is introduced to others. Same goes for a computer network. Each point in the network needs to agree on how messages start and end, how to confirm that a message has been received, how the data has been compressed and so on. There are different types of network protocols with the most common being TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol).
Another popular network protocol is IPX, which was developed by Novell. Mac desktops and other Apple products interact though Appletalk.
Local Area Network (LAN)
LAN refers to a smaller number of computers joined together by short-distance media, usually data cabling, and usually housed in one building or room. Common LAN architectures for network data cabling and wiring include Ethernet, Token Ring, and Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI). Ethernet is the most common LAN protocol, using the familiar colorful CAT5 or CAT6 cables that plug into the back everything in the network, then into the hubs and switches in the equipment room; Token Ring is an outdated LAN protocol that arranges connected machines in a circle and passes data around through the use of a data “token;” and FDDI is used for connecting LANs to WANs through what’s referred to as a “backbone.” Data that travels on an FDDI is translated into a high speed token and and sent on it’s way.
WAN (Wide Area Network) Protocols
For data to be sent over longer distances, another change in protocol agreements is helpful. Generally, a WAN acts as a bridge for data to travel back and forth between several LAN networks. The internet as we know it is actually the largest WAN on the planet! WANs use routers and modems to transmit data over media such as radio waves and fiber optic cabling. Common examples of WANs include the voice-and-data protocol Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), and Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP).
This interplay of hardware and software can be complicated. No two situations are the same and the options can quickly get beyond a basic level of technical knowledge. NetQ Media has been studying and installing network data cabling and wiring in New Jersey, New York and nationwide for almost 30 years. We’ve seen it all! Call us with your questions today!