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Due to the tremendous impact of computers and computer networks on every walk of life, this period is correctly called the “Information Age“. The Information age is equally dependent on the computer and the network. The network exists to meet one goal namely, the transfer and exchange of data between the computers and terminals. A Network allows many users to share a common pathway to communicate with each other. Similarly, a computer network is a number of computers (usually called terminals) interconnected by one or more transmission paths. The design and the installation of a network however involve many considerations. A communications system that supports many users can be called a network or we can say a network in a communication system that interconnects many users who have something in common, either with respect to the type of data being sent or to the geographic areas that the users cover. People can thus minimize costs by sharing hardware and software resources over a network. And this has been overly emphasized by the increasing advent of the Internet.
Need of Networking:
Replacing a single mainframe with a workstation on a LAN does not make many new applications possible, though it may improve reliability and performance. In contrast, the availability of a (public) WAN makes many new applications feasible. Some of the new applications may have important effects on society as a whole.
Uses of Networking:
(1) Access to Remote Programs- A company that has produced a model simulating the world economy may allow its clients to log in over the network and run the program to see how various projected inflation rates, interest rates, and currency fluctuations might affect the businesses. This approach is often preferable to selling the program outright, especially if the model is constantly being adjusted or requires an extremely large mainframe computer to run.
(2) Acess to Remote Databases- It is another major area of network use. It may soon be easy for the average person sitting at home to make reservations for airplanes, trains, hotels, etc., anywhere in the world with instant confirmation. Home banking as provided by ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, and many others, and the automated newspaper helps to get updated worldwide news, at the click of a mouse. Just think how convenient it has become to get all the services without any of those dingy offices, endless queues, inefficient workers, and similar problems faced in the manual systems. Business is also set to increase manifold with the advent of B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Consumer) sites, enabling business to be actually possible anytime and anywhere.
(3) Communication Facilities- A third category of potential widespread network use is as a communication medium. The so-popular e-mail is one of the best examples to illustrate the popularity of the communication network. It has proved to be a cheaper, faster, and more reliable medium of message exchange, now with added facilities to even send video and sound attachments. In other words, it acts like a Speed Post at the cost of an ordinary post. Also, the computer can be used for other communication services like Fax (Facsimile) services and Digital Telephony.
Advantages of Networking:
Computer networks provide several advantages to businesses and individuals. Some of these are:
(1) Modern organizations today are widely dispersed, with offices located in diverse parts of a country and the world. Thus, a network provides the means to exchange data among computers and to make programs and data available to people.
(2) It permits the sharing of resources on the machines. For example, a network printer can be used by everyone in the office, thus reducing the need for multiple printers. Similarly, common hard disks can be used for secure storage.
(3) Networking also provides the critical function of backup. In the event that one computer fails, its counterpart can assume its functions and workload. Back-up capability is especially useful in low-error systems such as air traffic control, where even a second of negligence, due to loss of data, can be fatal.
(4) Networking also allows a flexible working environment. Employees can work at home by using their personal computers tied to the office computer through networks.
Communication systems and computer networks provide the rapid exchange of information residing on computers throughout the world.
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