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Computer networking is the engineering discipline concerned with communication between computer systems or devices. Networking, routers, routing protocols, and networking over the public Internet have their specifications defined in documents called RFCs.[1]

Communicating computer systems constitute a computer network and these networks generally involve at least two devices capable of being networked with at least one usually being a computer. The devices can be separated by a few meters (e.g. via Bluetooth) or nearly unlimited distances (e.g. via the Internet[2]). Computer networking is sometimes considered a sub-discipline of telecommunications, and sometimes of computer science, information technology and computer engineering. Computer networks rely heavily upon the theoretical and practical application of these scientific and engineering disciplines.

Networking methods

Networking is a complex part of computing that makes up most of the IT Industry. Without networks, almost all communication in the world would cease to happen. It is because of networking that telephones, televisions, the internet, etc. work.

One way to categorize computer networks are by their geographic scope, although many real-world networks interconnect Local Area Networks (LAN) via Wide Area Networks (WAN). These two (broad) types are:

Local area network (LAN)

A local area network is a network that spans a relatively small space and provides services to a small amount of people. Depending on the amount of people that use a Local Area Network, a peer-to-peer or client-server method of networking may be used. A peer-to-peer network is where each client shares their resources with other workstations in the network. Examples of peer-to-peer networks are: Small office networks where resource use is minimal and a home network. A client-server network is where every client is connected to the server and each other. Client-server networks use servers in different capacities. These can be classified into two types: Single-service servers, where the server performs one task such as file server, print server, etc.; while other servers can not only perform in the capacity of file servers and print servers, but they also conduct calculations and use these to provide information to clients (Web/Intranet Server). Computers are linked via Ethernet Cable, can be joined either directly (one computer to another), or via a network hub that allows multiple connections.

Historically, LANs have featured much higher speeds than WANs. This is not necessarily the case when the WAN technology appears as Metro Ethernet, implemented over optical transmission systems.

Wide area network (WAN)

A wide area network is a network where a wide variety of resources are deployed across a large domestic area or internationally. An example of this is a multinational business that uses a WAN to interconnect their offices in different countries. The largest and best example of a WAN is the Internet, which is the largest network in the world. The PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) also is an extremely large network that is converging to use Internet technologies, although not necessarily through the public Internet.

A Wide Area Network involves communication through the use of a wide range of different technologies. These technologies include Point-to-Point WANs such as Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) and High-Level Data Link Control (HLDC), Frame Relay, ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) and Sonet (Synchronous Optical Network). The difference between the WAN technologies is based on the switching capabilities they perform and the speed at which sending and receiving bits of information (data) occur.

For more information on WANs, see Frame Relay, ATM and Sonet..