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Are you up-to-date on your knowledge about networks and network equipment? If not, the primer below will outline what you need to know about network equipment such routers, switches, hubs, NAS drives, and etc.
At its simplest, a network switch is a device that is used to connect multiple computers to form a local area network (LAN). What differentiates a network switch from a hub is that a switch is able to conserve bandwidth through careful routing of data. For example, if there are several computers on a network and one of them requests data from another, the switch will know to send the data only to the computer that requested the information.
Similar to a switch, a network hub joins multiple computers together into one LAN. But while a switch is able to inspect and reroute packets of data to conserve bandwidth, a hub is essentially a repeater. So when a computer sends data to another computer, the rest of the computers on the network also get the same data sent to them.
In addition to creating a LAN, a router is able to connect multiple networks to a wide area network (WAN). A WAN is a network that covers a large area and is sometimes used synonymously with the internet, though the internet is only one example of a WAN. Network routers can be either wired or wireless, with wireless routers sometimes referred to as Wi-Fi® routers.
Network Access Point / Wireless Access Point (WAP)
A network access point, frequently referred to as a wireless access point or base station, is a device that adds wireless connectivity to a wired network. Some WAPs are standalone devices that connect to a router while others are components of the router itself.
Network Attached Storage (NAS) Drive
A network attached storage drive is a dedicated drive on a network that has its own IP address and functions similarly to an external hard drive. Some NAS drives feature built-in software that allow them to not only store files, but also stream media and provide remote access. Advanced NAS drives may utilize multiple hard disks arranged in a redundant array of independent disks (RAID) setup for increased performance or protection .
Network adapters are devices that add networking capabilities, and can sometimes be referred to as network interface controllers or network interface cards. There three types of network adapters, wired, wireless, and dual wired/wireless. When purchasing a wireless network adapter, be sure that it is compatible with your organization’s wireless network standard.
A modem connects a router or computer to a telephone line to provide access to the internet, though some modems may have built-in router functionality. When purchasing a modem, you will want to be sure that it is compatible with your internet service provider’s (ISP) network.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
VoIP is a method of voice communication that uses a computer network instead of the telephone system. You may already be familiar with VoIP services such as Skype™ or Google Voice™, which allow for communication over the internet. For your staff, there are VoIP solutions that can connect them with each other through your computer network as well as your telephone lines.
Power line networking / power line communication (PLC)
Did you know that power lines can be used to create a network in addition to powering electronic devices? Creating a computer network through your power lines will not require modification of the lines nor will it increase electricity usage. To set up an Ethernet power line network, you just need to plug at least two power line network adapters into wall outlets and run Ethernet cables from them to whatever devices you want on the network.
Network Print Server
A network print server is a device that allows you to connect one or more printers to a network and provide print queue information to users. A print server can be used with any printer as long as the printer and print server feature compatible connections. Some network print servers have the ability to redirect print jobs to if one printer has too many requests.