A computer network consists of a collection of computers, printers and other equipment that is connected together so that they can communicate with each other (see Advice Sheet 17 on the ICT Planning for schools pack). Fig 1 gives an example of a network in a school comprising of a local area network or LAN connecting computers with each other, the internet, and various servers.
Fig 1: Representation of Network in a school.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of network configuration, peer-to-peer networks and client/server networks.
Peer-to-peer networks are more commonly implemented where less then ten computers are involved and where strict security is not necessary. All computers have the same status, hence the term 'peer', and they communicate with each other on an equal footing. Files, such as word processing or spreadsheet documents, can be shared across the network and all the computers on the network can share devices, such as printers or scanners, which are connected to any one computer.
Client/server networks are more suitable for larger networks. A central computer, or 'server', acts as the storage location for files and applications shared on the network. Usually the server is a higher than average performance computer. The server also controls the network access of the other computers which are referred to as the 'client' computers. Typically, teachers and students in a school will use the client computers for their work and only the network administrator (usually a designated staff member) will have access rights to the server.
A wide area network (WAN) is a network that covers a broad area (i.e., any…