Networking Basic Concepts and Fundamentals Explained

This tutorial explains the basic concepts of computer networking. Learn the essential networking topics in detail with examples.

Computer networking is one of the most complex subjects. Describing all of its topics requires an encyclopedia. Learning and understanding all these topics at the primary stage are neither required nor recommended. It is just like learning the vocabulary from the dictionary. Unless you know what you need to know, you will never know what you want to know. In this tutorial, I will discuss two essential topics that you should learn at the elementary level. Understanding these topics will set the foundation for the rest of your studies.

Essential components of the computer network

When learning computer networking, this should be your first topic.

A computer network is made up of four essential components. These components are End devices, Media, Protocols, and Networking devices. Let's discuss these components in detail.

End devices

An end device is a device that sends or receives the data in the network. It can be a PC, Laptop, Smartphone, or any other device that is capable of sending and receiving data and is connected with the network. To build a network, at least two end devices are required.

end devices

Broadly end devices are categorized into two types; server end device and client end device. The server end device is the device that provides data or service. The client end device is the device that receives the offered data or service from the server end device.


The media provides connectivity between the end devices. Unless end devices are connected through media, they cannot exchange the data or service. Mainly there are two types of media; Wireless media and wired media.

In wireless media, radio signals are used to transfer the data between end devices, whereas, in wired media, the data is transferred through cables.

Both media types are further classified into several subtypes. Subtypes are categorized based on various factors such as length, data transfer speed, used metal, frequency band, etc. Subtypes are defined as the media standards. Two common media standards are the Ethernet and the IEEE802.11 or Wi-Fi standards.

media types

The Ethernet defines the standards for the wired media. The IEEE802.11 defines the standards for wireless media.


Protocols enable communication between two or more end devices. A protocol is a set of predefined rules that specifies standards for a particular stage or all stages of the communication.

Following are some common functions performed by the protocols.

  • Initializing and terminating the communication process
  • Performing encryption and compression before sending the data
  • Packing data in such a format that it can travel in the network
  • Providing logical addressing
  • Performing error correction
  • Performing authentication

Two popular networking models: the OSI Reference Model and the TCP/IP Model describe the functionalities of the most common protocols. Both models divide the entire communication process into logical layers. Further, they explain how the protocols work in each layer to enable the communication process.

Networking device

A networking device works between the end devices. It controls and forwards the flow of data. Based on the functionalities, a networking device can be categorized into three types; forwarding device, connecting device, and securing device.

http protocol example

A forwarding device forwards the data. This device usually has multiple ports which are used to connect more than two end devices in a single network. Hub, bridge, and Ethernet switch provide this functionality.

A connecting device connects two or more different types of media and protocols. If two end devices are located in different logical networks or connected through the different types of media, they need a connecting device to exchange the data. Router and Multilayer switch provides this functionality.

A securing device secures the data from unauthorized access. When a data packet arrives in it, based on pre-defined rules it performs security checks and takes the forwarding decision. Common devices which provide this functionality are the Firewall and NAT.

Classification of the computer network

After learning the essential components of the network, this should be your next topic. Computer networks are mainly categorized based on the geographical location, access types, and relationship between end devices.

Based on the geographical location

Based on the geographical location, a network can be classified into three types: LAN, MAN, and WAN. A network that is geographically spread over a small, medium, and large area are respectively known as the LAN, MAN, and WAN network.

Based on the access type

Based on allowing users to access network resources, the network is classified into three types; Intranet, Extranet, and the Internet. An Intranet is a private network. In this network, external users are not allowed to access the network resources. An Extranet is also a private network. But in this network, after proper authorization, external users are allowed to access a small portion of the network. The Internet is the public network. Any user can connect with this network.

Based on the relationship between the end devices

Based on how the end devices access each other, the network is categorized into two types; peer-to-peer network and clients/server network. In peer to peer network, all end devices have equal rights. In the clients/server network, the server decides which client will have what rights.

That’s all for this tutorial. If you like this tutorial, please don’t forget to share it through your favorite social networking sites.

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