Types of User account in Computer Network Explained

This tutorial explains the types of user accounts used in computer networks such as system account, regular user account, guest user account, super user account, group account, local user account, remote user account, network user account and anonymous user account.

To access the operating system or any service running on the operating system, a user needs a user account. A user account allows the operating system or the service to track and monitor the usage.

No matter which operating system we use, it uses user accounts to authenticate, trace, log and monitor its services. When we install an operating system, it automatically creates some essential user accounts which allow us to access it just after the installation. During the installation, typically, it creates four types of user accounts. These accounts are system account, superuser account, regular user account, and guest user account. Let's discuss these user accounts in detail.

System accounts

These accounts are used by different services running on the operating system to access the system resources. The operating system uses these accounts to check whether a particular service that is requesting system resources is allowed to access those resources or not. Usually, services create necessary accounts on their own when they are installed. After installation, services use those accounts to access necessary resources. Unless you are a system or network administrator, you never need to know about these accounts.

Superuser account

This user account has the highest privilege on the operating system. In Windows, this user account is known as the Administrator account. In Linux, it is known as the root account. The operating system allows this user account to perform all privileged tasks such as changing system files, installing new software, removing existing software, starting services, stopping services, creating new user accounts, and deleting existing user accounts.

Regular user account

This user account has moderate privilege. This user account is not allowed to make any changes in system files and properties. The operating system allows this user account to perform only the tasks that it is authorized to do such as creating files and folders, running applications, customizing environmental variables, etc.

Guest user account

This user account has the lowest privilege. It can't change system files or properties. Usually, this account is used to access the system for temporary tasks such as suffering internet, watching movies, playing games, etc. In Windows, this account is automatically created during the installation. In Linux, if require, we have to create this account manually after the installation.

User account vs Group account

A user account is an individual identity of a user whereas a group account is the collective identity of all users who belong to a specific group. Grouping helps system administrators in managing the system effectively. For example, in a company, all the users of the development department may belong to a group called developers. Once a group is created, the administrator can create and configure several security rules and applications to ensure that only the users from the developer's group can access the development department's resources such as SQL server, Language API, source code compiler, etc.

user account vs group account

Group accounts are only used to manage the user accounts which are alike or require access to a particular resource. Unlike a user account, a group account does not have login capability. A user may belong to an individual group or multiple groups.

Local user accounts vs Network User accounts

Usernames and passwords for local user accounts are stored on the local machine. Local user accounts are bound with a physical machine. As discussed earlier, every operating system creates some user accounts during the installation. By default, all these accounts are considered local user accounts.

local user

Usernames and passwords of network user accounts are stored in a central machine usually known as the server. Unlike local user accounts, network user accounts are not bound with any particular system. Based on the configuration, a network user can log in to a specific machine or any machine of the network.

network user

Local user accounts and network user accounts are used to access a fully-featured operating system.

Remote service accounts

Usernames and passwords of these accounts are stored in a remote machine. These accounts are used to remotely access a specific service or an application running on the remote system. FTP accounts, email accounts, website accounts are some examples of remote service accounts.

remote user

Anonymous user accounts

This account does not require a password to log in. This account has the lowest privilege among all available accounts. Usually, this account is used to share data publicly through a service that normally requires login access.

anonymous user account

For example, a user account is required to download anything from an FTP server. If an administrator wants to allow anyone to download the data stored in a particular folder from the FTP server, he can configure an anonymous account and set its default location to the folder. Once the anonymous account is enabled, users will be able to download all files and folders stored in this folder.

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