Networking Tutorials

Networking is a process of connecting two or more computers for sharing. Through the networking, computers share information such as email, file, documents and resources such as printer, internet and disk storage. This article presents a brief overview of what computer networking is and how it works.

Introduction of Networking

Networking has single purpose and that is sharing. So if you have nothing to share, networking has nothing for you. If you anything to share, networking is everything for you. Computer networking is not a new concept. It has been here since the computers used to look like abacuses. At that time networking was used to share abacus answer with others. Over the time abacuses became computers and networking became more sophisticated. However the purpose of networking is still same: sharing the information as fast as possible. To achieve this goal networks now use electrical cables, fiber optical cables, and wireless radio signals.

A computer network includes at least two computers. Following figure illustrate a simple computer network.

Computer Network

A complex network may have thousands of computers connected via different communication links. For example Internet that is the largest computer network ever created by mankind.

Internet interconnects thousands of millions of computing devices including PCs, Laptops, Workstations, Server, Smartphones, tablets, TVs, Webcams, Environmental devices, Automobiles, Security cameras and many mores. In Networking all these devices are known as Hosts or End system or End devices. Computer networks use communication links to connection end devices with each other's. Communication links use different types of physical media such as coaxial cable, electrical cable, copper cable, fiber optical cable and radio spectrum. Different media types can transmit data at different rate that is measured in bits/second. Every media type has its limit that is measured in speed, distance, signal loose etc.

When a computer has data for another computer in network it initiates a session for transmission. During this process both computers finalized the rules of transmission such as speed of transmission, size of data file, security measurement of transmission, flow control etc. These rules are called protocols. Protocols control the entire data transmission through the network. Protocols are defined in various network models such as TCP/IP Layer model, OSI Layer model.

During the data transmission sender computer break the data file in small pieces. These pieces are called segment. Each segment properly wrapped with network information. Resulting segments are known as packets. Packets are sent to the destination computer through the network, where they are reassembled into the original data.

Requirement of Networking

Every network requires specialized hardware and software to make them work. Following are the essential components for network:

Client computers

End devices that users use to access the shared resources. Usually they run desktop version of OS such as Window 10, Window 7, and Window XP. Client computers are also known as workstations.

Server computers

Computers that provide shared resources. Usually they run sever version of OS such as Window Server 8 or 2003, Linux and NetWare. Server computers run many specialized services to control the shared resources.

Network interface card

NIC is an interface that enables the computer to communicate over the network. Every computer must have a NIC in order to connect with the network. In earlier time it was a separate card and need to be installed on motherboard. All modern computers have it as the integral part of motherboard.

Communication links

Communication links are physical media. Every computer network needs some sort of media to transmit the data.

Switches

When we have more than two computers in network, we cannot connect them directly. We need a mediator device that allows us to connect all computers together. Switches do this job happily. Each switch contains a certain number of ports. We can use an eight port switch to connect eight computers.

Routers

Router is an intermediate device that speaks all language of network. It makes communication between two different networks.

Benefits of Networking

Networking is all about sharing. Networking allows us to share three main things: information, resources and applications.

Information sharing

Networking makes it easy to share the information across the network. We can send or receive data files from other computers. We can communicate with each other in network via messaging application for example email service, chat service etc. We can store data in a centralized sever for easy management.

Resources Sharing

Certain computer resources can be shared in the network such as hard disk, printer, scanner, modem etc. This allows us to track down the uses of resources. For example a network administrator can setup a printer server and share it in network. Then user can use printer server for printing. Now administrator needs only to monitor the print server instead of individual workstations.

Application Sharing

Application sharing is the most common in companies. Companies may have business application that needs to be update by several users. Sharing make it possible. It allows several users to work together on a single application.

Workgroup and Homegroup both terms are used to define a group of computers those are set to share the resources. Both terms are used synonymously in networking but they have some differences based on how computers and other resources are managed in the group. This article lists those differences.

differences between workgroup and homegroup

Workgroup

  • In workgroup all computers have equal rights.
  • Workgroup cannot be password protected.
  • Workgroup has a limit of twenty computers.
  • In workgroup all computers must be on same local network.
  • Workgroup works on all windows version.
  • Workgroup works on both IP versions: IPv4 and IPv6.
  • In workgroup every computer requires same workgroup name.
  • Workgroup needs technical knowledge to setup.
  • Workgroup requires security and sharing permissions to be set.
  • To use a workgroup computer you need to have a user account on that computer.

Homegroup

  • Homegroup does not have a limit of computers.
  • You can join as much computers as you want.
  • Homegroup can be password protected.
  • Homegroup is easy to setup. All sharing options are enabled automatically.
  • Homegroup requires IPv6 to work.
  • Homegroup can be span over the subnet.
  • Homegroup requires window7 or higher version.

If your network has all computers lower than windows 7 then you should use workgroup. But if you have windows 7 or higher version then you should always use homegroup to take the advantage of new features. In a mix environment you can use both workgroup and homegroup.

Sharing service was included in windows system from its earlier version. But discovering and using it was a tough task for average users. This situation was changed by homegroup. Homegroup is a group of two or more computers those are setup for easy file sharing.

Homegroup was introduced from windows 7. It is available in all edition of windows 7 and higher version of windows such as windows 8 and windows 10. With each version of Windows, Microsoft also releases some low cost editions with limited features. A low cost edition can join the homegroup, but it cannot create new one. Window 7 Starter and Windows 7 Home basic editions are the examples of low cost edition.

Sharing service was made easier by homegroup. With homegroup sharing becomes a few clicks task. This task does not require any networking specific skills. A user with little networking knowledge can easily setup or maintain his home network.

Homegroup setup wizard gives us a password. Other users in network require this password to join the homegroup. When a new computer joins the network, homegroup automatically share following folders.

Folder Name Path Permission
My Pictures %Username%\Pictures Read
Public Pictures %Public%\Pictures Read/Write
My Music %Username%\Pictures Read
My Videos %Username%\Pictures Read
Public Videos %Public%\Pictures Read/Write

HomeGroup Default Share

Windows 7 has new menu item "Share with" in Windows Explorer for sharing. With this features we can share additional files, folders, music, videos, printers, documents and much more with other users in network.

Share With Menu Windows Explorer

Homegroup in Nutshell

  • Homegroup feature was introduced with windows 7.
  • Low cost editions of windows 7 have limited features of homegroup.
  • Low cost editions can join the home group, but they cannot create new one.
  • A membership password is generated during the homegroup setting up process.
  • All other users require this password to join the homegroup.
  • Once joined all users are treated equally.
  • Any shared resources will be available for all users in Homegroup.
  • The Public folders are always shared with 'Read/Write' accesses.
  • Guest user account cannot access any shared resources.