DESCRIPTION OF A NETWORK

A network is the linking of two or more computers for the purpose of sharing data, programs and/or physical resources.
 Examples:
 Data Two people can work independently on the same project at different computers. By being connected to each other, there is no need for swapping floppy copies with the possibility of loss or old revisions creeping into the work flow.
 Programs One copy of a program can be purchased and placed on one computer, and others connected may be able to access that program from their own computer. This reduces the number of copies needed. NOTE: many software licenses provide for the application to be used only by one person at a time, hence, several people could not use it simentinsouly. This type of setup improves the use ratio of certain applications which are expensive. Licensing agreements can often be purchased for additional users for less than the cost of additional full copies.
 Physical Resources Printers and backup systems are two examples of special hardware which often have low use rates. By setting up several computers to share these resources, money is saved from having to provide (for example) each user with their own printer. Fewer peripherals also can translate into lower maintenance costs and lower capital investments on the system as a whole.
TYPES OF NETWORKS

Networks fall into two categories: Server-Client, and Peer-To-Peer.
 Server-Client is often the fastest (and more expensive) of the two systems. In this setup one computer is designated as the Server, with the sole purpose of providing access to data, applications, and other resources. The server is dedicated to serve the other computers on the network. Usually (but not always) the server will consist of several large hard drives, backup hardware and more powerful CPU’s than other computers on the network. The server will become a central repository for shared information and applications. It will also serve as a central coordinator for sharing printers, modems, and other physical devices. Restrictions can also be imposed at the server about which users have access to what information and resources. In this setup the server is always running to make all the resources available constantly.
 Peer-To-Peer networks by contrast are decentralized. No particular computer is dedicated to oversee network operations. Ptp networks are usually setup to sharing data and physical resources, applications usually reside locally on each computer and are not shared. Permission for file access is granted on the computer where the data resides rather than in a central location. Each computer can have a different set of peripherals which then may be shared with others on the network. One potential problem is that if a user turns off their computer, then access to those files and resources, obviously, cannot be granted.

SPECIALIZED HARDWARE
It is assumed that the usual components of a desktop system are understood (i.e. computer, printer, modem, etc.). Specialized hardware for networks include: network cards, repeaters, hubs, bridges and cabling.
PHYSICAL SETUPS
Windows 95 (hereafter Win95) requires potentially the least hardware to setup a ptp network. For connecting two computers all the additional hardware needed is a serial cable and available port on each computer. After the installation has been made, the OS (Operating System) will configure the network connection between the two computers. Next, each user will have to designate the resources available to the other computer, (printer, drives, folders, modems, etc.) This is one exception to networking. For other setups additional equipment is needed.
NETWORK CARDS
Going beyond two computers in Win95 requires hardware common to other network setups, mainly a network card and cabling for each computer. Additionally, depending on the setup, hubs and repeaters may be required. The network card is a card that plugs into an open expansion slot of the computer. As with other cards, the higher the architecture, the potentially faster throughput may be achieved. (From lowest to highest, ISA, EISA, VLB, and finally PCI.) Currently, network cards are available in two speeds: 10 MBPS and 100 MBPS. The former is more than sufficient for general use while the latter is useful for connection either between servers, or between a server and a distribution hub.
REPEATERS
Repeaters serve only one function in networks: they strengthen the signal over long cable runs. Like any electrical signal, the bits sent along a network