The Basics of a Computer Network

Your office computer is part of your everyday working life, but how does it interact with the rest of your office’s computers? Where does your email go when you click send?

These questions have easy answers.

So let us go through your office’s computer network systematically: using sending an Email as an example.

Your PC

The place in your network where you are most familiar. All of the programs you interact with run on your PC. Word, Excel, Internet Explorer being the most common examples.

If you were to send an email, no matter who the recipient is, your email is packaged up by your computer and sent down your cabling to the switch.

The Switch

The switch is a box of sockets that all the computers on your network plug into.

Think of it as a roundabout: many routes in and out to allow the traffic on the network to go where it needs to go.

Once the switch receives your email it immediately travels to your Sever.

The Server

Servers, often, look and sound scary, but in reality, the server is very similar to your computer, it just has components that are more powerful.

It is called a server because it stores and serves files to the rest of the computers on the network. It is the master of your network. It stores all the data on the network and controls who can, and cannot, access it.

Once the server has received your email it neatly repackages it, changing the address on the packing for one other servers can more easily understand.

Then it sends it through the switch, once more, to the router.

The Router

The router is a name you will have heard at home. In truth, what you have at home is, probably a router and a switch packaged into one. In a business setting these functions separate out into different boxes due to the higher demands of an increased number of devices on the network.

The router’s job is much the same as an old-fashioned doorman. The router is in charge of letting data in and out of the network and making sure it knows where it is going.

Once the router receives your email it checks the address and sends it out into the internet and your desired recipient.

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Your IT Support provider will be able to help you build a strong and stable network with the most appropriate equipment for your needs.

This example of an email was using an email server on site rather than a hosted solution. This will be examined in closer detail in next week’s Blog: What is Cloud Computing?