Know your networking vocabulary

If you are going to network a small handful computers (less than 5-10) in your home or office, you’ll probably have some questions about networking vocabulary:

  • What is a “local area network (LAN)?”
  • What is a “workgroup?”
  • What is a “peer-to-peer network?”

There is no “dictionary definition” of a LAN. Most people would agree that a LAN is where all the computers are located fairly close together (within a “local area”). Usually it means that all the computers are in a single room, in a single office, in a single home or in a single building.

That said, the computers in a LAN can be configured in a number of ways. For example, if each of the computers has its own set of user accounts for logging on, then we might be correct in saying that this is a “peer-to-peer (P2P)” network. Another name for this is a “workgroup.” In addition to having its own database of user accounts, the peer computers might also have their own system of stored files and folders. In other words, there is no centralized computer (or server) that contains everything you need access to. All the computers are equal — they are all peers to each other.

P2P networks are simple to set up but harder to maintain once you start to add more computers. This is because there is no central point of control for doing backups, for example, or for maintaining user accounts or security controls over the files being shared.

In order to centralize control and grow the network bigger more easily (making it more “scalable”) you would design and implement a “client-server” network.

More on that another time.

Here's A Few More Related Posts:
  1. Learn the lingo of wireless / computer networking
  2. Run your own network wiring
  3. The “802 Standards”
  4. “The 3 Elements of Computer Networking”

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