Computer networks and careers in networking

Have you ever wondered what happens behind the scenes when you send a WhatsApp message or a text to a friend?

Do you know why your friend will receive the message that was for him/her and not the one for another person?

Well the answer is simple – computer network.

A computer network is the interconnections of devices (Including your device if you are on the same network) with the primary aim of exchanging information and data. With this definition, you can see that a computer network is more like any other network. 

In the network, we have hosts, which are the devices in the network that are assigned a number (IP address) for the primary purpose of communication, we can also call them end-devices. End devices include our iPhone, iPad, computers, touch screens, etc.

We have intermediary devices, which we don’t see as often as the end devices, especially in this era of cell phones but you might have come across some of them. Some of the popular ones include routers, switches, and firewalls. These intermediary devices are what forms the backbone of the internet. 

We also have Network Media, which provides a channel through which messages travel from their source to destination. More like electric wires in electric circuits. We have three types of network media.

  1. The copper cable.
  2. The Fiber Optics.
  3. The wireless media.

No doubt wireless media is the most popular among smartphone users, but wired networks(fibre optics) are more useful when large amount of data is involved. It is what is responsible for carrying your WhatsApp message from your phone to the nearest service provider’s(e.g. MTN) radio on the cell towers.

Topologies

A network can be connected in several ways, the way your network is connected is known as its topology. We have ring, mesh, star, bus topologies. All the topology have their advantages and disadvantages. So the one picked for a network solely depends on the need of the network and other factors. All these are factored in during the planning of the network by the network engineers. 

The most common types of networks are LAN and WAN.

A LAN(Local Area Network) is a network infrastructure that mainly serves users in a small geographical area. Just like you connect to a friend through Xender to share files, you both are said to be on the same LAN. A LAN is typically used in a department within an enterprise, a home, or a small business network.

A WAN(Wide Area Network) is a network infrastructure that provides access to other networks over a wide geographical area, which is typically owned and managed by a larger corporation or a telecommunications service provider. Just as you are reading this article now, chances are that your device and the server containing this web article are on different LAN, but might be connected through a WAN. We can also say that a WAN is a collection of LANs. 

The internet does not belong to any single entity. It is just the collection of different networks (The WAN and LAN). A short form of an internetwork.

However, organizations are developed to help maintain the structure and standardization of internet protocols and processes. These organizations include the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), plus many others. We also have the intranet and extranets.

Technologies are fast evolving, the same as the field of Computer networking, innovations spring up every minute. Most organizations are now replacing the traditional way of computer networking with these new trends. We now have software-defined networking. One of the major characteristics of software-defined networking is that it allows the control plane to be removed from the individual networking devices, creating flexibility and ease of troubleshooting. Cloud Computing is also evolving very fast, we now have many cloud service providers. The two trends mentioned above have a tremendous impact on networking, which we will discuss in further topics on this trend. 

Finally, I will love to introduce you to some careers in computer networking! As technology keeps evolving, there will always be a need for individuals that set up and maintain our computer networks. We have the network and computer systems administrator, Network Engineer, Computer system analyst, information system manager, Computer network architect, etc. Most of the time, all you need to start a career in computer networking is computer science or a related degree and certification from one of the network equipment providers. We have the Huawei Certified Network Associate(HCNA), Cisco Certified Network Associate(CCNA), although CCNA is more popular now, I advise young people to go for HCNA considering how fast things are changing and how Huawei products are dominating the market, Huawei devices is more of open source-based too. Also, it is good you get a good knowledge of Software Defined Network(SDN), AWS offer that service, but I prefer Google Cloud Platform(GCP) though. Maybe for personal reasons, you are free to also explore other varied available options

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