network

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

network

network, in computing, two or more computers connected for the purpose of routing, managing, and storing rapidly changing data. A local area network (LAN), which is restricted by distances of up to one mile, and a metropolitan area network (MAN), which is restricted to distances of up to 60 miles, connect personal computers and workstations (each called a node) over dedicated, private communications links. A wide area network (WAN) connects large numbers of nodes over long-distance communications links, such as common carrier telephone lines, over distances ranging from that between major metropolitan centers to that between continents. An internet is a connection between networks. The Internet is a WAN that connects thousands of disparate networks in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, and elsewhere, providing global communication between nodes on government, educational, and industrial networks. Networks allow for resource sharing (e.g., multiple computers sharing one printer), data sharing, and communication or data exchange (e.g., electronic mail).

See W. Stallings, ed., Advances in Local and Metropolitan Area Networks (1994); F. Halsall, Data Communications, Computer Networks, and Open Systems (4th ed. 1996); R. Cahn, Wide Area Network Design: Concepts and Tools for Optimization (1998); T. Parnell and C. Null, Network Administrator's Reference (1999).

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