Hardware and Software for Networking

Hardware Requirements for Networking

Hardware Requirements For Networking

Figure depicts the hardware requirements for networking.

Network hardware consists of all the hardware required for establishing a smooth network connection between computers. The figure shows a simple network with the required hardware for a network. The network includes all computers, peripheral devices attached to computers, interface cards, and the equipment that are needed to perform communication and data processing within the network.

Typically, networking hardware includes gateways, routers, network bridges, switches, hubs, and repeaters. Wireless networking is also becoming increasingly popular, especially for portable and handheld devices.

Networking hardware consists of the following devices:

File/Network Servers

The file server is a part of nearly every type of network. There can be more than one file server too in a network. A file server is a very fast computer with a large RAM (Random Access memory/internal memory) to enhance its speed, and has a big storage space.

File Server has one or faster network interface card(s) too. The network operating system enables computers in the network to share server resources and information with other network users. In small networks, a single network server is enough to provide the functionality required for a network such as a file sharing, printer sharing, email, database, and other services.

While configuring a file server, the budget defines its characteristics. Following are some of the recommended features of an efficient file server:

  • Fastest processor(s)
  • Large amount of RAM
  • One or more large and fast hard drives
  • Extra expansion slots
  • Fast network interface card(s)

Network Interface Cards

The network interface card (NIC) is a piece of hardware device that provides a physical connection between the network and the connected computers. NICs are present internally in computer hardware. NICs define the speed and performance of a network. It is a good idea to use the fastest network card available for the type of computer you are using.

There are two very common network interface cards viz. Ethernet cards and wireless adapters.

Ethernet Cards

Ethernet cards are usually included with a computer, although additional Ethernet cards can be purchased and installed on most computers.

Wireless Adapters

Wireless adapters are used in portable devices, such as laptops, smartphones, and tablet devices. External wireless adapters can be purchased and installed on most computers having an open USB (Universal Serial Bus) port, or unused expansion slot.


A router is considered as traffic regulator of a network. It is a specialized network device that manages the traffic of data packets within the network. It also determines the next network point to which it can forward a data packet so that the destination is reached in the fastest possible way.


Every network has a boundary or a limit, so by default, all communication and resource sharing takes place within that network. If one network wants to communicate outside of its own boundary with another network then a special device called a gateway is required to make it possible.

A gateway is a device that is implemented at the boundary of a network and is familiar with the routing path of other remote networks. It manages all the data communication that is directed internally or externally from that network.

Gateways possess details about the host network’s internal paths and also of the different remote networks. Thus, if a network node wants to communicate with another network, it passes the data packet to the gateway, which then redirects it to the destination using the best possible path.


A switch is a device that allocates traffic from one network segment to a specific destination which connects the segment to another network segment. Unlike a hub, a switch splits the network traffic and sends it to different destinations rather than to all systems on the network.


The big networks can be divided into smaller, efficient networks called segments. A bridge is a device that connects these multiple network segments. It monitors and regulates data traffic on both sides so that it can pass packets of information to the correct location in the network.

A bridge manages the traffic to maintain optimum performance on both sides of the network. A bridge might be considered as a traffic cop at a busy intersection during rush hour who keeps information flowing on both sides of the network but does not allow unnecessary traffic through.


A hub is a network device that is placed centrally and all the computers are attached to it via cable. It is used to send data or signals sent by one of the computers to all the others connected with it. Although the mechanisms used here is very simple receiving from one and sending to all; it leads to a lot of unnecessary traffic being sent to all devices on the network.

It results in traffic congestion and data collision in the network. A major disadvantage of hubs is that they cannot identify the sender and receivers connected to them. Thus, it sends the same data/signals to all the connected devices inclusive of the sender. In addition, they are unable to send and receive signals at the same time. Hubs have become obsolete now, though, they are still used to reduce networking costs.


Repeater is a device that amplifies or regenerates weak digital signals received before sending them from one part of a network into another. Sometimes a signal loses strength as it goes around in a cable; it becomes necessary to boost the signal. This is performed with a device called a repeater. The repeater electrically amplifies the signal it receives and rebroadcasts it.

Software Requirements for Networking

Software or in other words computer software is also known as a computer program. It is the non-tangible component of computers in contrast to computer hardware which is the physical component of computers.

Computer hardware and software are complementary to each other one cannot be used without the other. Some commonly used software is the Windows operating system, Microsoft Office, etc.

Some software is meant for single-user computers like a desktop, laptop which are standalone computers. Standalone computers are not part of any networks, they work independently.

There are other software that is meant specifically for a network like Network Operating Systems (NOS) which coordinate the activities of multiple computers across a network. NOS acts as a director to keep the network running smoothly.

The NOS can be of two major types. They are:

  • Peer-to-Peer
  • Client/Server

Both these types are very popular and contemporary networks are usually a combination of both these NOS. The networking design can be considered independent of the servers and computers that will share it.


In a Peer-to-peer network, as the name might suggest, all computers are on par with each other, they are considered equal. NOS allows every computer which is a part of a peer-to-peer network to equally share resources and files located on their computers and to access shared resources found on other computers.

In this case, there is no centralized file server that manages the entire system (Refer to Figure). Peer-to-peer networks are suitable for small to medium local area networks where the number of computers attached to the network is less.

All modern desktop operating systems, such as Macintosh OSX, Linux, and Windows, can function as peer-to-peer network operating systems.


In Client/server NOS there is a centralized dedicated computer called a file server which controls all functions and applications (Refer to Figure). The file server is considered to be the heart of the system; it provides access to centralized resources.

All the other computers (called clients) can access these resources provided by the file servers. Thus, NOS provides the mechanism to integrate all the components of the network and allow multiple users to simultaneously share the same resources irrespective of physical location.

UNIX/Linux and the Microsoft family of Windows Servers are examples of client/server network operating systems.


A firewall is an integral part of contemporary networks. It is a networking device, either hardware or software, that is installed at the entrance of an organization’s local network. A firewall is required when this network is connected to a public network, such as the Internet.

There are certain rules followed by a firewall that is defined by the organization to filter traffic into and out of its network, to protect the organization’s network users and data from an outside threats like hacking, infringement of privacy, etc.

Firewall rules are usually simple, consisting of a verb, either allow or deny, the direction of the traffic, either inbound or outbound and an address or other network traffic identifier.

Although firewalls typically protect internal networks from public networks, they can also be used to control access between specific network segments within a network. For example, you might place a firewall between the accounts department and the sales department.

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