What is Computer Networking and Why is it Important?


Computer networking may not be unfamiliar for most people in this generation for almost everyone has been exposed to technology for many years now, specifically, the computer and the internet. Still, a refresher on computer networking and its importance is called for in the midst of the ongoing pandemic that is COVID-19 that took over the world in 2020. With that, this sample technology essay will delve into what computer networking is and how it is able to help students, workers, and business owners in these trying times.

What is computer networking?

Computer networking is concerned with creating a line of communication between different computer systems to enhance communication and data sharing between different devices. This means that computer networking connects computing devices like personal computers, laptops, smartphones, and the likes to each other or to pieces of hardware that are embedded with technology that is capable of connecting it to other devices and systems. Those pieces of hardware include devices under the Internet of Things (IoT) such as cameras, refrigerators, security systems, wearable devices, and many others.

Computer networking enables different devices to be connected to each other with the primary function of sharing data between the connected devices regardless of distance. The first attempt of creating a computer network ended up pioneering the concept of wireless networking, as wired connections between computers used to be essential. Basically, a computer network needs at least two devices that will be connected to each other, with one of them being a computer.

A computer network connects computers and devices to each other via a router, network card, and protocols as these are the pillars of modern-day computer networks. Households with Wi-Fi connections are familiar with how this works, as their smartphones, laptops, desktops, and even appliances can be connected to the internet through the system of computer networks. In some offices, company-provided computers are connected via a computer network and making it easier for employees to exchange data with each other.

Computer networking is sometimes considered a sub-discipline of telecommunications, and sometimes of computer science, information technology, and computer engineering. Computer networks rely heavily upon the theoretical and practical application of these scientific and engineering disciplines. Examples of networks are the Internet, a Wide Area Network, that is the largest to ever exist, or a small home Local Area Network (LAN) with two computers connected with standard networking cables connecting to a network interface card (NIC) in each computer.

The existence of computer networking enhanced the functionality of IoT devices and computers. It made communication between the devices more seamless, improved resource sharing, made syncing data on different devices hassle-free, and expanded what a user can do with the devices connected through the computer network. Computer networking is ideal for everybody who uses the internet and more than 2 devices because computer networking can maximize their productivity and efficiency while saving on time and resources.

As can be observed in today’s society, computer networking is not only limited to official businesses, in the corporate setting, and manufacturing industry. The increasing need for improved communication and accessibility of devices made it possible for computer networks to be continually developed. To add to that is the fact that most people prefer mobile devices to fixed-in-place computers to conduct their business anywhere and anytime they please. Over time, computer networks expanded their reach to the point that most households have access to computer networks, using cables or wireless.

So how does computer networking work? First, devices such as switches, routers, network cards, access points, and protocols are needed as these are the foundation of computer networks. Switches and access points function the same way with their difference being access points are used to create a wireless computer network as opposed to switches needing cables to be able to secure the connection of different devices to a computer network. Routers are responsible for connecting a computer network to another computer network. Routers make it possible for a home computer network to be connected to, for instance, an office computer network.

The most widely used implementation for computer networking is the TCP/IP protocol. The TCP/IP protocol was derived from Arpanet built at the University of Hawaii. It comprises four layers: link, network, transport, and application layer. The link layer deals with the device driver – ARP and RARP protocol. Whereas the network layer deals with IP, ICMP, and IGMP protocols, which send packets as reliably as they could. The Transport Layer deals with TCP and UDP, TCP being more reliable of the two because of fields in its header which enable it to keep the information as to which packets have reached the destination. The application layer consists of the applications running on a certain port. Whenever data flows in a network, it goes down the four layers from the application layer to the link layer. In essence, TCP/IP compliant devices or software have to be used for modern computer networking to be successful.

Types of Computer Networks

  1. Local Area Network (LAN)
    A Local Area Network is a network that spans a relatively small space and provides services to a small number of people. Depending on the number of people that use a Local Area Network, a peer-to-peer or client-server method of networking may be used. A peer-to-peer network is where each client shares their resources with other workstations in the network. Examples of peer-to-peer networks are: Small office networks where resource use is minimal and a home network. A client-server network is where every client is connected to the server and each other.
     Client-server networks use servers in different capacities. These can be classified into two types: Single-service servers, where the server performs one task such as file server, print server, etc.; while other servers can not only perform in the capacity of file servers and print servers, but they also conduct calculations and use these to provide information to clients. Computers are linked via Ethernet Cable, and can be joined either directly (one computer to another), or via a network hub that allows multiple connections.
  2. Wide Area Network (WAN)
     A Wide Area Network (WAN) is a network where a wide variety of resources are deployed across a large domestic area or internationally. An example of this is a multinational business that uses a WAN to interconnect their offices in different countries. Multinational organizations and businesses benefit so much from this type of computer network because they do not need to travel physically to the site or office just to exchange data. The largest and best example of a WAN is the Internet, which is the largest network in the world. WAN uses cellular connections and satellite links for connectivity.
  3. Wireless Networks (WLAN, WWAN)
     A wireless network is basically the same as a LAN or a WAN but there are no cables needed to connect between hosts and servers. The data is transferred over sets of radio transceivers. This type of computer networks is beneficial when it is too costly or inconvenient to run the necessary cables. Because this computer network is wireless, only directional antennas are needed to establish a connection. However, a connection can only be established within a specific range depending on the antenna.
  4. Enterprise Network
     Enterprise networks are computer networks that are specially built for large organizations and are usually manned by an IT team. The IT team comprising of network engineers and operators often has to check up on their systems to make sure that everything is working properly as enterprise computer networks are built to enhance the organization’s workflow. Enterprise functions often use wired connections but in the case of school campuses that provide computer networking even to their student’s personal devices, wireless networks are also used.
  5. Service Provider Network
     Service provider networks provide wireless computer networks to their users. Some organizations also use this, given that choosing a service provider is much more convenient for their size and situation. Service providers are the ones who supply both internet and cellular connectivity to the users and some provide their own routers, modems, or sim cards.

Advantages of Computer Networking

Computer networking provides a number of benefits, as already discussed. A computer is deemed practically useless if it is not connected to a computer network or the internet. Computer networks are preferred by both individuals and organizations alike. Listed below are a few benefits that one experiences when using a computer or device connected to a computer network.

  1. Reduces expenses in the long run
    For most people, cutting back on expenses is the most favorable about computer networks. Without needing to expend that much on resources and money, they can still access the functionality of their devices. And since the computers and devices are connected through the computer network, some hardware devices typically found in offices like printers and backup storage do not need to be 1:1 per employee. A group of employees can have their computers connected to just a single computer, therefore, saving occupied space, electricity, and money needed to purchase more printers.
  2. Is convenient and accessible
    As computers and devices connected to a computer network only need internet connectivity to maximize their functions, computer networks make accessing files more convenient especially if one needs to work off-site especially if the files can be accessed via the Cloud. Furthermore, data from IoT devices like cameras and smartwatches can easily be transferred to a connected computer or smartphone. The same goes for other IoT devices such as vacuums and refrigerators – they also can be accessed remotely if needed.
  3. Smoother communication
    Computer networks enable the connected computers and devices to send and receive messages and files in an instant. Only a stable internet connection is needed to access this feature of computer networks. What’s more, a user can access files found in Device A to Device B in the case where Device A is inaccessible. Because of this, the user need not worry about the storage of data in a device because syncing and transferring data to another computer or device can be done easily. And the same data can also be accessed through a central data storage server, which is usually done for enterprises so that managers can keep track of the efficiency of the organization’s operations.

Disadvantages of Computer Networking

Despite the advantages of computer networks, they still present setbacks that are concerning for a business, or even how a household is being run. Of course, devices are prone to malfunctioning 

  1. Risk of hacking and malware
     There is a possibility that computer networks are unsecured and may expose your data to hackers and malware. There is a danger of your personal or an enterprise’s files being corrupted or compromised. The open network that enables those connected to exchange data is also seen as an open door by hackers and integrating malware into a computer or device.
  2. Expensive to install
     Computer network cables cost a fortune. With most companies needing a wired connection, the option of setting up an enterprise network in a large organization may seem daunting in terms of the cost of installation. Aside from that, large organizations often need to hire an IT team to monitor and maintain their systems and also to look out for potential breaches.
  3. It may be hard to manage
     Again, as a separate team of manpower is needed to maintain the computer network, this poses the problem of a computer network being hard to manage. Network experts are needed for the job to ensure that everything is working perfectly. In addition, employees may be harder to manage as it is possible that their productivity will go down due to their dependence on the connected devices on easing their workloads.

Computer networks have proved to be essential and indeed useful despite their few drawbacks. Individuals, households, organizations, and schools prefer to have their devices connected via computer networks to maximize their functionality and also finish their tasks even more efficiently. Computer networking prevented people from struggling with transferring data using slow external devices, traveling unnecessarily, and syncing their data across different devices. Computer networking’s advantages definitely outweigh its cons and that’s why the number of people who opt to use it continues to increase as each day passes.

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Steele, C. (2019, January 29). Why is Computer Networking Important? Digital Divide Council. http://www.digitaldividecouncil.com/why-is-computer-networking-important/

What Is Computer Networking? (2021, January 20). Cisco. https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/enterprise-networks/what-is-computer-networking.html

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