A network is a complex web of computers and several digital and electronic devices where all participating devices interact with each other and share information and resources. It is also known as computer network, data network or sometimes digital communication network.

Networks enable the users to access the Internet, print a document, download files/attachment from an email, or allow computers and their users to be just connected. Given that the adoption of the network is vast and varied, there are various types of network connections, which caters to different needs, and requirements of the users. LAN, WAN, WiFi, VPN etc are some of such types.

Most of the typical network that you have heard of or seen around would be a wireless network, internet, office network, etc. They can be categorized into various kinds based on area, size, and mobility.

Networks are continuously evolving as well. For example, wired networks were the choice, but now the industry is demanding wireless given that it offers higher mobility and the lesser the need for hardware components.

How can we define a network connection?

A network is two or more devices connected through links for sharing of resources. A link is like a communication pathway that transfers data from one device to another.

For perception purposes, a network connection can be envisioned as a line drawn between two points. For communication to occur, the two devices ought to be connected to the same link at the same time. Two basic kinds of connection that are there in existence since ages include:

Point-to-Point Connection

A dedicated link exists only between the single sender and single receiver. The link’s entire capacity is reserved for the transmission between the two devices.

Multipoint Connection

A link is shared between more than two devices where the sender is one, but there are multiple receivers. The link’s capacity is shared between the devices. The connection is time-based.

Types of network connections – By reach and size (geographical area):

Personal Area Network (PAN)

It is the most basic type of network where the communication takes place within a room with the proximity of a few meters (up to 10m). Can be used for communication between the devices themselves or for connecting to the Internet. Eg. USB (wired), Bluetooth (wireless).

Local Area Network (LAN)

Local area network is the most common and straightforward type of network used in offices and home, and it ranges from 10m-1000m. It enables communication within short distances like within two-three buildings. It is cost-effective and provides good speed (10mbps-100mbps). All the LAN’s nowadays are based on Ethernet be it wired or wireless.

Ethernet uses hubs, switches or routers to connect the devices using the ethernet cable for direct communication (peer-to-peer). With the help of an RJ-45 connector, the twisted-pair cable is plugged into the switch and used. It can also be connected to other networks. It uses a bus, ring or star topology. Internet Protocol is used for LAN’s.

Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)

MAN network is optimized for larger geographic areas than LAN ranging from campuses to a town or city. It ranges from 5km-50km. It is a high-speed network and allows sharing of regional resources.

It can be owned and operated by a company and used by many individuals, e.g., telephone network or may be the main branch of a company sharing the internet with its other branches in that city itself using routers/switches. Man can use fiber optics or even wireless technology as microwave or radio to build such networks.

Wide Area Network (WAN)

It is two or more LAN’s separated by miles connected with the help of routers. It enables communication of devices over vast physical distances such as a country or the whole world. The most prominent example is the Internet.

WAN can connect several LANs and MANs. Typically TCP/IP protocol is used along with several network devices like routers, firewalls, switches, and modems.

WAN’s can be wired or wireless. Wired WAN’s use fiber-optic cables whereas wireless ones generally use satellite technology. Sometimes even VPN’s are used to connect various parts of the WAN for security reasons.

Types of network connections – From its use for internet:

Dial-Up Connection

In simple language, Dial-up is a methodology to access the Internet over a telephone line. One end of the telephone line is connected to the modem of a computer, and the other end is connected to the phone jack.

The computer is configured to dial a number to the ISP (Internet service providers). Once the ISP has granted the access, there is synchronization of protocols following which the actual usage begins.

The only drawback is the speed because of which video calls or online audio streaming is hardly possible. Both external and internal modem is suitable for such a connection.

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)

Here the digital data is transmitted over a telephone line. The only problem lies in the fact that the data over the telephone line is in analog form and the computer understands only digital form.

This is the where the use of modem comes in. The modem helps in the process of modulation and de-modulation and converts the data from analog to digital form and vice-versa. The same telephone line can be utilized for both telephone services and internet access.

It is primarily of following types:

  • ADSL-where the download speed is more than the uploading speed;
  • SDSL- where both the downloading and uploading rates are equal.
  • Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) – It is a form of DSL which does not require a modem. It enables simultaneous transmission of voice data and other services over the telephone line using a set of communication standards.
  • Broadband- It is also a form of DSL where the communication uses a wide range of frequencies. This high-speed network is generally used in offices and homes. Greater the bandwidth, greater is the information carrying capacity.

DSL is not portable, and therefore it is suffering stiff competition from mobile internet networks.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN is an extension of a private Network over a public network such as the internet. Whenever you connect to a virtual private network, the VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your system and the remote server. VPN enhances privacy and security.

Earlier it was used only by big companies and government organizations who wanted to keep their data safe from hackers. But nowadays it is commonly in use because of several security features it provides.

The data is encrypted, and also one can surf the web anonymously. When a request is made to the browser, the data is encrypted by VPN while it travels through the tunnel created by it to the VPN server.

It also replaces the original IP with some other pseudo IP so that even if a hacker tries to decode, he won’t be able to do it easily.

It uses protocols like IPsec, PPTP, SSL or TLS, etc.

Mobile Network

It started back when the mobile telephone was introduced in 1946. Later when the cellular concept came in mobile communication became commercially available. Later in the 90’s the GSM and then the satellite services came into existence.

It kept growing, and now we have the 5G technology. GSM is the most preferred service used worldwide presently because of its flexibility. It’s wireless, mobile IP and portable nature make it more in demand.

It includes wireless LAN’s, wireless broadband, satellite networks, Bluetooth, etc.

Over to you on types of network connections

A network or a digital network helps machines and other electronic devices to share information and resources. These data exchange usually happens over wire media which could be copper wires or optic cables, or also could be wireless media such as WiFi, Bluetooth, radio, satellite, etc. With technology evolving continuously, we have several types of network connections catering different needs and requirement of consumers.