Information and Communication Technology

Network Benefits

How networks can help you

Most people are already familiar with simple Networks, such as the ones found at home or in school.

What they may not have thought about is how useful they are.

Anyone who has had to deal with transferring data between two computers that are not networked will know that it takes far longer that way. There are numerous other network benefits apart from saving time and this page looks at some of the ones considered important for the IGCSE ICT course.

You should also bear in mind that there are some negative aspects of using networks, mainly to do with security. This is dealt with in the next topic.

Sharing

Cost and efficiency savings are network benefits

An important network benefit is that peripheral services such as printers and scanners can be shared. As long as the peripheral has a network interface card (NIC) or is connected to a computer that has one, anyone on the network can use it.

If the peripheral is connected by an NIC, it will have an IP address and will be available to any user who has the correct permissions. If the peripheral is connected through a PC, users will only be able to use it while that PC is on and acting as a server for it.

Users may need to install a driver utility on their own PC in order to use a networked peripheral.

Some benefits of using peripherals in this way are:

Some benefits of using the server in this way are:

Finally, data can be shared. e.g. If a company has a customer database it only needs to be kept on one computer, the others can access the data through the network.

Some benefits of sharing data in this way are:

Administration

Making it easier to run a system is a network benefit


Most networks have someone who is responsible for managing it. This may be a parent on a home network who sets the parental controls for their children. It may be an IT technician who looks after a small LAN in a school. It may be a network manager who runs a WAN for a large business.

In each case however, the management is made easier by having a network rather than a number of stand alone machines.

Having a network allows both centralised and remote administration.

Centralised administration means that important network functions such as security settings, user account management, back-up and restore, etc. can be carried out from a central point. Either on the server, or more usually on a PC which accesses the server over the network.

Remote administration means that devices around the network such as printers, PCs, wireless access points, etc, can be managed through a network connection from a central point.

In theory, administration tasks could be carried out from any PC on the network but in practice it is usually restricted to one PC or a small group of PCs. The reason for this is that some of the tasks will require utility software to be running on the PC.


Flexible Working

Making things easier for users is a network benefit

Users on a network will usually be given their own user account and file storage space on a file server.

User accounts can be set as roaming, which means that when a user logs on to any PC on the network, their own user settings will be displayed to them and they will be able to access their own storage space.

This system allows for greater flexibility of working. Users are not restricted to their own PC as they would be if the computers were not part of the network.

In addition, if the network has a wireless access point, users with Wi-Fi enabled machines, laptops, PDAs, etc. can join the network and work with the files and data held on the server.

Communication

Enabling better communication is a network benefit

One of the most useful things about a network is that it can be used for communication. This may be text communication such as Instant messaging or e-mail, spoken communication such as VoIP phones, or video communication such as video conferencing.

Network communication may also involve multi-player gaming, video streaming, or remote control of computers.

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