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In computing, a network structure is anything pertaining to a computer network. These systems may be anything from the design of the network all the way through implementation and use. Even with such a broad range, there are a few ways of using the term that are more common. These include the physical design of the network from a designer’s point of view, its organization from a business viewpoint and its common user view.
A network structure can be many different things to different people. From the perspective of one of the people that designed or implemented a network, it is a collection of wires, computers and components. On the business side, it is cost that needs to be balanced against usage information. Lastly, from the user’s standpoint, it is a means to an end that only needs consideration when it isn’t functioning properly.
A physical network structure is composed mostly of cables, switches and workstations. In larger businesses, these networks are often designed by a network architect and implemented by network engineers. In smaller areas or homes, the physical network is rarely complex enough to need an actual design.
There are two basic descriptions for a physical network structure—the local area network (LAN) and the wide area network (WAN). The LAN is any self-contained area of a network, and the outer area is a WAN. Problems may arise using this terminology when various parts of the network are viewed as separate by some and connected by others. In order to avoid confusion, most people say the LAN is the internal network and the WAN is the Internet and other non-connected LANs.
The business portion of a network structure is usually pretty simple. People are employed to monitor the network to observe how it is used and verify that it is being used properly. The cost of the network-specific employees plus the cost of maintenance and access charges are placed against the cost of working without the network. As long as the systems are making money for the business, the network continues; if it isn’t, then the network is cut back until it does again.
Users often ignore the network structure until it causes trouble. Logging onto virtual desktops that are being served from another office while accessing databases in another state becomes so common that it gets ignored. It is only when the system stops connecting or slows down for no perceivable reason that they begin to notice. The user experience with most networks is very transparent, the user may interact with the system, but they are looking past it while doing so.
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