A network is an interconnected system of nodes, or objects. In computer terminology, networks usually refer to either the electric distribution systems some large IT providers manage, or systems of interconnected computers. The largest of these computer networks is the Internet. Other computer networks may be as small as a single personal computer connected to the Internet via a router, or as large as a university campus with several thousand machines communicating via a central server. Other common networks include small home LAN's, company intranets, and VPN virtual networks.
The Virtual Private Network is a special case in regard to computer networks. While most networks have several layers of application protocol, the VPN tried to address issues of network security, authorization, and encryption at a low protocol level. Additionally, a requirement of a VPN is that the underlying network should appear transparent to the computers communicating over the it, thus creating the appearance of a LAN. While the VPN is not a dedicated network in the traditional sense, users accessing computers via VPN are treated to many of the comforts of a LAN.
Wireless home networks are becoming extremely popular. The reduction in cost of wireless equipment has seen thousands of new consumer-grade products enter the market. The vast majority of these connect via the popular IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi standards. In fact, many homes and small establishments would not have computer networks were it not for Wi-Fi, thus the technology is often perceived as not simply being a wireless version of the standard wired network. Wi-Fi enables networked computers to be placed in locations otherwise unavailable, such as a laptop computer on a swimming pool float, or even some city-wide efforts to blanket several square kilometers with Wi-Fi reception.
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