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Communication Networks

1 September, 2015 - 12:01

The key component for electronic communication systems is the network that provides the pathways for transfer of electronic data. Communication networks come in several different levels: from those designed to link a few computers together to the Internet, which links all publicly networked computers in the world together.


Within organizations, a major focus of network computing has been on client-server technology. Client-server technology is the physical and logical division between user-oriented application programs that run at the client level (i.e., user level) and the shared data that must be available through the server (i.e., a separate computer that handles centrally shared activities—such as databases and printing queues—between multiple users). The enabling networks underlying client-servertechnologies are local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs). LANs are communication networks that link together several different local user machines with printers, databases, and other shared devices. WANs are communication networks that link distributed users and local networks into an integrated communications network. Such systems have traditionally been the backbone of enterprise system technology, but recent advances in communications technology are rapidly changing the underlying infrastructure models to rely more on the Internet.


Review Question

Explain the difference between wide area networks and local area networks.


Network technologies are driving the evolution of e-business. These technologies allow for more simplified user interactions, and empower users to access broad arrays of data for supplementing management decision making as well as opening new avenues for direct commerce. The leading technology in this arena is the Internet,the massive interconnection of computer networks worldwide that enables communication between dissimilar technology platforms. The Internet is the network that connects all of the WANs to which organizations choose to have access.

To simplify access to the vast arrays of data that have suddenly become available via the Internet, Web browsers were developed by several vendors. Web browsers are software programs designed specifically to allow users to search through the various sites and data sources available on the Internet. The advent of this easy-to-use software has rippled back through organizations and caused a rethinking of how companies can set up their own networks. The result has been the development of intranets, which are essentially mini internal equivalents of the Internet that link an organization’s internal documents and databases into a system that is accessible through Web browsers or, increasingly, through internally developed software. For instance, the use of an intranet by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ TeamMatesystem to support teams of auditors will be discussed in Technology Application 5.1.

Extranets serve the same purpose as a WAN, in that they link together a set of users (usually from the supply chain of a single company, or a professional organization), but use the Internet instead of a private communication network. Access to the extranet is restricted, so that private activities using internal data can be securely supported as part of the organization’s business processes.

The by-product of the expansion in intranets, extranets, and the Internet is a rich media for e-business. These networks provide the foundation for what has been exponential growth in e-business—both at the resale level and in supplier-buyer relationships.