Networking devices are electronic devices that help multiple computer devices like desktops, mobiles, laptops, printers, and other devices to communicate, interact, and share information. Different types of networks like a star, bus, mesh network, and many others exist; networking devices function as nodes and help connect devices in such a network.
A protocol in a computer network decides how the different devices should communicate with each other; this includes protocols like TCP, IP, DHCP, FTP, and others. Also, data is transferred within a network via data packets; due to the humongous data transmitted over a network, we need devices that will help in easy communication and flow of the data. Network devices control the flow of data packets and help transmit the data from the source to the destination within a network and between networks. A network management system helps to manage multiple networks together; it also handles the operation of different software and hardware devices present in the network.
When it comes to a network, networking devices help to connect inter-network and intra-network devices. Devices that allow connecting inter-network devices include RJ45 and NIC cards. On the other hand, devices like switches, routers, and hubs help to connect intra-network devices.
Below are the most commonly used networking devices:
- Repeater: A repeater is a networking device that receives a signal, amplifies it, and retransmits it using higher signal power. This is done as a signal loses its power after traveling long distances. A repeater helps the signal travel longer distances (like 100 meters) and operates in the physical layer of the network
- Hub: Network hubs are the simplest networking devices; it also does a repeater’s function to amplify signals that travel long distances. It works both with analog and digital data. If it receives analog data, it transmits in the form of a signal, and if it receives digital data, it transmits in the form of data packets. It is not an intelligent device that performs packet filtering; instead, whatever data it receives it transmits it to all the connected devices.
Active Hub- It works as a repeater to clean and increase the power so that the signal can travel long distances.
Passive Hub- It collects the wiring from other nodes and power supplies of an active hub and retransmits them without any amplification.
Intelligent Hub- This hub can monitor the network’s traffic using admin access and configure all the ports in the hub. It is a smart network device that helps with remote network management.
- Bridge: Bridges help to connect two or more networks. It divides an extensive network into multiple smaller networks and enables communication between these smaller networks. The function of the bridge lies in storing and transferring data frames using Media Access Control (MAC) addresses; it identifies the MAC address of the devices and transmits the frames to them.
Unlike hubs, it does not transfer frames to all the connected devices. It receives data packets called ’frames’, identifies the address, and sends only to particular devices. For this purpose, it uses a bridge table. The bridge table stores the LAN addresses of computers and other bridges. This helps to transfer the frames to these devices.
- Modem: Modems are usually used by cable operators and telephone companies. They transform the incoming digital signal into analogue and transmit them. On the receiver end, it retransforms analogue signals into digital and helps the computer interpret the digital version of the signal. The digital data that is transformed to the model or received from the modem to the computer is over a serial line (RS 232)
- Router: Routers are intelligent networking devices that can store data packets for the connected networks and use packet filtering to transmit these data packets. They enable the packets to get transmitted within a large network of connected computers. Border routers help translate LAN to WAN framing as LAN and WAN use different protocols.
Like a bridge, a router divides a large network into multiple smaller networks and enables data transfer between them; it also transfers data between multiple routers in these smaller networks. Being an intelligent device, it knows where to request if the destination address is unavailable.
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- Switches: Network switches are multiport devices that enable multiple systems to communicate and have less information about the nodes within a network. They can see the destination hardware address of the data packets and transmit them accordingly to the desired destination.
A switch increases network security and network efficiency because of its ability to switch virtual circuits. Virtual circuits cannot be seen by network monitors, hence providing security. If used, it gives better results than routers and hubs.
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- Access Points: This usually refers to a wireless device but can be used for both wired and wireless devices. It has multiple functions to act as a bridge connecting wired devices or as a router to transmit data between devices.
Wireless Access Points (WAPs) are devices that are made up of two components: a transmitter and the receiver (transceiver) to create a wireless network (WLAN). Network devices that have a built-in antenna, transmitter, or adaptor are referred to as access points. APs use the wireless infrastructure network mode to connect WLANs and a wired Ethernet LAN. They also contain many ports, allowing you to expand the network to accommodate more clients. Multiple access points can be used for more excellent coverage, depending on the size of the network. To increase the range of wireless networks, additional APs can be used.
- Gateways: Gateways can operate at multiple layers of the network. It interconnects two networks together; gateways can receive data, interpret it, and transfer it to another system.
Open System Interconnection (OSI) and Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) are two networking protocols translated by gateways. Gateways connect two or more independent networks, each having its routing algorithms, protocols, topology, domain name service, and network administration procedures and rules as a result of this. It can perform almost all the duties of routers, a gateway can be called a router with additional translation capabilities.
A network should be closely monitored for security and to see that devices and data transfer within the network are not redundant and at an optimum level. If there are any issues or bugs in a network, they should be immediately resolved for data security and network efficiency. It should be protected from malicious attacks and other risks associated with such network devices.