Basic Computer Network Components You’ll Need

Basic Computer Network Components You’ll Need

A network component refers to a device, software, or hardware unit that plays a specific role in network communication. Network components make up the infrastructure that supports all data transmission and facilitates network connectivity, communication, operations, and management of a computer network. 

What is a hardware network component composed of?

A hardware network component consists of physical devices that are required to install and manage a computer network. They are tangible, physical devices that provide the infrastructure for a network. 

These components primarily facilitate and control the flow of information across the network. Sections below highlight the key hardware components.

Nile Access Service integrates traditional separate 10+ products and services into a single comprehensive solution. This includes access/distribution switching, Wi-Fi access points (APs), and Wi-Fi sensors. For security, it extends zero trust principles to campus and branch, enabling isolation for users and devices, dynamic segmentation, and IoT device profiling. It also offers performance analytics, orchestration, guest authentication, and DHCP services in the cloud. 

The solution integrates infrastructure components, cloud orchestration, and lifecycle management services under a single data and software architecture. This architecture, powered by cloud-native software principles, drives automated workflows to address network, security, and operations engineering, thus accelerating service delivery and reducing business risk

Nile Access Service is powered by modern cloud software principles, and maintains best practices design for all customers. New and improved capabilities are automatically rolled out to all customers using a canary based software rollout mechanism that has been accepted as the best practice in agile software development, ensuring they are always on the latest technology. Nile also maintains the configuration, security, and operations for the underlying infrastructure. 

Nile's solution is a blend of hardware, software, and service innovation, ensuring a seamless and reliable access network across your sites and buildings. The solution is consumed with monthly billing, and comes with an industry first guaranteed performance for capacity, coverage and availability, translating to savings monthly service credits in case of SLA violations. 

Connecting devices

Connecting devices, sometimes referred to as networking devices or interconnection devices, are hardware components that link different parts of a network, enabling data to be sent and received along different routes.

Connecting devices are pivotal to your network design, each with their own specific functions:


This is a simple device that connects multiple devices on a network. It receives information from one connection and then sends it out to all others. In many modern networks, hubs are replaced with switches.


Similar to a hub, switches connect multiple devices on a network. However, they are more intelligent. They can read data packets and direct them to the right port only, reducing network traffic, and increasing security and efficiency.


These connect two or more different networks and direct data packets to their correct destinations across interconnected networks, often utilizing the best path to ensure efficient data delivery.


These boost the signal over the same network when it becomes weak after traveling long distances.


These devices modulate and demodulate signals, converting them from digital to analog and vice versa. This enables data to be transmitted over telephone or cable lines.


They connect two separate networks, working a bit like a router but typically used for smaller networks.


These connect two different network architectures, often different types of networks, and translate data between them.

Access points

In wireless networking, these provide a point from where devices can connect to the network. They can be standalone devices or incorporated into a router or gateway.

NIC (Network Interface Card)

These are used in computers to provide a network connection. They convert data from the computer into a format suitable for the network cable and vice versa. The network card handles communication between the computer and the network.

Shared printers and peripherals

These are devices like printers, scanners, or even storage devices that are connected to a network and can be accessed by other devices on the network. For example, a printer in the home connected to the Wi-Fi can be used by anyone at home to print their documents.

These devices are used depending upon the type and scale of the network being built, such as a small home network or large enterprise network, and provide both physical and logical connections between networked devices.


Servers, as hardware network components, are powerful computers that store, manage, and distribute data across a network. They have significantly larger processing power, memory, and storage capacity compared to typical personal computers. 

They are designed to be highly reliable and secure as they often contain confidential information and provide vital services that need to be available at all times. Servers often run specialized operating system software designed to support many users.

The primary function of a hardware server is to listen to and fulfill requests from networked computers (known as clients). These requests can involve retrieving and sending files, distributing emails, or serving up websites.

Servers come in various types, each tailored to perform specific tasks. For instance:

  • File server: A server dedicated to storing and managing files for all users in the network.
  • Web server: Hosts websites and makes them available over the internet.
  • Database server: Provides database services and responds to queries from clients.
  • Game server: A server used for online gaming which hosts multiplayer matches.
  • DNS server: Translates domain names into IP addresses.
  • Mail server: Manages, stores and transfers emails over the network.

Each server can be a dedicated server (performing one type of server task) or a shared server (performing multiple tasks). In large networks, servers may be housed in dedicated spaces known as server rooms or data centers.


Clients, as network hardware components, are computers or other devices on a network that utilize services and resources provided by servers. Each client has software that lets it communicate with the server known as the client program. 

In a typical client-server architecture, clients are the devices that initiate communication sessions by making requests to servers, which then respond to the clients. These requests could be for data, like retrieving a web page, or services, such as printing a document.

Client devices can range from personal computers (desktops, laptops), to smartphones and tablets, and even other hardware devices like printers and scanners. Clients can also be thin clients or thick clients depending on the amount of processing power they possess and how much of the application and its data is stored on the client compared to the server.

In summary, clients are endpoints in a network that interacts with servers to access shared network services and resources.


In the context of networking, a "peer" usually refers to a computer or a node that is participating in some form of peer-to-peer (P2P) network. Peer-to-peer networking is where each peer (also known as nodes or members) is equal and can act as both a server and a client to the other peers in the network. 

Peer devices commonly act as both clients and servers, sharing resources like content, disk storage, or CPU power directly from one peer to another without having to go through a separate server. A popular example of this is file-sharing networks or blockchain networks.

As a hardware component, a peer could simply be any standard computer or device that is equipped with suitable peer-to-peer networking software. It is the software that gives the device the ability to act as a peer, but the device itself could consist of common hardware components such as a CPU, memory, storage, and a network interface for connecting to the network.

In summary, as a network hardware component, a peer is essentially any device that is part of a network and can engage in peer-to-peer communication with other network devices.

Transmission media

Transmission media in the context of computer networking refers to the physical pathways that connect computers, other devices, and people on a network. They are designed to carry a data signal and can be wired or wireless.

Wired transmission media (also known as Guided)

This type of media involves the use of physical cables and wires to transmit data between devices. Examples include:

  • Twisted-pair cable: Composed of color-coded pairs of insulated copper wires, one for data and one for ground, twisted around each other to minimize electromagnetic interference. They are commonly used in telephone lines and local area networks.
  • Coaxial cable: Consists of an inner conductor surrounded by a layer of insulation, with a conductive shield. These types of cables provide high bandwidth rates and are commonly used for cable television and networking purposes.
  • Fiber-optic cable: Transmits data as pulses of light. They have a high data transmission rate and are not affected by electromagnetic interference. They are expensive but offer higher capacity and speed and are mainly used for long-distance telecommunication.

Wireless transmission media (also known as Unguided)

This type of media does not require physical conductors or cables. Data is transmitted through the air using electromagnetic waves. Examples include:

  • Radio Waves: Used for broadcasting purposes such as television and radio, as well as wireless network connections like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
  • Microwaves: Highly directional waves that are used to transmit data over long distances, in circumstances when it's not feasible or too expensive to use cables. They're often used for satellite and mobile communications.
  • Infrared: Commonly used in short-range, line-of-sight communications like television remote controls and infrared-enabled devices.

Transmission media are a crucial part of a network setup and the type chosen will depend largely on the specific requirements of the network, such as desired speed, cost, and physical environment.

What is a software network composed of?

Software network components are essential entities in a network that help in the seamless flow of data. They are comprised of:

Network operating system (NOS)

A Network Operating System (NOS) is a type of software that manages and coordinates networked computers and allows communication and sharing of data, printers, applications, and other resources among interconnected computers in the network. 

The NOS provides a framework for users and applications to access network services such as file sharing, printer sharing, and data communication.

There are two types of Network Operating Systems:

Peer-to-peer network operating system

In this system, all computers on the network have equal status, and no computer is superior to the others. Each computer can both request network resources and provide network resources to other computers.

Client/server network operating system

In this model, one or more computers (servers) have a more powerful role and host resources such as files, printers, and databases. The other computers (clients) access these resources.

Examples of Network Operating Systems include Novell NetWare, Windows Server, Linux, Sun Solaris, UNIX, and Mac OS X Server. Features of a NOS can include security management, fault tolerance, internet services, user management, file management, and device management.

Protocol suite

A protocol suite is a set of communication protocols that are used to implement network communications or any communication technology. These protocols interact with each other to provide a network with its protocol stack, which is used to implement the suite. It specifies the protocols to be used at different stages of the communication process.

Each protocol in the suite handles a specific process associated with network communication, and the collection of protocols works together to make the network function.

For example:

  • The Internet Protocol Suite, also known as TCP/IP, is the basis for all modern internet traffic. It handles functions ranging from routing network traffic to host addressing, naming, and error handling.
  • The OSI Model, used mostly for teaching purposes, is a conceptual framework that describes how different network protocols interact and work together to deliver and receive data.

TCP/IP model

The TCP/IP model, also known as the Internet Protocol Suite, is a set of communication protocols for the Internet and similar networks. It is named after two of its most important protocols, the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), which provide transport and addressing, respectively.

The TCP/IP model is composed of four layers:

  1. Application Layer: This layer handles high-level protocols, issues of representation, encoding, and dialogue control. Common examples of Application layer protocols include HTTP, FTP, SMTP, DNS, etc.
  2. Transport Layer: This layer provides transparent transfer of data between devices and is responsible for end-to-end error recovery and flow control. It ensures complete data transfer. The protocols used are TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol).
  3. Internet Layer: This is also known as the network layer. It packs data into data packets known as IP datagrams, which contain source and destination address information that's used to forward the datagrams between hosts and across networks. The Internet Protocol (IP) is used in this layer.
  4. Network Access Layer: This layer, also called the Link or Network Interface layer, comprises protocols that operate only on a link that a host is connected to. The protocols are Ethernet, Wi-Fi, etc.

Simply put, the TCP/IP model is the foundation of all modern internet-based communications and enables devices to communicate and exchange data with each other.

OSI Model

The OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) Model is a conceptual framework that standardizes the functions of a network into seven distinct categories, also referred to as layers. It was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to facilitate interoperability between diverse communication systems with standard protocols.

The seven layers of the OSI Model are:

  1. Physical Layer (Layer 1): This layer encompasses the physical equipment involved in data transport. It deals with the physical characteristics of the transmission medium like cables, connectors, voltages, pin layout, etc.
  2. Data Link Layer (Layer 2): It provides reliable transit of data across the physical layer. It also handles error correction from the physical layer and flow control.
  3. Network Layer (Layer 3): It handles routing - transmitting data sequences from one network to another.
  4. Transport Layer (Layer 4): It is responsible for delivering data across network connections. It manages packet sequencing, acknowledgment, error checking, and retransmission of lost data.
  5. Session Layer (Layer 5): This layer manages communication sessions, controlling the connections between computers. It establishes, maintains, and terminates connections between local and remote applications.
  6. Presentation Layer (Layer 6): It works to transform data into the form that the application layer can accept. It handles data compression, encryption, and translation services.
  7. Application Layer (Layer 7): This is the layer that interacts with operating system applications. It identifies communication partners and resource availability, and synchronizes communication.

OSI Model is mainly used as a point of reference for understanding how different network protocols interact and work together to provide network services. It is important to note that not all network protocols fit neatly into this model.

Eliminate network component complexity

By utilizing advanced network planning and design methodologies, Nile Access Service ensures that your network is optimized for coverage and performance, effectively eliminating the guesswork and complexity that comes with choosing the best network components, topology, and design.

It is a comprehensive package that includes switching, wireless access points, Wi-Fi sensors, Campus Zero Trust, dynamic segmentation, IoT profiling, performance analytics, guest authentication and DHCP services in the cloud, cloud orchestration, production reliability engineering, lifecycle management services and more.

This optimization enhances user experience and leads to significant cost savings in hardware, maintenance, and energy consumption. Nile's approach to network installation and management is grounded in zero-trust principles, further enhancing network security and reducing the risk of costly security breaches.


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