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Novell's Networking Primer

What is a Computer Network?

On the most fundamental level, a computer network is an interconnected collection of devices that enables you to store, retrieve, and share information. Commonly connected devices include personal computers (PCs), minicomputers, mainframe computers, terminals, workstations, thin clients, printers, fax machines, pagers, and various data-storage devices. Recently, other types of devices have become network connectable, including interactive televisions, videophones, handheld devices, and navigational and environmental control systems. Eventually, networked devices everywhere will provide two-way access to a vast array of resources on a global computer network through the largest network of all, the Internet.

In today's business world a computer network is more than a collection of interconnected devices. For many businesses the computer network is the resource that enables them to gather, analyze, organize, and disseminate information that is essential to their profitability. The rise of intranets and extranets—business networks based on Internet technology—is an indication of the critical importance of computer networking to businesses. Intranets, extranets, and the Internet will be treated in more detail in a later section. For now, it is enough to understand that most businesses have installed intranets to collect, manage, and disseminate information more quickly and easily than ever before. They established intranets simply to remain competitive; now, the momentum continues, and extending the company network to the Internet is the next technological transformation of the traditional business.

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