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7 Essential Basic Computer Network Knowledge Every Programmer Must Master

top 7 essential basic computer network concepts

Table of Contents

Networks are like digital highways that allow computers and devices to communicate with each other. For programmers, having a solid understanding of basic computer network concepts is essential.
This article aims to provide programmers with the fundamental knowledge required to grasp the concepts of computer networks and their relevance to programming. So, let’s get started!

The Importance of Computer Networks

Computer networks enable the exchange of data and resources between multiple devices. They allow programmers to create distributed applications, share information across systems, and collaborate with other developers.

Understanding the fundamentals of computer networks helps programmers design efficient and reliable network-based applications.

1. Types of Computer Networks

Computer networks can be categorized into several types based on their geographical coverage and purpose.
Think of computer networks as different types of roads. We have different types of networks, just like we have different types of roads for various purposes.
Understanding the distinctions between these network types is crucial for building scalable and efficient systems.
Belows are the top 4 types of network that you should familiar with:
A Local Area Network, or LAN, is a network that covers a relatively small area such as an office building, school, or home. LANs are typically used to connect devices within a confined space and enable resource sharing, such as file and printer sharing.
A Wide Area Network, or WAN, spans a large geographical area, often connecting multiple LANs together. Imagine a superhighway connecting cities. A WAN covers larger distances and connects multiple LANs together.
A Metropolitan Area Network, or MAN, bridges the gap between LANs and WANs. It covers a larger area than a LAN but is smaller in scale compared to a WAN. MANs are commonly used to connect multiple LANs within a city or metropolitan area.
Imagine a small circle of friends communicating with each other. A PAN connects personal devices like smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices within a short range, like your headphones connecting to your phone via Bluetooth.

2. Network Topologies

Now, let’s talk about network topologies. Think of them as different ways to connect devices within a network, like arranging furniture in a room.
Here are some common network topologies you should be familiar with:
The bus topology connects all devices in a linear manner through a common communication medium. It is cost-effective but susceptible to network failures if the main cable is damaged.
In the star topology, all devices are connected to a central hub or switch. If one device fails, it does not affect the functioning of other devices, making the Star topology highly reliable.
In the ring topology, devices are connected in a circular manner, forming a closed loop. Data travels in one direction around the ring until it reaches the intended recipient. While this topology is resilient, the failure of a single device can disrupt the entire network.
In mesh topology, devices are connected in a fully interconnected network, where each device has a direct connection to every other device.
This results in a robust and highly reliable network, as multiple paths are available for data transmission. If one connection fails, data can be rerouted through alternative paths, ensuring continuous communication.

However, it requires more cabling and configuration complexity.

3. Network Protocols

Now, let’s talk about network protocols. Think of them as sets of rules for communication, just like following specific instructions to talk to someone.
The TCP/IP protocol suite is like the language used for communication on the internet. It’s a set of rules that guarantees reliable data transmission, breaks data into smaller packets, and ensures they’re put back together correctly, and reaches its intended destination.
The HTTP protocol is like a rule book for web browsing. It’s a set of instructions that web browsers and web servers follow to communicate with each other and show you web pages.
The FTP protocol is like a handy tool for moving files between computers. It’s a simple and straightforward way to upload and download files, just like sharing pictures or documents with others.
Sending emails is made possible by SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), which handles the job of getting your emails to their intended destinations.

4. IP Addressing and Subnetting

Now, let’s talk about IP addressing.
IP addressing is a fundamental aspect of computer networks, enabling devices to identify and communicate with each other. Think of it like unique house addresses for devices on a network.

IPv4 vs IPv6


Internet Protocol Version



32-bit addresses128-bit addresses

Number of Addresses

Approximately 4.3 billionApproximately 340 undecillion

Address Format

Decimal format (e.g., format (e.g., 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334)


Addresses becoming scarceAbundant addresses for future growth


-Widely used and well-understood.

-Beginners can start by learning IPv4.

- Future-proof solution with a vast address space, making it the long-term replacement for IPv4.

-Beginners can familiarize themselves with IPv6 directly without going through IPv4.

Subnetting Basics

Subnetting is like dividing a city into neighborhoods to make things more organized and efficient. It’s a technique used in computer networks to divide a larger network into smaller subnetworks, called subnets. It allows for efficient utilization of IP addresses and better management of network resources.

Classful and Classless IP Addressing

AspectClassful IP AddressingClassless IP Addressing (CIDR)
ApproachDivides IP addresses into fixed classes (A, B, C, D, E)Allows for variable-length subnet masks (VLSM)
Network SizePredefined network sizes for each classArbitrary network sizes
SubnettingDoes not support subnettingSupports subnetting and VLSM
Address AllocationInefficient use of IP addressesEfficient address allocation and aggregation
ScalabilityLimited scalability due to fixed class sizesBetter scalability and efficient use of IP addresses
NotationNo prefix notation usedPrefix notation (e.g., /24 for a subnet with 24 bits)
Widely UsedUsed in early versions of IPPrevailing method for modern IP addressing

5. Network Devices

Network devices play a crucial role in facilitating network connectivity and data transfer. As a programmer, it’s essential to have a good understanding of the following devices:
Like a traffic director, it connects different networks together and helps data find the best way to travel between them based on IP addresses.
It’s like a mail sorter. It connects devices within a local network and makes sure messages and information go to the right place based on MAC addresses.
Like a security guard, it protects the network from bad things by checking and controlling the data coming in and going out.

It acts as a barrier between internal and external networks, protecting against unauthorized access and potential threats.
Like a a central hub for wireless communication, it lets wireless devices like phones and tablets connect to a network without using cables by providing a wireless signal.
It’s like a translator. It helps computers talk to the internet by changing the information from the computer (digital data) into a language (analog signals) the internet can understand, and vice versa.
Like a connector, it’s a part inside a computer that provides a physical interface for devices to transmit and receive data over the network.

6. Network Security

Security is vital in any network, just like locking your doors and protecting your belongings. Let’s discuss some basic security concepts.
Imagine putting your message in a secret code so that only the intended recipient can understand it. Encryption protects data by encoding it, making it unreadable to unauthorized users.
Authentication is the process of verifying the identity of a user or device.

Think of it as confirming someone’s identity. Authentication ensures that only authorized users can access network resources, just like using a password or fingerprint to unlock your phone.

Common authentication methods include passwords, biometrics, and two-factor authentication (2FA).
Firewalls act as barriers between your network and the outside world, monitoring and controlling incoming and outgoing traffic.
IDS helps detect and alert administrators of any suspicious activities or potential security breaches.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) creates a secure and encrypted connection over a public network, ensuring privacy and data integrity.

Imagine a private tunnel within a public road. VPNs allow secure remote access to private networks over the internet. They create an encrypted connection, protecting your data.

7. Network Troubleshooting

Various tools help diagnose and resolve network issues, such as ping, tracert, and network analyzers like Wireshark.
Ping is like a messenger that checks if devices can communicate with each other. It sends a small message to a device and waits for a reply. This helps verify if the devices are connected and reachable.
Traceroute helps trace the path that messages take from one device to another. It shows the sequence of network hops (intermediate devices) the messages pass through. This helps identify delays or issues along the network path.
Monitoring tools constantly observe network devices, services, and performance metrics. They provide real-time insights into network health, identify anomalies, and alert administrators about potential issues. Network monitoring software helps proactively manage network performance and detect and resolve problems promptly.
Wireshark is like a powerful spy tool for network traffic.
Command-line tools such as ipconfig (Windows) and ifconfig (Linux/Unix) provide network configuration information for devices. They help verify IP addresses, network interfaces, DNS settings, and troubleshoot connectivity problems.


In conclusion, mastering basic computer network concepts is crucial for programmers. Understanding network topologies, protocols, IP addressing, security measures, and troubleshooting techniques empowers programmers to develop robust and efficient network-based applications.


Having network knowledge allows programmers to create efficient network-based applications, collaborate with other developers, and troubleshoot network-related issues.
To improve your understanding of computer networks, you can enroll in online courses, read relevant books, participate in forums, and practice implementing network-based projects.
Common network protocols used in programming include TCP/IP, HTTP, FTP, and DNS. Each protocol serves specific purposes in facilitating communication and data transfer.
IP addressing enables the identification and addressing of devices within a network, allowing for the transmission of data between them.
To enhance network security for your applications, you can implement firewalls, use secure protocols like HTTPS, employ encryption mechanisms, and regularly update and patch software vulnerabilities.
A LAN (Local Area Network) covers a small area, like an office or home, while a WAN (Wide Area Network) spans larger geographical areas, connecting multiple LANs together.
Subnetting allows for the efficient utilization of IP addresses by dividing a network into smaller subnets. It also improves network organization and simplifies network management.
Firewalls monitor and control network traffic based on predetermined security rules. They act as a barrier between internal and external networks, preventing unauthorized access and malicious activities.
Tools like Ping, Traceroute, IPConfig (Windows), ifconfig (Unix-like systems), and Wireshark are commonly used for network troubleshooting to diagnose and resolve network issues.
Cloud computing introduces concepts like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), Software-Defined Networking (SDN), and Network Function Virtualization (NFV), which provide more flexibility, scalability, and centralized management in network architectures.
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