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Chapter 2: Technology Infrastructure

The Internet
A computer network is any technology that allows people to connect computers to each other. Internet is a global collection of networks, both big and small. One of the greatest things about the Internet is that nobody really owns it. The Internet Society, a non-profit group established in 1992, oversees the formation of the policies and protocols that define how we use and interact with the Internet.

Internet Protocol: IP Addresses

Every machine on the Internet has a unique identifying number, called an IP Address. The IP stands for Internet Protocol, which is the language that computers use to communicate over the Internet. A protocol is the pre-defined way that someone who wants to use a service talks with that service. A typical IP address looks like this: To make it easier for us humans to remember, IP addresses are normally expressed in decimal format as a dotted decimal number like the one above. But computers communicate in binary form. Look at the same IP address in binary: 11011000.00011011.00111101.10001001 The four numbers in an IP address are called octets, because they each have eight positions when viewed in binary form. If you add all the positions together, you get 32, which is why IP addresses are considered 32-bit numbers. Since each of the eight positions can have two different states (1 or zero), the total number of possible combinations per octet is 28 or 256. So each octet can contain any value between zero and 255. Combine the four octets and you get 232 or a possible 4,294,967,296 unique values! Out of the almost 4.3 billion possible combinations, certain values are restricted from use as typical IP addresses. For example, the IP address is reserved for the default network and the address is used for broadcasts.


The World Wide Web

WWW is a system of Internet servers that support specially formatted documents. The documents are formatted in a markup language called HTML (HyperText Markup Language) that supports links to other documents, as well as graphics, audio, and video files. This means you can jump from one document to another simply by clicking on hot spots. Not all Internet servers are part of the World Wide Web. There are several applications called Web browsers that make it easy to access the World Wide Web; Two of the most popular being Firefox and Microsoft's Internet Explorer.



Intranets and Extranets

An intranet is a private network that is contained within an enterprise. It may consist of many interlinked local area networks and also use leased lines in the wide area network. Typically, an intranet includes connections through one or more gateway computers to the outside Internet. The main purpose of an intranet is to share company information and computing resources among employees. An intranet can also be used to facilitate working in groups and for teleconferences. An extranet is a private network that uses Internet technology and the public telecommunication system to securely share part of a business's information or operations with suppliers, vendors, partners, customers, or other businesses. Companies can use an extranet to: Exchange large volumes of data using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Share product catalogs exclusively with wholesalers or those "in the trade" Collaborate with other companies on joint development efforts Jointly develop and use training programs with other companies Provide or access services provided by one company to a group of other companies, such as an online banking application managed by one company on behalf of affiliated banks Share news of common interest exclusively with partner companies



Virtual Private Network

Virtual private networking (VPN) is a method used to securely pass information from a home or office computer to a remote location. VPN configurations encrypt information and restrict the data passed in the communication stream. VPN connections require a user to enter a user name and password to protect the internal network and verify credentials from the user. Because VPN networks allow users to connect to remote networks, they are convenient ways for people to work from home while connected to a corporate network provided the VPN account information is entered correctly.


Internet Connectivity
ISPs offer several ways to connect to the Internet. The most common connection options are voice-grade telephone line, various types of broadband connections, leased line, and wireless. One of the major distinguishing factors between various ISPs and their connection options is the bandwidth they offer. Bandwidth is the amount of data that can travel through a communication line per unit of time. The higher the bandwidth, the faster data files travel and the faster Web pages appear on your screen. Traffic on the Internet and at your local service provider greatly affects net bandwidth Bandwidth can differ for data traveling to or from the ISP depending on the users connection type. Symmetric connections provide the same bandwidth in both directions. Asymmetric connections provide different bandwidths for each direction.