Networking Jargon Explained (Part 2)

5/25/2012 5:59:32 PM


The term 'hub' is all-too-often used to refer to any piece of equipment that connects PCs together, but technically this type of device simply passes on (repeats) all the information it receives, so that all devices connected to its ports receive that information.

Description: Hub


Internet Protocol is the network protocol used on the Internet together with the Transport Control Protocol (TCP).


An ISP (Internet Service Provider) is a company that supplies Internet connectivity to customers. So that's the likes of Virgin, BT, 02, and such like.


A local area network (LAN) supplies networking capability to a group of computers in reasonably close proximity to one other, such as in a home or office block.

Mbps Or Mbit/s

Megabits per second. A measurement of how fast information is transmitted on a computer network. This is not to be confused with megabytes or kilobytes per second, which is what download speeds are normally measured in. One megabyte per second is equivalent to eight megabits per second. It's a cunning measurement designed to make speeds sound a bit quicker than they actually are, in all honesty.

MAC Address

Media Access Control technology and the interception of vehicles' MAC

Media Access Control (MAC) technology provides unique identification and access control for network adapters and hardware on a network.


Short for MODulator dEModulator, a modem - as defined by its current contemporary meaning - is a device that establishes Internet connectivity to a computer or router.


It may sound obvious, but a network is a series of computers or devices linked together by cables or over wireless technology. Normally in a home setting a network is facilitated by a single central router or switch, although point-to-point or 'ad hoc' networks can also be set up.

Network Adapter / NIC

Description: A network card (also called network adapter, network interface card

A network card (also called network adapter, network interface card

A network adapter interfaces a computer to a network. Most modern PCs have network cards built into the motherboard itself, but discrete cards still exist, even if they are quite rare now. They can still be useful for older machines, of course.


NAS stands for 'Network Attached Storage'. A NAS device is, at heart, a hard disk drive (or collection of hard disk drives) that's linked to your computers via the network, rather than being plugged into your computer directly. The advantage is your computers can share the data stored on it. It means that there's a communal space to store files, that isn't dependant on any individual computer being switched on. Sadly, the price of NAS drives has increased in recent times, along with the general price rise for hard drives. Hopefully, said prices will start to drop again as we near the end of the summer.


QoS stands for 'Quality of Service', and it can be a really useful feature in a particularly busy home network. It is a feature found in some modern routers that allow you to prioritise certain types of traffic so that your streaming of videos is not adversely affected by low priority services such as peer-to-peer file sharing.


Part of the TCP/IP networking protocol, ports allow software applications to share hardware resources without interfering with each other.


Description: Router

Technically, a router is a device that joins multiple wired or wireless networks together. In home networking, however, you might be best thinking of it as a device that distributes an Internet connection across multiple devices. This then allows them all to speak to one another.


A network server is basically a computer, albeit one that's designed to process requests and deliver data to other (client) computers over a local network or the Internet. Servers do a lot of the donkey work, as you might expect.


Service Set Identifier - the publically visible name given to a wireless network. This might be something like FREDSNETWORK or OVERPRICEDCOFFEESHOP. Or whatever you happen to call yours, of course.


Unlike hubs, network switches are capable of inspecting data as it is received, determining the source and destination device of each 'packet', and forwarding it appropriately. They are therefore more expensive than hubs, but that's sometimes a welcome price to pay for the work that they do.


You come across options like these when looking to keep your network protected. WEP and WPA stand for 'wired equivalent privacy' and 'Wi-fi Protected Access', and are two security systems used to prevent unwanted connections to your wireless network.

All modern routers use the latter which is more secure (the former is notoriously quite easy to crack now). Within these individual standards are other subtypes such as WPA2, which further improves security but require hardware support. By sticking to a recently released product you virtually guarantee compatibility with all current security standards, so that's generally the safest approach to take.


WDS or 'Wireless Distribution Service' allows you to extend the range of your wireless router by adding additional access points or routers to the network.


A common name for wireless networking technology.

Don't forget to check out our Wireless Networking Essentials piece this issue too, for the definitions of popular wireless hardware devices. Hopefully, though, that little lot has cleared up a few mysteries.

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