components of computer network diagram

Computer network components and their functions

A computer network is an interconnection of two or more computers with the aim of sharing resources and communication. Computer network components are devices that kames up the network to enable it to achieve its objective of sharing and communication.

Networking components include hardware, software, and protocols components that facilitate interconnection. Hardware networking components are routers, switches, firewalls, bridges, gateways, servers, clients, access points, MODEM, and hub among others

In this article, we discuss both the hardware and software requirements of a computer network

Hardware networking components

Hardware networking components are physical devices that make up the network. Depending on the type of network you can have different components for each network. Below are some of the main hardware network components that you find in almost all types of networks. 


A network router is a device that is used to connect to different types of networks that use different protocols. It is mostly used to link Local networks (LAN) to Wide Area Networks (WAN) specifically the Internet. Its other function is to route the message using the best and fast route to the destination.

When a user within a LAN sends an email, for example, the router checks the destination and forwards the message using the best path. Routers mostly are linked to an internet service provider who connects the user to the internet and the world.

You can read more about the types, functions, and components of network routers in this article.

Networking switch

A network switch is a device that acts as an interconnection point for different devices within the same network. It is mostly used to create a star topology type of connection within a room or building. It has multiple ports depending on its size to connect devices. 

Their main purpose is to act as a central connection point for other networking devices on the network. When it receives a message it decodes it and sends it directly to the addressed device instead of broadcasting to all other devices. This feature makes it an intelligent switch or hub.

There are different types of network switches such as managed and those that are not managed.

Networking Hub

Just like a network switch, hubs are used as a central point of connection for other networking devices. However, unlike the switch when they get the message they broadcast it to all other devices connected to it. 

This leaves all other devices to decide if the message was met for them or not. This can congest the network. Different types of hubs are active and passive hubs.

Network server computer

A server computer is a powerful computer within the network that is used to manage devices, users, and applications within a network. For a small network, you don’t require a server computer. However, in a business setup, a server may be necessary.

The hardware server computer can be used for different roles within the network such as web server, application server, and file server among others. You can read this other article on different types of server computers. Again here are our recommended physical computer servers for small businesses that we recommend.

MODEM (MODulation/DEModulation)

The term MODEM is derived from the function of the device which is to modulate and demodulate. Modems are to convert digital signals that computers produce into analog signals that can be transferred over the telephone line process called modulation. 

When the data reach the destination it is converted from analog signals back to digital signals that the computer can use a process called demodulation.

In earlier devices, they used to come as separate device but today they are integrated within the networking devices that require those capabilities.

Network Interface Card/Connector (NIC)

This is a network component that is integrated within the network device that is a connection point between the device and network media such as cable. 

The NIC can be wired or wireless. Wired NICs have ports to connect to the cable either ethernet, coaxial, or fiber cables. Wireless NIC has antennas that can be used to receive and broadcast wireless signals.

We have an article on the function, types, and uses of network interface cards you can read for more details.


Just as the name suggests, it is used to regenerate the signal and retransmit it.

Transmission media. When signals are transmitted over a long distance they tend to get weak. 

A repeater is positioned in the middle so that it receives the signal, boosts them, and then retransmitted to the destination. Most hubs and switches act as repeaters.


They are used to split a large network into smaller manageable networks. Instead of managing 200 computers with one big network bridge can be used to break it down into 2 networks of 100 by 100 computers. 

The two networks are still within the same LAN but now they can be managed as if they are totally different networks. This makes it simple to manage and troubleshoot network problems.

Endpoint devices

These are devices that are connected to the network for communication and sharing resources. The devices are mostly different types of personal computers. They include desktop computers, printers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, or any other devices connected to the network.

The devices can access the network either using a wired network or wireless depending on the organization’s policies.


This is a device that is mostly used to link to networks that use different protocols for communication. They are gatekeepers when the message needs to get in or out of the network. Mostly routers act as network gateways.

Networking media

Signals require a mode of traveling from one device to another hence media. Networking media are categorized into 2 types wired/corded and wireless/cordless.

Wired types of media are copper telephone cables, coaxial, twisted pair, and fiber optic cables. For wireless, we have technologies such as radio frequency, infrared, and microwave.


A firewall can be a hardware or software component. It is a security device that is used to determine what comes to the network and what gets out. Firewall rules are created depending on the organization’s ICT policies to ensure data and ICT infrastructure are secure from unauthorized users.

Networking software components

Computer hardware networking components can only work with their network software and protocols. The main software that is required for a network to function is as follows.

Networking server operating system

It is the operating system that is installed on the network server to manage other devices, users, and applications. For big organizations, a server computer with a network OS is a requirement for better resource utilization.

You can read more in this article that we have on different types of server or network operating systems.

Network protocols

Protocols are rules, guidelines, and standards that are used by devices on networking for seamless communication. For devices to communicate they should follow those rules. The main network protocols are TCP/IP, UDP, SMTP, TELNET, FTP, HTTPS, and POP among others.

Networking monitoring tools

To manage different devices on the network, you require tools to monitor what is happening. Networking tools are used to manage traffic, protocols used, security, and control access among other functions within the network.

Load balancers

For a large network that consumes a lot of bandwidth, the network may require a way of balancing how devices share the available bandwidth. The software is used to monitor the bandwidth consumption of the different devices and share it appropriately depending on the need of each device.

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