In the world of computers there are lots of confusing terms and all of them need not be technical jargon. Even simple words such as internet and computer network can create a lot of confusion among the unknown and to those users who are not very tech-savvy.
It is very important for a user not to mix up between a computer network and the internet, which most of the users think to be the same.
This article provides the major differences between a computer network and the internet and also tells you which one among the two is more useful.
In This Article
- A computer network is a set of computer systems connected to each other in a specific location. The internet on the other hand, is the relationship between the computers that are linked across the globe.
- The computer systems connected in a network share the resources of the nodes of the network and use regular communication protocols through digital linkages in order to communicate with each other.
- The worldwide network of the internet connects people and computers from anywhere in the world to communicate with each other to share information. It needs an internet connection.
Computer Network vs Internet: The 14 Differences
A computer network was first set up in the 1950s and the 1960s with the Terminal Oriented Computer Networks which was expensive.
Later on time sharing methods were developed so that computer networks can be used by several users such as the network of mainframe computers in the 1960s and the 1970s, ARPANET or Advanced Research Projects Agency Network over a wider geographic area in the 1960s, and different types of LAN or Local Area Network in the 1980s.
On the other hand, some of the notable milestones of the internet are Intergalactic Computer Network pioneered by Dr. Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider in 1962, the TCP/IP protocol in 1982, World Wide Web in 1990, and mainstream Yahoo search engine in 1995.
2. Basic Differences
In a computer network usually the computers used are connected to each other physically.
These systems can be used both for sharing information and as a personal computer as well.
On the other hand, the internet refers to a particular technology that helps in connecting these computer networks, small or big, to create a larger network.
The term ‘network’ in a computer network signifies the group of two or more computer systems.
On the other hand, the internet refers to the interconnection of a couple of networks.
The primary goal of a computer network is to exchange data and information as well as collaborate with the users.
On the other hand, the main objective of the internet is to provide information and knowledge to the users as well as communicate with others over it.
As for the ownership, as it is quite evident, a computer network is typically owned by a community, one or more groups or by an organization.
On the other hand, the internet is certainly not owned by any individual privately and is open for all to use.
The set of computer systems and other devices in a computer network are connected to each other via LAN OR Local Area Network, WAN or Wide Area Network, CAN or Campus Area Network, HAN or Home Area Network and more.
On the other hand, the internet is that particular global system that links different types of electric devices all over the world through the World Wide Web.
7. Hardware Requirement
A computer network does not need a lot of hardware to set up.
However, in comparison, the internet requires a lot of different hardware devices to set up.
A computer network covers only a limited amount of distance, which, however, varies depending on the type of its connectivity.
On the other hand, the internet covers the whole world and it can be accessed from any part of the globe.
9. The Cost Factor
Since a computer network does not need more than two or three hardware devices for a basic setup, the cost of installation is relatively lower than the internet.
On the other hand, the internet needs a lot of hardware devices to work and is therefore quite expensive in comparison to a computer network.
10. Connectivity Management
The connections in a computer network are typically managed by one single entity through administrative rights.
On the other hand, the connectivity of the internet system is typically not managed by anyone.
11. Technologies Used
There are ideally two different types of technologies that combine together to result in a computer network. These two technologies are communication technology and computer technology.
On the other hand, the internet however uses the TCP/IP or Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol suite in order to connect different types of computer systems and other electric devices to the global system.
Some of the unique features of a computer network are high ability for load balancing, indoor and outdoor coverage options, weighted algorithm determining, application and web content filtering and more.
On the other hand, some of the notable features of the internet are a global network, decentralized connection of millions of computers, independent operation of the systems, and different ways of accessing offered by it.
13. IP Addresses
A computer network can have a completely private IP address.
However, in comparison, the internet needs public IP addresses.
A computer network can exist as fully virtual within a host.
On the other hand, the internet includes the host and cannot exist in only virtual devices.
Which is More Useful – Computer Network or Internet?
Ideally, the utility of the internet and a computer network is diverse and it largely depends on what a specific user is trying to achieve.
Therefore, you cannot say that the internet is more useful than the computer network or vice versa, outright.
Looking at the list of differences mentioned above you can clearly see that the main difference between a computer network and the internet is in their architecture and functionality.
While the set of different computer systems in a computer network is linked with each other in a shared environment, the internet is that large network of computers that can be connected from all over the world.
In a computer network the different resources that can be shared include:
- The internet connection and
- Other applications.
The different devices and computer systems can be connected in a network through different means such as:
- A communication device
- A wireless network or
- Transmission media.
As a result of this network-computer combination an integrated system is created which is capable of transferring data and information.
The internet is a huge collection of networks that includes private network and public networks that may involve many things as follows:
- Business and
- Government agencies.
A computer network is therefore considered to be a collection of several physically independent computer systems that work together as a single unit.
It therefore allows creating a heterogeneous network to communicate with each other by using an array of underlying hardware technologies.
Since you want to know which among the internet or a computer network is more useful, you will also need to know about the diverse needs of them.
The need for a computer network is to:
- Use a faster and more effective way to share or transfer files
- Use a common software program for all computer systems rather than buying a separate one for each which saves cost in turn
- Load software in the primary server instead of every computer system in the network which makes it more convenient and time saving
- Have an easy connectivity
- Use a fast communication method
- Share internet access
- Enhance performance and
- Get help in load balancing.
On the other hand, the need of the internet today is also equally wide and varied such as:
- It offers a wider range of operation at different locations all over the world
- It allows participating in live discussion groups all over the world
- It offers a cost-effective way to reach out to the global audience and sell product with less investment
- All different types of necessary information is available on the internet which eliminates the need to visit libraries to find and read specific books
- It keeps the users updated with the latest news and events
- It helps users to meet with people, forums, communities, websites, chats and other with the same interests and
- It makes life easy by allowing making online payments for different bills and others.
However, there are a few specific disadvantages of each. As for a computer network it can be listed as:
- Hardware and software requirements translates to high cost of initial setup
- Chances of undesirable sharing and undesirable or illegal behavior
- Data security which can be a big concern
- Regular maintenance requirements demand time, cost and expertise.
On the other hand, the downsides of the internet are:
- No censorship in statements made by the users may result in adverse influence on sensitive minds
- Chances of displaying unrelated results by the search engines
- Allowing video conferencing and virtual collaborations may result in a loss of human touch and
- High speed requirement.
At this point, it is important to know how the internet works.
The internet is ideally not one single technology but it is a stack or a group of technologies combined together.
All the technologies together form the Internet Protocol or IP suite, which is more commonly known as the TCP/IP stack.
This IP suite is what powers any network including the global internet. It typically consists of four different layers having diverse functionalities such as:
- The link layer
- The internet layer
- The transport layer and
- The application layer.
Here the link layer is actually the foundation of the network for communicating and is made up of different types of physical wires such as Ethernet or fiber optics.
It can also be created via wireless medium such as Wi-Fi.
This layer performs several functions such as:
- Acting as the physical medium for accessing the channel and
- Implementing MAC or Media Access Control address for transferring information and data between two devices.
The internet layer helps in communicating between networks by implementing the Internet Protocol which helps in moving data, a process called routing.
The characteristic features of this particular layer are:
- There is a unique IP address for every node in the network and
- The data packets pass through one router to another while travelling from the source to the destination address.
Data transmission through the internet layer is not very reliable because there is no guarantee that the data packet will reach its destination always and every time.
Now, it is the transport layer that implements the TCP or the Transmission Control Protocol and hence is also called the TCP layer. TCP is quite reliable because it is a connection oriented protocol.
It is here that the actual data packets that are transferred by the internet layer over the link layer are produced. These data packets are called segments.
When these segments are sent to the internet layer these are gathered in a packet and the packet is stamped with an IP address.
The transport layer then uses the ports to define the communication channel. The services and applications run on these ports.
The transport layer helps in communicating between the application server and the client over the network ports and the client devices are linked to these applications by the link layer.
Therefore, the transport layer manages the communication process to make it more efficient, reliable and standardized.
Finally, the application layer is where the services used by the clients are running. These services are:
- DNS or Domain Name System
- SMTP or Simple Mail Transfer Protocol
- HTTP or Hypertext Transfer Protocol servers and
- DHCP or Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol.
All these protocols are used for different functions during the communication process such as websites are accessed by a client device with a web browser by using the http protocol, an email client can access emails via SMTP protocol etc.
The application layer encodes the data which is passed on to the TCP layer for assembling them into segments.
This is the particular layer that enables the users to interact by using the internet.
Ideally, the basic principle of the internet stack is the abstraction of layers making sure that the protocol is satisfied.
With all that said and explained, it may be concluded that the internet is a good thing to have in a network to be able to gather necessary information from different sources all over the world.
However, the internet itself is a combination of different networks and therefore it can be safely said that both the internet and the computer networks are useful because the latter is a part of the former.
It is very clear to you now that you have read this article that the terms computer network and internet may seem to be in the same plane but there are lots of differences between them.
With such knowledge you can easily take part in a debate with your friends and turn out to be the winner.