When you’re faced with a task, you often wish you had the help of a friend. As they say, two heads are better than one, and collaboration can be the key to solving a problem or overcoming a challenge. With computer networks, we can say two nodes are better than one. These unique environments consist of at least two interconnected nodes that share and exchange data and resources, for which they use specific rules called “communications protocols.” Every node has its position within the network and a name and address to identify it.

The possibilities of computer networks are difficult to grasp. They make transferring files and communicating with others on the same network a breeze. The networks also boost storage capacity and provide you with more leeway to meet your goals.

One node can be powerful, but a computer network with several nodes can be like a super-computer capable of completing challenging tasks in record times.

In this introduction to computer networks, we’ll discuss the different types in detail. We’ll also tackle their applications and components and talk more about network topologies, protocols, and security.

Components of a Computer Network

Let’s start with computer network basics. A computer network is comprised of components that it can’t function without. These components can be divided into hardware and software. The easiest way to remember the difference between the two is to know that software is something “invisible,” i.e., stored inside a device. Hardware components are physical objects we can touch.

Hardware Components

  • Network interface cards (NICs) – This is the magic part that connects a computer to a network or another computer. There are wired and wireless NICs. Wired NICs are inside the motherboard and connect to cables to transfer data, while wireless NICs have an antenna that connects to a network.
  • Switches – A switch is a type of mediator. It’s the component that connects several devices to a network. This is what you’ll use to send a direct message to a specific device instead of the entire network.
  • Routers – This is the device that uses an internet connection to connect to a local area network (LAN). It’s like a traffic officer who controls and directs data packets to networks.
  • Hubs – This handy component divides a network connection into multiple computers. This is the distribution center that receives information requests from a computer and places the information to the entire network.
  • Cables and connectors – Different types of cables and connectors are required to keep the network operating.

Software Components

  • Network operating system (NOS) – A NOS is usually installed on the server. It creates an adequate environment for sharing and transmitting files, applications, and databases between computers.
  • Network protocols – Computers interpret network protocols as guidelines for data communication.
  • Network services – They serve as bridges that connect users to the apps or data on a specific network.

Types of Computer Networks

Local Area Network (LAN)

This is a small, limited-capacity network you’ll typically see in small companies, schools, labs, or homes. LANs can also be used as test networks for troubleshooting or modeling.

The main advantage of a local area network is convenience. Besides being easy to set up, a LAN is affordable and offers decent speed. The obvious drawback is its limited size.

Wide Area Network (WAN)

In many aspects, a WAN is similar to a LAN. The crucial difference is the size. As its name indicates, a WAN can cover a large space and can “accept” more users. If you have a large company and want to connect your in-office and remote employees, data centers, and suppliers, you need a WAN.

These networks cover huge areas and stretch across the globe. We can say that the internet is a type of a WAN, which gives you a good idea of how much space it covers.

The bigger size comes at a cost. Wide area networks are more complex to set up and manage and cost more money to operate.

Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)

A metropolitan area network is just like a local area network but on a much bigger scale. This network covers entire cities. A MAN is the golden middle; it’s bigger than a LAN but smaller than a WAN. Cable TV networks are the perfect representatives of metropolitan area networks.

A MAN has a decent size and good security and provides the perfect foundation for a larger network. It’s efficient, cost-effective, and relatively easy to work with.

As far as the drawbacks go, you should know that setting up the network can be complex and require the help of professional technicians. Plus, a MAN can suffer from slower speed, especially during peak hours.

Personal Area Network (PAN)

If you want to connect your technology devices and know nobody else will be using your network, a PAN is the way to go. This network is smaller than a LAN and can interconnect devices in your proximity (the average range is about 33 feet).

A PAN is simple to install and use and doesn’t have components that can take up extra space. Plus, the network is convenient, as you can move it around without losing connection. Some drawbacks are the limited range and slower data transfer.

These days, you encounter PANs on a daily basis: smartphones, gaming consoles, wireless keyboards, and TV remotes are well-known examples.

Network Topologies

Network topologies represent ways in which elements of a computer network are arranged and related to each other. Here are the five basic types:

  • Bus topology – In this case, all network devices and computers connect to only one cable.
  • Star topology – Here, all eyes are on the hub, as that is where all devices “meet.” In this topology, you don’t have a direct connection between the devices; the hub acts as a mediator.
  • Ring topology – Device connections create a ring; the last device is connected to the first, thus forming a circle.
  • Mesh topology – In this topology, all devices belonging to a network are interconnected, making data sharing a breeze.
  • Hybrid topology – As you can assume, this is a mix of two or more topologies.

Network Protocols

Network protocols determine how a device connected to a network communicates and exchanges information. There are the five most common types:

  • Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) – A communication protocol that interconnects devices to a network and lets them send/receive data.
  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) – This application layer protocol transfers hypertext and lets users communicate data across the World Wide Web (www).
  • File Transfer Protocol (FTP) – It’s used for transferring files (documents, multimedia, texts, programs, etc.)
  • Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) – It transmits electronic mails (e-mails).
  • Domain Name System (DNS) – It converts domain names to IP addresses through which computers and devices are identified on a network.

Network Security

Computer networks are often used to transfer and share sensitive data. Without adequate network security, this data could end up in the wrong hands, not to mention that numerous threats could jeopardize the network’s health.

Here are the types of threats you should be on the lookout for:

  • Viruses and malware – These can make your network “sick.” When they penetrate a system, viruses and malware replicate themselves, eliminating the “good” code.
  • Unauthorized access – These are guests who want to come into your house, but you don’t want to let them in.
  • Denial of service attacks – These dangerous attacks have only one goal: making the network inaccessible to the users (you). If you’re running a business, these attacks will also prevent your customers from accessing the website, which can harm your company’s reputation and revenue.

What can you do to keep your network safe? These are the best security measures:

  • Firewalls – A firewall acts as your network’s surveillance system. It uses specific security rules as guidelines for monitoring the traffic and spotting untrusted networks.
  • Intrusion detection systems – These systems also monitor your network and report suspicious activity to the administrator or collect the information centrally.
  • Encryption – This is the process of converting regular text to ciphertext. Such text is virtually unusable to everyone except authorized personnel who have the key to access the original data.
  • Virtual private networks (VPNs) – These networks are like magical portals that guarantee safe and private connections thanks to encrypted tunnels. They mask your IP address, meaning nobody can tell your real location.
  • Regular updates and patches – These add top-notch security features to your network and remove outdated features at the same time. By not updating your network, you make it more vulnerable to threats.

Reap the Benefits of Computer Networks

Whether you need a network for a few personal devices or want to connect with hundreds of employees and suppliers, computer networks have many uses and benefits. They take data sharing, efficiency, and accessibility to a new level.

If you want your computer network to function flawlessly, you need to take good care of it, no matter its size. This means staying in the loop about the latest industry trends. We can expect to see more AI in computer networking, as it will only make them even more beneficial.

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New OPIT Degrees launching (soon)!
Riccardo Ocleppo
Nov 29, 2023 2 min read


Soon, we will be launching four new Degrees for AY24-25 at OPIT – Open Institute of Technology
I want to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Product Definition process that has shaped these upcoming programs.

🚀 Phase 1: Discovery (Late May – End of July)

Our journey began with intensive brainstorming sessions with OPIT’s Academic Board (Francesco Profumo, Lorenzo Livi, Alexiei Dingli, Andrea Pescino, Rosario Maccarrone) . We also conducted 50+ interviews with tech and digital entrepreneurs (both from startups and established firms), academics and students. Finally, we deep-dived into the “Future of Jobs 2023” report by the World Economic Forum and other valuable research.

🔍 Phase 2: Selection – Crafting Our Roadmap (July – August)

Our focus? Introducing new degrees addressing critical workforce shortages and upskilling/reskilling needs for the next 5-10 years, promising significant societal impact and a broad market reach.
Our decision? To channel our energies on full BScs and MScs, and steer away from shorter courses or corporate-focused offerings. This aligns perfectly with our core mission.

💡 Focus Areas Unveiled!

We’re thrilled to concentrate on pivotal fields like:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Advanced AI
  • Digital Business
  • Metaverse & Gaming
  • Cloud Computing (less “glamorous”, but market demand is undeniable).

🎓 Phase 3: Definition – Shaping the Degrees (August – November)

With an expert in each of the above fields, and with the strong collaboration of our Academic Director, Prof. Lorenzo Livi , we embarked on a rigorous “drill-down process”. Our goal? To meld modern theoretical knowledge with cutting-edge competencies and skills. This phase included interviewing over 60+ top academics, industry professionals, and students and get valuable, program-specific, insights from our Marketing department.

🌟 Phase 4: Accreditation and Launch – The Final Stretch

We’re currently in the accreditation process, gearing up for the launch. The focus is now shifting towards marketing, working closely with Greta Maiocchi and her Marketing and Admissions team. Together, we’re translating our new academic offering into a compelling value proposition for the market.

Stay tuned for more updates!

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Five Reasons to Study Online at OPIT
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
Nov 29, 2023 9 min read

Far from being a temporary educational measure that came into its own during the pandemic, online education is providing students from all over the world with new ways to learn. That’s proven by statistics from Oxford Learning College, which point out that over 100 million students are now enrolled in some form of online course.

The demand for these types of courses clearly exists.

In fact, the same organization indicates that educational facilities that introduce online learning see a 42% increase in income – on average – suggesting that the demand is there.

Enter the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT).

Delivering three online courses – a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and two Master’s degrees – with more to come, OPIT is positioning itself as a leader in the online education space. But why is that? After all, many institutions are making the jump to e-learning, so what separates OPIT from the pack?

Here, you’ll discover the answers as you delve into the five reasons why you should trust OPIT for your online education.

Reason 1 – A Practical Approach

OPIT focuses on computer science education – a field in which theory often dominates the educational landscape. The organization’s Rector, Professor Francesco Profumo, makes this clear in a press release from June 2023. He points to a misalignment between what educators are teaching computer science students and what the labor market actually needs from those students as a key problem.

“The starting point is the awareness of the misalignment,” he says when talking about how OPIT structures its online courses. “That so-called mismatch is generated by too much theory and too little practical approach.” In other words, students in many classes spend far too much time learning the “hows” and “whys” behind computerized systems without actually getting their hands dirty with real work that gives them practical experience in using those systems.

OPIT takes a different approach.

It has developed a didactic approach that focuses far more on the practical element than other courses. That approach is delivered through a combination of classroom sessions – such as live lessons and masterclasses – and practical work offered through quizzes and exercises that mimic real-world situations.

An OPIT student doesn’t simply learn how computers work. They put their skills into practice through direct programming and application, equipping them with skills that are extremely attractive to major employers in the tech field and beyond.

Reason 2 – Flexibility Combined With Support

Flexibility in how you study is one of the main benefits of any online course.

You control when you learn and how you do it, creating an environment that’s beneficial to your education rather than being forced into a classroom setting with which you may not feel comfortable. This is hardly new ground. Any online educational platform can claim that it offers “flexibility” simply because it provides courses via the web.

Where OPIT differs is that it combines that flexibility with unparalleled support bolstered by the experiences of teachers employed from all over the world. The founder and director of OPIT, Riccardo Ocleppo, sheds more light on this difference in approach when he says, “We believe that education, even if it takes place physically at a distance, must guarantee closeness on all other aspects.” That closeness starts with the support offered to students throughout their entire study period.

Tutors are accessible to students at all times. Plus, every participant benefits from weekly professor interactions, ensuring they aren’t left feeling stuck on an educational “island” and have to rely solely on themselves for their education. OPIT further counters the potential isolation that comes with online learning with a Student Support team to guide students through any difficulties they may have with their courses.

In this focus on support, OPIT showcases one of its main differences from other online platforms.

You don’t simply receive course material before being told to “get on with it.” You have the flexibility to learn at your own pace while also having a support structure that serves as a foundation for that learning.

Reason 3 – OPIT Can Adapt to Change Quickly

The field of computer science is constantly evolving.

In the 2020s alone, we’ve seen the rise of generative AI – spurred on by the explosive success of services like ChatGPT – and how those new technologies have changed the way that people use computers.

Riccardo Ocleppo has seen the impact that these constant evolutions have had on students. Before founding OPIT, he was an entrepreneur who received first-hand experience of the fact that many traditional educational institutions struggle to adapt to change.

“Traditional educational institutions are very slow to adapt to this wave of new technologies and trends within the educational sector,” he says. He points to computer science as a particular issue, highlighting the example of a board in Italy of which he is a member. That board – packed with some of the country’s most prestigious tech universities – spent three years eventually deciding to add just two modules on new and emerging technologies to their study programs.

That left Ocleppo feeling frustrated.

When he founded OPIT, he did so intending to make it an adaptable institution in which courses were informed by what the industry needs. Every member of its faculty is not only a superb teacher but also somebody with experience working in industry. Speaking of industry, OPIT collaborates with major companies in the tech field to ensure its courses deliver the skills that those organizations expect from new candidates.

This confronts frustration on both sides. For companies, an OPIT graduate is one for which they don’t need to bridge a “skill gap” between what they’ve learned and what the company needs. For you, as a student, it means that you’re developing skills that make you a more desirable prospect once you have your degree.

Reason 4 – OPIT Delivers Tier One Education

Despite their popularity, online courses can still carry a stigma of not being “legitimate” in the face of more traditional degrees. Ocleppo is acutely aware of this fact, which is why he’s quick to point out that OPIT always aims to deliver a Tier One education in the computer science field.

“That means putting together the best professors who create superb learning material, all brought together with a teaching methodology that leverages the advancements made in online teaching,” he says.

OPIT’s degrees are all accredited by the European Union to support this approach, ensuring they carry as much weight as any other European degree. It’s accredited by both the European Qualification Framework (EQF) and the Malta Qualification Framework (MQF), with all of its courses having full legal value throughout Europe.

It’s also here where we see OPIT’s approach to practicality come into play via its course structuring.

Take its Bachelor’s degree in computer science as an example.

Yes, that course starts with a focus on theoretical and foundational knowledge. Building a computer and understanding how the device processes instructions is vital information from a programming perspective. But once those foundations are in place, OPIT delivers on its promises of covering the most current topics in the field.

Machine learning, cloud computing, data science, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity – all valuable to employers – are taught at the undergraduate level. Students benefit from a broader approach to computer science than most institutions are capable of, rather than bogging them down in theory that serves little practical purpose.

Reason 5 – The Learning Experience

Let’s wrap up by honing in on what it’s actually like for students to learn with OPIT.

After all, as Ocleppo points out, one of the main challenges with online education is that students rarely have defined checkpoints to follow. They can start feeling lost in the process, confronted with a metaphorical ocean of information they need to learn, all in service of one big exam at the end.

Alternatively, some students may feel the temptation to not work through the materials thoroughly, focusing instead on passing a final exam. The result is that those students may pass, but they do so without a full grasp of what they’ve learned – a nightmare for employers who already have skill gaps to handle.

OPIT confronts both challenges by focusing on a continuous learning methodology. Assessments – primarily practical – take place throughout the course, serving as much-needed checkpoints for evaluating progress. When combined with the previously mentioned support that OPIT offers, this approach has led to courses that are created from scratch in service of the student’s actual needs.

Choose OPIT for Your Computer Science Education

At OPIT, the focus lies as much on helping students to achieve their dream careers as it does on teaching them. All courses are built collaboratively. With a dedicated faculty combined with major industry players, such as Google and Microsoft, it delivers materials that bridge the skill gap seen in the computer science field today.

There’s also more to come.

Beyond the three degrees OPIT offers, the institution plans to add more. Game development, data science, and cloud computing, to name a few, will receive dedicated degrees in the coming months, accentuating OPIT’s dedication to adapting to the continuous evolution of the computer science industry. Discover OPIT today – your journey into computing starts with the best online education institution available.

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