Computer networking involves a diverse set of hardware devices. These hardware are useful in different technologies, when using different standards, and according to the expected network features.
Network interface card
Network Interface Card (NIC) provides connection mechanisms to your PC to plug in the network cable into it. The NIC does not necessarily represent a "card" and can be an external device connected to the PC, over some other connection interface such as COM or USB port. Or else, the device can reside inside your PC, with connection points exposed in the back panel - such as in a PCI standard NIC. In addition, the device can be a wireless transceiver if you are working in a wireless network environment. A number of different types are available, based on the technology found in the network design.
Two types of network communication media are on hand, namely wired (bounded) media and wireless (unbounded) media. Wireless media majorly include three cable types - Twisted pair cable, Co-axial cable and Optical Fiber cable. These dissimilar cable types characterize distinctive properties suitable for various types of networking scenarios.
Wireless media types are especially useful in situations with mobile communication devices. They are also useful in real-time long-distance communication necessities, such as across continents, and in impractical cabling situations - specifically through jungles, deserts and marshy lands. Radio waves, Microwaves and Infrared waves are some of the widely used wireless media types, while hi-tech Laser ray communication means are still under development.
The correct media type selection is done by analyzing the required performance, security, distance, ease of cable layout and other important criteria.
Special communication devices
Some types of networks call for additional hardware devices to be in place. Central connection points such as Hubs and Switches build up small networks, where as advanced devices like Routers and Gateways makes large-scale networks possible. These devices provide high reliability for the data being transferred over the network and presents error-free information transport. Firewalls and Checkpoints are used to ensure the security of a network. Repeaters and Bridges are network hardware devices used to extend the span of the network, along with Multiplexers and Concentrators to maximize the available bandwidth.
Network troubleshooting hardware
For troubleshooting purposes, there exists another range of hardware devices. Cable testers enable tracing cable failures with high accuracy. Devices like protocol analyzers allow network administrators to diagnose many kinds of network problems including media failures, device failures and general failures.
In computer networking, NIC's provide the connection interfaces to your PC. Hubs, Switches, Routers, Gateways and Bridges are special communication devices that increase the dependability of the transmitted information. For a simple network to operate, very few of these components may be required.