A computer network, often simply referred to as a network, is a group of computers and devices interconnected by communications channels that facilitate communications among users and allows users to share resources. Networks may be classified according to a wide variety of characteristics.
A computer network allows sharing of resources and information among interconnected devices. In the 1960s, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) started funding the design of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) for the United States Department of Defense. It was the first computer network in the world. Development of the network began in 1969, based on designs developed during the 1960s.
Computer networks can be used for several purposes:
Facilitating communications. Using a network, people can communicate efficiently and easily via email, instant messaging, chat rooms, telephone, video telephone calls, and video conferencing.
Sharing hardware. In a networked environment, each computer on a network may access and use hardware resources on the network, such as printing a document on a shared network printer.
Sharing files, data, and information. In a network environment, authorized user may access data and information stored on other computers on the network. The capability of providing access to data and information on shared storage devices is an important feature of many networks.
Sharing software. Users connected to a network may run application programs on remote computers.