What is Network Infrastructure? A Simple Guide for Beginners

What is Network Infrastructure?

Are you trying to figure out the answer to, “What is network infrastructure?” Read this article to learn the basics about network infrastructure.

Did you know that a wireless router can handle up to 250 devices at any one time? Of course, having that many devices connected to the router can slow it down a lot. By contrast, when your computer is the only device connected, it will be a lot faster.

Now think about your business network. How many devices are connecting to how many routers?

This is just one simple example of network infrastructure. What is network infrastructure and how does it affect your business? This guide answers all that and more.

What Is Network Infrastructure?

You can think of your network as a series of pathways connecting various devices in your business. You may have a computer hardwired to a printer and a modem. That could be the extent of your network.

If you have more devices or use WiFi, then your infrastructure will be a little more complex. You may have all your devices looped in together on a company intranet. Only some of them may connect to the Internet.

Using the intranet, all the devices on the network can talk to each other. Your computer can send information to the printer. Likewise, the printer may be able to send an alert to your phone to let you know it’s finished printing.

You might also connect your smart speaker or thermostat to this network. Often, these devices will also connect to the Internet. Internet connections will then go through a WiFi router, and then a modem.

Constructing a Network

Network infrastructure can also refer to how you set up your network. There are a few common configurations in classic computing networks:

  • Star topology
  • Ring topology
  • Bus topology
  • Mesh topology

Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Bus topology, for example, is easy to install. It does have a limit on the number of nodes you can connect.

Star topology is still easy to install, but it directs all traffic through a central hub. If the hub goes down, none of the devices can communicate. This is like the WiFi example, where each device is connected to a single router.

Many networks use hybrid configurations to help them overcome these challenges.

Smoothing Communication

From these basic configurations, you can add devices to help ease communication along with your network. Devices can also integrate various networks, helping more devices connect and communicate. Hubs and bridges, for example, can combine several networks into one.

Suppose you have one network in the accounting department and another in the sales department. Both of these networks need to access the same server to back up their hard drives. Hubs and bridges could help these networks function together.

You could also use switches to sync all the computers in the office building into one local area network, or LAN. You could then use hubs and bridges to sync company networks across different work sites.

Routers are essential for directing traffic. They bring devices and networks together by forwarding traffic.

Gateways connect different types of networks, such as connecting the Internet to your LAN.

Keeping the Network Safe

In addition to communication devices, your network will also need devices that provide security. The most common of these is a firewall.

You’ll also need to think about intrusion prevention and protection. There are systems dedicated to exactly those functions.

Most networks also use encryption, which keeps data moving across the network safe. Key management tools help your network manage encryption with ease.

A virtual private network, or VPN, can also be employed as a security measure.

Infrastructure Affects Network Efficiency

Now that you understand what network infrastructure refers to, you might be wondering why it matters. In simple terms, the network infrastructure you use affects efficiency.

Think again of the WiFi router with 250 devices attached to it. The router can only give each of those devices a tiny fraction of its capacity.

The result is very slow to transfer to all those devices. If a second router were introduced and each handled 125 devices, the speed would increase drastically.

Network speed can also be affected by the type of connection you’re using, as well as security protections. Traditional firewalls, for example, can slow down the transfer of information across the network.

Even the arrangement of your network can affect how fast information moves across it. Ring topology is slow compared to star or bus topologies. Each packet has to be passed through each machine in the ring, whereas bus and hub networks are much more direct.

The cables you use and the devices you choose to have also an effect. Even protocols can have an effect on how fast the network operates.

A benefit of having a more efficient network is that you can get more work done. Higher productivity could mean a boost for your business’s bottom line.

Building a Better Network

Network infrastructure is key to your business’s capacity to do just about anything. From serving your customers to getting work done to talking to other team members, the network infrastructure is key.

That’s why any business leader should have a network infrastructure strategy. With one in place, you can grow your network in a way that makes the most sense for your business. You can also be sure you’re keeping the network up to date and replacing older parts of it.

In turn, you’ll have a more efficient network and a more efficient team.

Understand the Tech You Use Every Day

You asked, “What is network infrastructure?” Now you have a good idea of what infrastructure for your network looks like, as well as what it can do for your business.

The right tech is key to your business’s growth. Understanding it and knowing how to use it the right way will help you make the most of any tool or device you invest in.

Looking for more tech information and how-to guides? You’re in the right place. With our in-depth guides, you can learn how to troubleshoot just about any IT issue that’s affecting your business.