Today, computer networks are the core of modern communication. All modern aspects of the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) are computer-controlled, and telephony increasingly runs over the Internet Protocol, although not necessarily the public Internet. The scope of communication has increased significantly in the past decade, and this boom in communications would not have been possible without the progressively advancing computer network. Computer networks, and the technologies needed to connect and communicate through and between them, continue to drive computer hardware, software, and peripherals industries. This expansion is mirrored by growth in the numbers and types of users of networks from the researcher to the home user.
Computer networks may be classified according to the network topology upon which the network is based, such as bus network, star network, ring network, mesh network. Network topology is the coordination by which devices in the network are arranged in their logical relations to one another, independent of physical arrangement. Even if networked computers are physically placed in a linear arrangement and are connected to a hub, the network has a star topology, rather than a bus topology. In this regard the visual and operational characteristics of a network are distinct. Networks may be classified based on the method of data used to convey the data, these include digital and analog networks.
A wide area network (WAN) is a computer network that covers a large geographic area such as a city, country, or spans even intercontinental distances, using a communications channel that combines many types of media such as telephone lines, cables, and air waves. A WAN often uses transmission facilities provided by common carriers, such as telephone companies. WAN technologies generally function at the lower three layers of the OSI reference model: the physical layer, the data link layer, and the network layer.
A Backbone network or network backbone is part of a computer network infrastructure that interconnects various pieces of network, providing a path for the exchange of information between different LANs or subnetworks. A backbone can tie together diverse networks in the same building, in different buildings in a campus environment, or over wide areas. Normally, the backbone's capacity is greater than the networks connected to it.
A large corporation that has many locations may have a backbone network that ties all of the locations together, for example, if a server cluster needs to be accessed by different departments of a company that are located at different geographical locations. The pieces of the network connections (for example: ethernet, wireless) that bring these departments together is often mentioned as network backbone. Network congestion is often taken into consideration while designing backbones.
Overlay networks have been around since the invention of networking when computer systems were connected over telephone lines using modem, before any data network existed.
Nowadays the Internet is the basis for many overlaid networks that can be constructed to permit routing of messages to destinations specified by an IP address. For example, distributed hash tables can be used to route messages to a node having a specific logical address, whose IP address is known in advance.