Backbone networks are key portions of a computer network structure that help to give stability to that network. The purpose of the backbone is to supply the means of connecting the various components of the network into a cohesive interactive unit while still making it possible for each of those components to maintain their integrity. This approach can make it possible to link several networks together for the purpose of managing certain tasks and sharing specified types of data, while still allowing each of the networks connected to the backbone to function independently.
There are a number of examples of backbone networks in use today. One of the most common has to do with providing an infrastructure that allows the individual networks that exist at a corporate headquarters and a series of satellite locations to function both independently and interdependently. For example, this type of network backbone would make it possible for sales offices scattered around a nation or even around the world to share data among themselves and with the corporate sales office, making it easier to coordinate efforts. A similar approach is often used on college campuses today, making it possible for local networks functioning in each of the buildings to interconnect with a central system and share data across the interconnected network.
Most backbone networks make use of a wide range of communication strategies in order to create the connections and move data back and forth. Both wired and wireless components may be involved in the process, with some locations making use of an Ethernet connection while remote locations with limited connection options may make use of slower telephone connections on a dial-up basis. It is not unusual for backbone networks to also include secondary connection options that can be used when and as there is a need. For example, an employee who is traveling for the business may be able to still access the backbone using one of the connection process, even if all he or she has access to is a telephone line at a hotel.
It is important to distinguish backbone networks from an Internet backbone. While an internal backbone may provide ways to remotely access the networks by using the Internet, those interconnected networks within companies are still closed unless the proper credential are used to gain entrance. Architects of the backbone network can structure the communication process so that the means of entry are limited, meaning that even if an employee has access to a couple of networks connected to the backbone, he or she may not have access to other networks residing in the connected community. This helps to protect the integrity of each individual network in the wider system, while still making it possible to share data between those who are authorized to send, receive, and make use of the information.