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What is a Network Operating System?

By Harry Husted
Updated: May 16, 2024

A Network Operating System (NOS) is a software program that controls other software and hardware running on a network. It also allows multiple computers, known as network computers, to communicate with one central hub and each other to share resources, run applications, and send messages. Such a system can consist of a wireless network, Local Area Network (LAN), or even two or three computer networks connected together. Administrators running these networks typically have training in different network operating systems.

Elements of a Network

Networks usually consist of multiple computers connected to each other through a central hub or router. This central hub, in turn, may be connected to a larger, main computer. Networks can also include other devices like printers, data backup systems, and central storage facilities. The main network computer monitors all the connected machines with the help of the network operating system software.

Layout and Features of a NOS

A network operating system often has a menu-based administration interface. From this interface, a network administrator can perform a variety of activities. He or she uses the interface to format hard drives, set up security permissions, and establish log-in information for each user. An administrator can also use the interface of a network operating system to identify shared printers and configure the system to automatically back up data on a scheduled basis.

File Servers

One important component of a network is the file server. A file server is a device that stores data for use by various network computers. It can be a single computer or a cluster of external hard drives hooked up in series to store data. A network operating system helps manage the flow of information between the file server and network computers.

Network Administrators

Network administrators install and manage network hardware and operating systems. They can even configure a network operating system to recognize multiple networks as part of one larger system. More than one administrator may be necessary for such groups, as they can become quite large and complex.

Certification for Different Systems

There are a number of operating systems available, and each NOS runs differently. This means an administrator needs to know how to configure each network operating system properly to meet the needs of a client or employer. Network administrators often receive certification with specific types of NOS, to indicate that they can effectively manage these systems.

Common Types of Networks

A network operating system can usually oversee two major types of networks: peer-to-peer and client/server. In a peer-to-peer system, a centralized NOS may not even be necessary as a secondary program directs the flow of information between each peer. Client/server networks more commonly require a NOS to organize data transfers and manage availability of information. Many administrators prefer this type of network for businesses and schools, as it allows greater control and creates a centralized system for permissions and access.

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Discussion Comments
By anon954472 — On Jun 02, 2014

Can you name me at least three?

By anon244601 — On Feb 02, 2012

I really think that the new Browser OS far surpasses any other OS.

By anon126839 — On Nov 14, 2010

i think it is good to learn more about the function of different operating systems. I'm jaycee_alyssa

By doppler — On Sep 18, 2010

The truth about Mac and Windows is simple: Mac preceded Windows by just a few months on the market. The reason why Windows was so successful is because it was easier to use. I'm sure there are many more articles on this site that can elaborate on the ease of use if you need more references. There is virtually unlimited information on the development and such all over the web.

By bbpuff — On Sep 18, 2010

@Kamchatka - I really hate the Mac OS, it feels a lot more complicated than Windows. I think the Mac Operating system was ahead of its time and people just didn't know what to do with it. I've always wanted a Mac, but I'm afraid of the OS to be honest.

By Kamchatka — On Sep 18, 2010

@bbpuff - Operating System loyalty is about as controversial as picking sides in a political race. I know a lot of people that question the network operating system security of Windows like it's nothing. The top two networks are Mac and Windows, though, so there's no surprise there.

By bbpuff — On Sep 18, 2010

There are several different types of Network OS. I think the Windows Operating System is the most popular one. I really like it.

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