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What is Network Infrastructure?

By Adrien-Luc Sanders
Updated May 16, 2024
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A network infrastructure is an interconnected group of computer systems linked by the various parts of a telecommunications architecture. Specifically, this infrastructure refers to the organization of its various parts and their configuration — from individual networked computers to routers, cables, wireless access points, switches, backbones, network protocols, and network access methodologies. Infrastructures can be either open or closed, such as the open architecture of the Internet or the closed architecture of a private intranet. They can operate over wired or wireless network connections, or a combination of both.

The simplest form of network infrastructure typically consists of one or more computers, a network or Internet connection, and a hub to both link the computers to the network connection and tie the various systems to each other. The hub merely links the computers, but does not limit data flow to or from any one system. To control or limit access between systems and regulate information flow, a switch replaces the hub to create network protocols that define how the systems communicate with each other. To allow the network created by these systems to communicate to others, via the network connection, requires a router, which bridges the networks and basically provides a common language for data exchange, according to the rules of each network.

When multiple computers in a single household share the same Internet connection, it is considered a basic form of network infrastructure, whether or not the computers also share information with each other. The Internet itself is a more advanced network infrastructure, in which individual systems access a global network that houses information on various systems, and allows access using web standards and protocols, most commonly framed as web addresses, also known as URLs.

Office intranets are similar to the global Internet, but operate on a closed network infrastructure accessible only by those within it. This generally consists of a central data store — one or more computers known as servers — as well as ethernet cabling, wireless access points, routers, switches, and the individual computers with access to the central data store. The individual computers connect to the network via either cabling or wireless access. The routers and switches then determine what level of access they are allowed to have, and act as traffic directors to point them to the central data store on the servers. As the individual computers send or receive data, the routers ensure it reaches the appropriate place.

Network security is often a primary concern when building a network infrastructure. Most architectures use routers with built-in firewalls, as well as software that allows finely-tuned user-access control, data packet monitoring, and strictly defined protocols. Security can also be controlled by adjusting network sharing properties on individual systems, which limits the folders and files that can be seen by other users on the network.

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Discussion Comments
By barryherne — On May 03, 2014

Every company can create both simple and complicated IT infrastructure and it depends only on their desire and the budget they have. At the same time, when you have an IT infrastructure you need to have people to control it or at least some monitoring tools to prevent data breaches, security alerts etc.

By anon353380 — On Oct 30, 2013

Is network infrastructure the same as network architecture, or is network infrastructure the same as network devices?

By anon328532 — On Apr 04, 2013

@anon278577: I have the same problem. I see a device under "network infrastructure" which i don't have. My router is protected (wpa + mac filtering + ssid hidden). When the network discovery is turned on in windows, that odd device is showing as "wireless access point"

By anon278577 — On Jul 08, 2012

I have two unrecognized routers I can't delete: A Belkin which I do now own and a Linksys 110 Wireless Access Point I've never owned. I have seen up to 6_4 others plus these two. I have a linksys 54g2 which is password protected and secure for login. Can anyone help?

By g00dquestion — On Apr 22, 2011

Hiring a company may make sense for larger companies, but for home systems or small networks computer network software should work just fine. Most of the software is very user friendly and designed to make installing a network very simple. As long as you have all the equipment you need it should just be a matter of hooking everything up according to the directions and getting connected to the internet. Be sure to add any passwords and encryption that the software allows, otherwise your neighbors may have access to your network and your internet connection. That may allow them to access your computers and use your internet as their own.

By MathGeek75 — On Apr 21, 2011

@DNA50- There are companies that offer network infrastructure services to companies. Most companies do not keep someone on staff to just do that kind of work. These companies seem to put a lot more emphasis on design and organizational skills than math. There is some understanding of basic math in programming, but not as much as there would be with something like engineering. The pictures you have described are probably representations of the hierarchical foundation and that is something that takes some time to really learn and master. All in all I would say if you need a network set up, hire a company to come in and do it for you rather than trying to learn it on your own.

By DNA50 — On Apr 20, 2011

It must be incredibly difficult to come up with a network infrastructure design for some of these larger companies. I have seen some drawing representing the systems and they are totally unreadable to me. I imagine you would have to be highly organized, but I also wonder just how much math must be involved in the design of this to have it all work out the way that it is meant to?

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