What Is Network Infrastructure and Why Is It Important?

Picture of Eric Murrell

Eric Murrell

Sr. VP of Sales

What is network infrastructure? I hope you have thought about its ins and outs like many of us. Well, it is a fundamental aspect of our modern lives. Also, it works as the backbone of modern communication and business operations.

In terms of technology, the infrastructure of a network is a critical framework to flow data seamlessly across the globe to connect users, devices, and services in an intricate web of interactions. And the technological landscape is always changing. Enterprises and individuals now need to adapt them to remain competitive and relevant. In this sense, learning about the topic is essential. 

Indeed, the infrastructure is not just about cables and hardware; it is a dynamic, interconnected system. It comprises many physical and wireless components, software, and internet connections. For sure, an efficient and secure network framework offers enhanced agility, speed, productivity, and resilience. It enables digital transformation, cloud computing, and the growth of Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Likewise, there are more things to discuss regarding the importance of the network’s infrastructure. And to know them, I welcome you to go through the whole post.

Precisely, a network infrastructure (or framework) is the combination of multiple hardware and software. These things enable network connectivity and communication between users, devices, apps, the internet, and more.

By hardware, I am referring to the physical network switches and routers. Software resources can be virtualized switches, routers, firewalls, and load balancers. Thus, we can categorize the infrastructure into wired, wireless, and hybrid. 

The importance of a network framework is immense as it helps to connect people and facilitate everyday maneuvers in businesses. For instance, we can process customer orders, maintain client records, and ensure effective communication between companies and customers. 

Network infrastructure design involves planning and implementing well-structured IT networks. These include capacity, bandwidth, quality of service, security, and resilience.

Types of Network Infrastructure

Multiple network framework variations exist, including PAN, LAN, WAN, and MAN. Each of them has some significant characteristics.

Personal Area Network (PAN)

The PAN is a small-scale, localized network of around 30 feet (10m) range, suitable for using personal devices. These devices can share data, resources, and applications wirelessly or through wired connections like USB. So, it doesn’t necessarily need to be connected to the internet. We usually use this type of network within individual workspaces.

Components of PAN

Characteristics of PAN

Mobile devices: Smartphones tablets, laptops, eBooks

Affordable

Peripherals: Printers, keyboards, mice, external drives, headphones

Limited range

Wearables: Smartwatches, fitness trackers, health monitoring devices

Low data rate

Entertainment devices: Game consoles, media players, wireless speakers

Simple topology and configuration

Connection devices: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Direct, NFC, USB

Security-focused infrastructure 
Low power consumption

Local Area Network (LAN)

The LAN is a private, high-speed network that connects computers and other devices in a limited geographical area like a school, office, or home. With it, we can provide networking facilities to a larger collective of users and equipment. It enables efficient communication and resource sharing among connected devices to facilitate collaboration, data exchange, and centralized network management. However, LAN has a range of around 1-10 kilometers in radius.

Components of LAN

Characteristics of LAN

Network devices: Smartphones, tablets, laptops, eBooks

Affordable

Networking equipment: Printers, keyboards, mice, external drives, headphones

Limited range (more than PAN)

Cabling: Smartwatches, fitness trackers, health monitoring devices

Low-medium data rate

Wireless technology: Game consoles, media players, wireless speakers

Simple topology and configuration

Connection devices: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Direct, NFC, USB

Security-focused infrastructure 

Network protocols: TCP/IP, UDP

Low power consumption

Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)

The MAN connects LAN and WAN. It covers a larger area than a LAN but smaller than a WAN, typically a city or large campus. Hence, this infrastructure offers high-speed data connectivity and resource sharing among organizations, businesses, and institutions within a 5-50 km area. MAN focuses on providing efficient communication, collaboration, and resource access within a defined metropolitan area.

Components of MAN

Characteristics of MAN

Network devices: High-performance routers, switches, firewalls, and network access points

Public or private networking 

Communication lines: Fiber optic cables, microwave links, leased lines, WiMAX

Medium geographic range

Management systems: Systems to monitor, manage, and configure the MAN infrastructure

High data rates

Network protocols: IP, MPLS, VPN

Shared resources
Cost-effective solution

Wide Area Network (WAN)

The WAN extends connectivity by covering a large geographical area beyond LAN’s localized scope. It can connect networks across cities, states, or countries. Therefore, WAN enables communication and resource sharing across these remote sites, comprising multiple LANs. It focuses on facilitating seamless data exchange and collaboration across vast distances.

Components of WAN

Characteristics of WAN

Network devices: Routers, switches, firewalls, VPN gateways

Large geographical coverage

Communication lines: Leased lines, fiber optic cables, satellite links, microwave links

Lower data rates

Networking protocols: IP, MPLS, VPN

Complex topology

Security measures: Firewalls, encryption, access control

Managed services

Security-focused infrastructure

Costly design

What are the Differences Between PAN, LAN, MAN, and WAN?

Here is a chart to describe the differences among different network infrastructures:
Differences Between PAN, LAN, MAN, and WAN

What are the Network Infrastructure Components?

We can divide network parts into two types: physical and wireless. Hubs, repeaters, routers, switches, etc., are some standard physical components. On the other hand, access points, security protocols, antennas, software, etc., are wireless network elements.

Physical or Wired Network Infrastructure Components

Repeaters
  • Function: Regenerate signals to extend the network
  • Operation Layer:Physical layer.
  • Ports: 2-port device
Hubs
  • Types: active, passive, and intelligent
  • Function: Connect multiple network branches; data sent to all devices
  • Collision domain: single for all connected hosts

Bridges

  • Types: transparent, source-routing
  • Function: Filter content by reading MAC addresses
  • Operation layer: Data link layer

Switches

  • Types: managed, unmanaged, smart, PoE, Gigabit, Rack-mounted, modular
  • Functions: Multiport bridge, error checking, efficient data forwarding
  • Collision and Broadcast Domains: Divides collision domains, broadcast domain remains the same.
  • Operation layer: Data link layer

Routers

  • Function: Route data packets based on IP addresses 
  • Operation layer: network layer
    Divides broadcast
  • domains: Separates hosts’ broadcast domains

Gateways

  • Function: Connect networks with different networking models
  • Operation layer: Works at any network layers

B-routers

  • Function: Combine features of both bridges and routers
  • Operation layers: Data link or network layer

Network Interface Card (NIC)

  • Types: Wired (cables) and Wireless NIC (Bluetooth or Wi-Fi) 
  • Function: Connect computers to the network
  • Operation layers: Physical and data link layers

Modem

  • Types: DSL (telephone), Cable (transmits over TV lines)
  • Function: Connect devices to the internet, convert signals

Cables/Connectors

  • Types of Media: twisted pair copper cables (limited distance), fiber-optic cables (long distance), and Wireless (limited range)
  • Types of Cables: Ethernet, fiber-optic cables, coaxial cables, and USB cables

Connectors

  • RJ-45, DB-9, MTRJ, Wireless Access Points (WAPs)
  • Function: Create WLAN from a wired network
  • Configuration: Fat (autonomous) or thin (remotely configured)
  • Range: limited by transmission range

Network infrastructure setups require careful planning to ensure all its components are compatible. They should be optimally placed for better coverage and signal strength. Likewise, it may involve setting up access points, configuring NICs, and integrating range extenders or bridges. 

You must ensure the network is secure enough to prevent unauthorized access and protect sensitive information. In this case, Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA or WPA2) or other encryption methods can be helpful.

Wireless Network Infrastructure Components

Wireless Access Points (WAPs)

  • Function: Acts as a central transmitter and receiver of wireless radio signals.
  • Placement and Range: Requires multiple access points to cover larger areas; placement is affected by range and physical obstructions.

 

Wireless Network Interface Cards (NICs)

  • Purpose: Connects devices to the WLAN, acting as the individual device’s wireless communication endpoint.
  • Varieties: Many modern devices have built-in Wi-Fi capabilities; older devices may need an additional NIC installed.
  • Peer-to-Peer Networking: Some NICs can directly communicate with others without requiring an access point.

Wireless Range Extenders

  • Function: Extends the reach of the WLAN by repeating the signal.
  • Implementation: Can effectively double the network’s range; placement is crucial for optimal performance.

Antennas

  • Omnidirectional Antennas: Broadcast and receive signals in all directions; standard for most access points.
  • Directional Antennas: Focus signals in a specific direction for increased range and directivity.

Wireless Bridges

  • Usage: Connects multiple LANs or segments of a LAN wirelessly, often used for building-to-building communications.
  • Range and Line-of-Sight: Can cover distances up to 25 miles, typically requiring a clear line of sight.

Updated Firmware

  • Function: Secures the network and enhances the performance

Network Software: An Essential Part of Network Infrastructure

Network Software
Network software plays a crucial role in the smooth operation and efficient infrastructure management. It controls the data flow, ensures smooth communication, and keeps everything running in perfect harmony. Let’s explore some key components of network software:

Network Software: An Essential Part of Network Infrastructure

Network Operating Systems (NOS)

NOS controls network resources, manages communication protocols, and ensures devices can communicate effectively. It is like the central traffic control system that directs data packets efficiently to their destinations.

Some common NOS features are:

  • Routing: Directing data packets to their intended destinations within the network or across the internet.
  • Security: Implementing firewalls, access control, and encryption to protect your network from unauthorized access.
  • Network services: Offering additional functionalities like DHCP (IP address assignment), DNS (domain name resolution), and VPN (secure connections).
  • Switching: Connecting devices on the network and forwarding data efficiently.
  • Resource management: Efficiently allocating network resources like bandwidth and memory and providing tools for monitoring, configuring, and troubleshooting the network.
  • User management: Granting access and permissions to users and devices on the network.

Some famous NOS examples include Cisco IOS, Microsoft Windows Server, and Linux distributions like Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Network Virtualization

Virtualization is like creating multiple virtual networks (VNs) on your physical infrastructure. It offers numerous benefits and impacts the network:

Benefits

Impacts

Run multiple virtual machines (VMs) on a single physical server, maximizing resource utilization.

Large geographical coverage

Provision and configure new virtual networks quickly and easily.

Lower data rates

Easily migrate VMs to backup systems in case of outages.

Complex topology

Isolate VMs from each other, minimizing the impact of security breaches.

Easily spin up or down virtual networks as needed, adapting to changing demands.

Virtual networks are independent, ensuring one doesn’t affect the others.

Management Software

You should monitor your network performance and health. Some tools for monitoring and managing your network are:

  • Network monitoring tools: These track network traffic, bandwidth usage, and device performance, allowing you to identify and troubleshoot issues quickly. Examples include PRTG Network Monitor, Nagios XI, and SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor.
  • Configuration management tools: Automate network device configuration and changes, reducing errors and ensuring consistency. Examples include Ansible, Chef, and Puppet.
  • Security information and event management (SIEM) tools: Aggregate and analyze security logs from various network devices, providing insights into potential threats. Examples include Splunk, ArcSight, and ELK Stack.

Network Topologies: Network Infrastructure Design

Star Topology
  • Central Node: At the heart of a star topology is a central hub or switch to which all network devices are connected.
  • Characteristics: If one device fails, it doesn’t affect the rest of the network. Easy to install and manage. However, the failure of the central node can take down the entire network.

Mesh Topology

  • Fully Connected Nodes: Each node is connected to every other node in the network. It creates a robust setup with multiple paths for data to travel.
  • Characteristics: Provides high redundancy and reliability, as the network can operate if one link goes down. However, it is expensive and complex to install due to the required connections.

Hybrid Topology

  • Combination of Topologies: Integrates two or more different topologies to form a resultant topology. It can leverage the advantages of each while mitigating their disadvantages.
  • Characteristics: Highly flexible and scalable, suitable for large enterprises with varied needs. Still, it can be complex to design and maintain.

Management Software

Often, we consider IT and network infrastructure the same. Thus, they are not the same. IT and network infrastructures are critical to a company’s efficient workflow and business continuity.

IT infrastructure is a broader term that encompasses network infrastructure. It includes hardware, software, data management, networking, and technology services. They enhance communication and provide consistent IT services and solutions.

Alternatively, network infrastructure is a subset of IT infrastructure. It refers to collecting hardware and software that constitute a particular network. It enables network connectivity and communication between users, devices, apps, the internet, and more. Hence, the core of this infrastructure is cabling. It provides a channel to transfer data, voice, and communications.

Why Is Network Infrastructure Important?

Network vulnerabilities are weaknesses. For them, malicious actors can exploit them to gain unauthorized access, launch attacks, or spread malware. Likewise, these vulnerabilities can be introduced unintentionally during the design and implementation of a network or deliberately by attackers.

Some of the most common network vulnerabilities include:

  • Improperly installed hardware or software
  • Outdated operating systems or firmware
  • Misused hardware or software
  • Insecure passwords
  • Design flaws in a device’s operating system

In recent years, malicious cyber actors have targeted internet-facing systems, like email servers and virtual private network (VPN) servers. They exploit newly disclosed vulnerabilities. Therefore, you can conduct regular vulnerability assessments to identify, classify, and prioritize vulnerabilities in your network infrastructure.

Why Is Network Infrastructure Important?

Why Is Network Infrastructure Important?
Network framework underpins all aspects of a business’s daily operations. Despite its invisibility, the significance of a reliable network infrastructure cannot be underestimated. It’s the backbone that supports every facet of a company’s activities. Also, its strength and dependability are crucial for the smooth operation and success of the business.

Importance of Network Infrastructure

Communication and Client Interaction

A business and its clients rely heavily on persistent network infrastructure.

Efficient communication, essential for acquiring new clients and retaining existing ones, is contingent upon the network’s reliability.

Performance and Productivity

A well-structured network ensures improved speeds and connectivity.

This, in turn, drives better employee performance and overall productivity within the company.

Consistency and Minimized Downtime

Business operations are highly dependent on network functionality.

A secure and reliable network framework reduces downtime, maintaining consistent productivity levels regardless of unforeseen circumstances.

Investment and Future Savings

Network infrastructure is often overlooked in terms of investment until significant issues arise.

Proactive investment in a secure network framework can lead to savings by preventing potential future losses.

The Backbone of Operations

Most business operations rely on the network’s functioning; hence, an unreliable network can severely impact these operations.

The modern business network’s reliability is intrinsically linked to the quality of its cabling.

Network Infrastructure Challenges

Certainly, the framework of a network plays a vital role in the smooth operation of any organization, facilitating communication, data sharing, and overall business processes. While managing it, you may face multiple complexities.

Technical Challenges

Network devices can fail or become obsolete. It may lead to downtime and loss of productivity. Additionally, these devices can sometimes be challenging to set up and manage, especially for those who lack technical expertise. 

Furthermore, network infrastructure can be complex, with many components. They must work together seamlessly. If one component fails or is misconfigured, it can cause problems for the entire network.

Security Concerns

Another major challenge in network framework is ensuring security. As organizations become more digitally connected, the threat of cyber-attacks increases. This puts a heavy burden on infrastructure to protect sensitive data and maintain the integrity of network communications. 

Moreover, ensuring infrastructure security requires constant vigilance and regular updates to protect against the latest threats.

Cost and Resource Management

Managing a network can also be expensive. It involves hardware, software, maintenance costs, and hiring additional staff to manage the network. Additionally, resources must be allocated to ensure that the network infrastructure meets the organization's needs. 

You may find resource allocation as an arduous task. It requires balancing the needs of different departments or projects.

Scalability

The demand for any company’s network grows simultaneously. So, the infrastructure must be scalable enough to accommodate this growth. If the network framework cannot thrive within the organization, it can lead to performance issues and even downtime.

Regulatory Compliance

Network infrastructure also faces regulatory challenges. Organizations must comply with various laws and regulations related to data protection and privacy. This requires implementing specific measures to protect data and ensure compliance. It can add another layer of complexity to managing a network.

Changing Technology

Certainly, the framework of a network plays a vital role in the smooth operation of any organization, facilitating communication, data sharing, and overall business processes. While managing it, you may face multiple complexities.

Frequently Asked Questions

It refers to the underlying physical and logical components. It enables communication and data transfer between devices on a network. It includes hardware like routers, switches, cables, firewalls and software like operating systems and protocols. Hence, an infrastructure allows devices to share resources, access the internet, and utilize various applications.

Wired networks connect devices with physical cables (Ethernet, fiber optic). They offer generally faster and more stable data transfer rates. Also, they are more secure due to the physical connection. However, they have limited mobility as devices are tethered to cables.

Alternatively, wireless networks use radio waves to transmit data between devices. These networks offer greater flexibility and mobility for users. However, they are prone to interference from other wireless signals. Also, they may experience slower speeds compared to wired networks.

Some practical ways to increase security are firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems (IDS/IPS), antivirus, encrypted passwords, and regular security updates.

Nybsys – Your Ultimate Solution for Network Infrastructure

I hope you understand how we can define it and its functions – What is a network infrastructure? 

In short, it enables network connectivity and communication. It is crucial for any business nowadays to facilitate regular operations. 

Would you like to set up a private network? You are welcome to Nybsys. We are ready to hear from you. From setup to management – you can get everything from us.

Contact Us