Network software consists of the programs and protocols required to connect computers together for the primary purpose of communicating and sharing resources. Hardware, software applications and data are the primary resources that are shared on networks. The main purpose of network software is to save money and increase efficiency through resource and information sharing.
Traditional local area network products such as Novell Netware and Banyan Vines were designed to provide a common software platform to connect and manage computers and computer resources to reduce costs. These products leveraged a centrally connected host computer as a file server to provide shared, concurrent access to applications and data files for computers connected on a network. These products allowed many computers to share one copy of an expensive software application and share the data produced through its use.
Network software also provides shared access to centrally connected hardware peripherals such as printers and scanners reducing operational expenses. Traditional third party network software proliferated due to the lack of networking capabilities in older operating systems, especially MS-DOS, and early versions of Microsoft Windows. Contemporary versions of computer operating systems such as Linux and Microsoft Windows have native networking capabilities which negate the requirement for third party network software products, and further reduce costs.
Management and Security
Network software products provide a platform to centrally manage and maintain many computers simultaneously. Operating system, application upgrade requirements and backups can be administered strategically using network software. Network software is also used as a mechanism to provide and restrict access to applications, data and devices on a network. Many network systems provide accounting and audit features which will monitor and report on resource utilization and efficiency.
Traditional local area network software provided application and data file sharing through the use of a file server. The Internet has evolved as a primary networking platform providing ubiquitous, real time communication to adjacent, as well as geographically separated computers. Web server applications and Web browsers are considered contemporary forms of networking software to the extent that they facilitate shared, secured access to application software and other Web-based resources. Web forums, wikis and blogs are contemporary examples of network application software which have evolved to emphasize communication and collaboration in real time.
Network software applications including Twitter and YouTube have been rapidly replacing traditional media as a source for news, information, training and entertainment. As the Internet continues to grow as the primary network platform, the role of network software will continue to evolve. A trend toward "cloud-based computing" seeks to outsource network and application management from the corporate premises to data centers. Traditional network software functions including application hosting, communication, administration and backups will be outsourced to "the cloud," where they can be performed more efficiently. Network software platforms are becoming more powerful targeting new objectives to reduce the number of servers, cooling requirements and power consumption requirements of corporations and data centers. This concept of "Green I/T" is a new and evolving purpose of network software technologies.
- "Novell's Internet Plumbing Handbook"; Peter Rybaczyk; 1998
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