In a computer network, a node is any connected device. On the Internet, a node is defined as anything to which an IP address is assigned.
If you were to draw a diagram of the computer network at the place where you work, what devices would it include? It would probably include a bunch of computers, a server or two, a couple of printers, possibly a bunch of digital phones, and switches, routers, and hubs to direct the flow of information. On this diagram, each of these items would be a node. A node is a basic unit or building block of a network. Any single component of a network is a node.
When we increase the scope to consider the entire Internet, a node becomes anything to which an IP address is assigned. IP addresses are the identifier used specify locations and devices over the Internet. Every device or location on the Internet that is networked and reachable has an IP address. Your computer, Learn the Net‘s web server, your printer (if it's cloud-ready), your smartphone, and your smart TV are all nodes on the Internet.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the different kinds of nodes in a computer network?
Every connected device on a network is a node. Generally speaking, network nodes can be broken into two types: communication equipment and terminal equipment.
- Communication equipment includes things like modems, hubs, bridges, and switches – all of the hardware necessary to transport data across the network.
- Terminal equipment includes things like digital telephones, printers, servers, routers, and workstations or client devices used to access the network – all of the hardware that sends data across the network and/or receives data from other terminal devices over the network.
What's the difference between a node and a hub?
The term hub and node are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to the major centers that handle the exchange of Internet traffic. The use of hub or node in this setting is really a misuse of the terms. These locations are more-correctly referred to as Internet Exchange Points.
Correct use of the term hub is to refer to an Ethernet networking device used to network several computers together. Hubs are used regularly to build local area networks that run on Ethernet. So a hub is a kind of central node in an Ethernet network.
A hub is a piece of hardware that is part of a network, but in the case of an Ethernet-powered local area network, a hub is the central point of connection that makes the network possible.
Hubs have largely been deprecated in favor of switches. In the past, hubs were used because of their low cost when compared to switches. However, hubs do not filter traffic and send all traffic to all connected devices. Switches, on the other hand, only direct traffic to the device which is intended to receive it, and the cost of switches is now low enough that use of hubs for most purposes is no longer justified.