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Network Operating Systems (NOS): Windows & Novell Net Ware

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  • 0:05 Network OS
  • 1:22 Network Servers
  • 2:31 Managing Networks
  • 4:06 Network Security
  • 6:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Paul Zandbergen

Paul has a PhD from the University of British Columbia and has taught Geographic Information Systems, statistics and computer programming for 15 years.

Every computer needs an operating system, and networks require their own operating systems. Learn about the specialized functions of network operating systems.

Network OS

Every computing device needs an operating system, or OS, to function, and so does a computer network. A network operating system, or network OS, is system software that controls the various devices on a computer network and how they communicate with each other.

Some of the tasks of a network OS are similar to those of an OS for individual computers, such as memory management and hardware control. However, a network OS also has specialized tasks. For example, when network devices are used, such as printers and disk drives, the network OS ensures these resources are used correctly and efficiently. Specialized functions also include network security and network administration. Multiple users need to access the network at the same time, and this needs to be managed carefully.

Some operating systems used for individual computers have built-in network functions, but operating systems specifically designed for this task are more common. Network OS software includes Linux, Mac OS X Server, Novell and Windows Server.

Network Servers

In relatively simple networks, one of the regular computers in the network can be used to run the network OS. In more complicated networks, in particular those with a large number of devices spread out over different physical locations, the network OS resides on a computer server. A server is a computer system that provides services over a network. These services can include things like data storage, file sharing, email management, hosting websites and the like.

While in principle a regular desktop computer can be configured for use as a server, most servers consist of dedicated machines with more powerful and specialized hardware components. Multiple servers are often configured in some type of rack, which makes it easier to manage all the hardware, cables and power supplies. Servers often consume a lot of power and as a result, they are often located in separately cooled environments. These server rooms have the additional benefit that they provide additional security.

Managing Networks

Running a network with many users is typically performed by a specialized network administrator. A network OS includes sophisticated tools for network management. For example, a network administrator can monitor the performance of various parts of the network and try to address problems before they can have a serious impact.

Network management can also be used to update software on the individual computers on the network. Rather than having to visit each individual computer for a manual installation, changes can be made directly over the network. This not only allows for automated software updates and installation, but it can also help with maintaining compliance with software licensing.

One of the challenges for a network operating system is that today's computer networks include devices with many different personal operating systems. Consider an office where most employees are expected to use a Windows-based desktop PC, but a number of employees insisted on using Macs. Can they be on the same network?

They certainly can. In modern networks, multi-platform is the norm. A few different versions of Windows-based PCs, a few Macs, some tablets and smartphones running iOS and Android - they all have to work together seamlessly. Fortunately, today's NOS is designed for this. So, you can run a computer server on Windows Server, but this does not mean you can only use Windows personal OS on networked devices.

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