This article briefs about the network interface card or controller which is an electronic hardware component integrated with computers. One of the main purposes of NIC is to communicate with other devices either wired or wirelessly.
What is Network Interface Card
A network interface card (NIC) is a hardware component without which a computer cannot be connected over a network. Basically, it is a circuit board that is installed in a computer that provides a dedicated network connection to the computer.
It is used to connect various networking devices like computers and servers to share the data over the connected network. Additionally, NIC is important for a user in order to establish wired or wireless connection over the network. It is also termed as network interface controller, network adapter, Ethernet card or LAN adapter.
The connection to the NIC is made by any one of the following –
History of Network Interface Card
During mid 1980’s, Mr. Richard Bennett, Tim Rock and few others developed a star LAN which was based on 5BASET Ethernet. Also, the initial meeting was conducted in 1996 regarding the Network Interface Card by Tony Zador. In those initial years, the NIC was commonly referred to as expansion cards that were injected into a computer bus.
However, computers and laptops in this generation are inbuilt with the NIC into the motherboard along with advanced features of direct memory access interfaces to the host processors.
Components of Network Interface Card
NIC contains the following essential components –
It is one of the main components of network interface card as it is used to store the data during the communication.
These connectors are used to connect the cables to the ethernet port.
It is used to convert the data message into a suitable form of communication.
Without any software, these jumpers are used to control the communication operations. They are also used to determine the settings for the interrupt request line, input/output address, upper memory block and type of transceiver.
Routers are used to provide wireless connectivity.
This MAC address is available to the NIC. We use MAC Address to identify the computer for communication of ethernet data packets. They are also known as physical network address.
Types of Network Interface Card
There are two types of NIC –
This was developed in the year 1980 by Mr. Robert Metcalf. They have its use in LAN, MAN and WAN networks. There are three standards in ethernet such as – 5-Base-T, 10-Base-T and 100-Base-T.
Example – TP-Link TG-3468 Gigabit PCI Express Network Adapter.
Wireless Networks NIC
Without using any cables, it allows the user to connect the devices. Accordingly, These types of network interface cards are significant to design a Wi-Fi connection.
Example – Intel 3160 Dual-Band Wireless Adapter.
Functions of Network Interface Card
Below are the list of functions of NIC-
- NIC converts data into a digital signal.
- It also uses the physical layer to transmit signals and the network layer to transmit the data packets in the OSI model.
- It offers both the data communication techniques like wired (using cables) and wireless (using Wi-Fi).
- It also acts as a middleware between a computer / server and a data network.
- It operates on Physical and Data Link Layer of the OSI model.
How does Network Interface Card Work?
It acts like a bridge connecting various computers using LAN and router. To understand the concept better, here is a small example of a corporate office-
In an organization, there are many computers for the employees with Wi-Fi access where each employee uses one (or more) computer to work. As and when the employee wants to access the company website in order to update his day-to-day work status, he gets his login credentials through which he can login using a proper internet connection. This connection can be either wire-connected or wireless.
These computer nodes that are connected to network interface card communicate over the internet where the incoming data is received by NIC. Further, these bits that are received are formatted into frames, CRC (cyclic redundant code) is compared with CRC frame trailer and is calculated using CRC algorithm. If in case the CRC does not suit, then it means the frame is incorrect and the system discards it.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Network Interface Card
Below explained are some of the advantages and disadvantages
|Advantages of NIC||Disadvantages of NIC|
|It provides a faster, secure and reliable connection when compared to wireless networks.||It is inconvenient when compared to wireless card.|
|Allows the user to share bulk data among multiple users.||For a wired network interface card, a hard-wired connection is critical.|
|Speed of communication is high.||To work efficiently, it requires a proper configuration.|
|They are not expensive.||These network interface cards are not secure and hence the data inside the NIC are not safe.|
|They are very easy to troubleshoot.|
|It helps the user to connect peripheral devices with the help of many ports of NIC.|
How One Should Opt or Buy Network Interface Card?
There shouldn’t be any concern in connecting to a network, as many of our electronic devices comes with integrated network interface cards. But, if there is any need of network interface cards, then one must know which specific to purchase.
The first thing one must know before buying NIC is whether the device supports ports such as PCi-e. If this is supporting, then we should always prefer an integrated NIC. The user needs to open up the device to install one and if he is not clear or does not know then going for USB External Network Interface Card might be a good option for them.
Applications of Network Interface Cards
Following are the applications of the NIC :–
The computer utilizes network interface card to exchange the data over a network like documents, images, files etc.
They are applicable for wireless communication devices like Firewalls, Bridges, Repeater.
They are applicable for wired communication devices like hubs, switches, router, smartphones etc.
If a user needs to purchase the network interface card, then he should research on existing network and try to understand the capability which allows to determine to purchase the correct NIC for the device. Also, the user has to keep in mind, the vendor specific features. The main vendors of network interface cards are – Intel, Cisco, D-link.