There are many different kinds of networks and network technologies that are used to create them. The proliferation of networking methods has generally occurred for a very good reason: Different needs require different solutions. The drawback of this is that there are so many different types of protocols and technologies for the networking student to understand!
Before you can really compare these approaches, you need to understand some of the basic characteristics that make networks what they are. Although network types may be quite dissimilar, they are often described and even contrasted on the basis of a number of common attributes, which I'll discuss in the following sections.