With so many households having more than one computer, it is only natural that home networks are becoming extremely popular. By networking two or more computers together via a local area network, file and Internet sharing becomes simple and time-saving.
The two most popular ways of networking are Ethernet and Wi-Fi, a trademarked name standing for wireless fidelity.
Ethernet systems have been around for years. Most systems operate at a 100base-T, meaning a transfer of data at 100Mbps or 100 megabits of data. They consist of several components and can be put together for a very reasonable price.
- A network hub. This small box is the brain of the network. It can have anywhere from four to twenty or more ports in which you connect Cat-5 LAN cables. The hub is generally placed near the computer you choose to designate as the server and routes all information to the appropriate destination.
- Cat-5 LAN Cables. These cables are typically four twisted copper wires ending in RJ45 molded plugs. The plugs and cables look similar to regular phone lines only larger. Cat-5 cables can be purchased in lengths from 5 feet to 100 feet or more.
- Ethernet Cards or Build-in LAN Connections. Many newer model computers come with LAN connection ports built into the motherboard. For those computers that do not have one, an Ethernet card will have to be purchased. These are generally designed for an open PCI slot in your desktop computer or are available as a PCMCIA card for laptops.
- Modem. A modem of some type is necessary to connect to the Internet or for E-mail access. These can be dial-up, cable, or wireless. Your choice will be determined by both your needs and the availability of options in your area.
Wi-Fi networking is quickly becoming a favorite for many computer users. With no cable to run and the ability to work from many different points in the house, Wi-Fi is very appealing. Although wireless networking is more expensive than Ethernet, the price of Wi-Fi components is coming down and are expected to priced competitively in the near future. To set up a Wi-Fi system, you will need two types of wireless components in order to transmit the necessary radio waves between computers.
- A Wi-Fi radio device. There are several versions of Wi-Fi radio devices including, PCMCIA Radio or PC Card for laptops, a USB adapter that includes a built-in Wi-Fi radio which can be used in both laptops and desktops, and PCI or ISA Bus adapters that can be installed on your desktop. Many newer laptops and desktops have Wi-Fi radios already built-in.
- Gateways and Access Points. Although Wi-Fi Radio devices can be configured to talk with each other with no other equipment involved, the easiest way to handle Wi-Fi transmissions is with an Access Point or Gateway. Gateways are generally used for home networking applications, while Access Points are used mostly by larger businesses.
Gateways work by providing Network Address Translation, NAT, and Dynamic Host Control Protocols, DHCP, which assign individual IP addresses to each computer on the network. This also allows for Internet sharing among multiple computers within the Wi-Fi network.
As with an Ethernet system, a modem will be necessary for surfing the World Wide Web or checking your email.
No matter which system you choose to use, a Basic Network Hardware can help boost the online productivity of every member of your family.