It is not uncommon for a family to have more than one computer in the household today. According to infoplease.com, 73 percent of men and 72 percent of women use computers. Boomers aged 40-49 show 84 percent using computers, and more mature Boomers, aged 50 to 58, show 76% with a computer. Kids of course are fascinated with computers, and they can be one of the best learning aids around. We often find that in many households there is more than one computer, all vying for access to the internet or shared files. Here is where networking comes into play. This article will focus on networking, what it is, how it is used, and how it is set up.
What is Networking?
Computer networking is the engineering discipline concerned with communication between computer systems. Networking is accomplished by using a unique internet service protocol (ISP) that allows the two computers to "talk" to one another, and to share files and folders. It allows two or more computers to access the internet at one time. It also allows, if configured properly, access to other folders, such as music and picture folders over the network. Networks can be as simple or complicated as you want them to be. With today's technology, a network is very easy to set up and maintain.
Types of Networks
There are two types of networks — hard-wired and wireless. The hardwired network (LAN) is harder to configure but gives the network speeds at 10 times quicker than wireless. Faster processing, more memory, and better displays go hand in hand with faster speeds. Installing the infrastructure on a hardwired network can be troublesome, especially if network cables must be run through cement blocks or subflooring. The best time to set up a hardwired network is when a remodel is done, and you have access to walls and floors.
Setting Up a Network
A hardwired network depends on Ethernet cards and CAT-5 cables, and a router (under certain conditions) with the proper CAT-5 connection attached. CAT-5 cable is specially made for making secure network connections. They use an RJ45 connector and cable boot. They are easy to make, and although you can buy them at various lengths, to keep an installation neat, it is best to make your own. A special crimp tool is made to attach the RJ45 connectors and will strip the wire in the process. You then match the connector to the cable and crimp. It is very easy to do. Many higher-end computers come with an Ethernet card already installed. An Ethernet allows physical access to a networking medium, doing so through both a hardware and data medium.
Your first objective should be designing your network. The standard rule for hardwired networks is that the CAT-5 cable run should not exceed 250 feet to maintain system integrity. Some systems have been set up with runs of 600 feet without problems using CAT-6 cable.
A router is used to help the computers communicate with the internet. The router, the brain of the network, assigns each unique IP address to each computer. The router is connected directly to the modem, and from the router, each computer can be connected.
Configuring a LAN
Configuration is easy and straightforward unless you have an older computer running operating systems such as Windows 95/98/Me. If running Windows XP, check to make sure you have service pack two installed. The procedure is much the same on Windows Vista. When you are sure you have followed manufacturer's instructions, and that everything is hooked up properly, you can begin the setup.
- We assume you new network card is installed and all cables are connected. Go to Start -> Control Panel -> Network Setup Wizard. This will open up a wizard to guide you through the procedure. Click next.
- Another dialog box comes up, asking you to ensure things are set up correctly.
- If these things are correct, click next. Choose "Set up a home or small office network." Click next.
- Here, you select a connection method. Click next.
- Here, you give your computer a name, so it can be identified on the network.
- Click next. Here, you give your network a name.
- Click next. The wizard confirms your settings. Be sure they are correct.
The wizard will now do its thing, setting up the network with the parameters you have given it. If everything went according to plan, you now have a network set up that will allow you to share internet access, and if you wish, other files.
This procedure is simple if you follow instructions to the letter. Be sure to plan your network, have the necessary components, and proceed. Happy networking!
Alden Smith is an award-winning author and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He writes on a variety of subjects and excels in research.