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Home Network How To - What Kind Should I Use?

May 22, 2008
When I first started in computers, one of the most confusing things that I ran across was how to set up a home network. The differences between hubs, routers, Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) and cabling were a mystery to me. But after much trial and error and built-up experience I managed to figure things out and some of that information I will share with you now.

There are two basic types of networks that I'm going to talk about in this article first being the infamous ICS or Internet Connection Sharing. ICS is usually implemented by connecting multiple computers through the hub to a single computer. Let's say we have three computers, Computer A, Computer B and Computer C. Computer A has enjoyed a high speed Internet connection and after a while, Computer B and C want to get in on the action! In order to implement ICS, we would have to connect Computers B and C to a hub.

A hub is basically a switch that allows any computer hooked up to it to communicate with any other computer hooked up to the hub. So with all three computers hooked up to it, we would set the network up on the computers to use ICS. Computers B and C would be told that they're going to connect to the Internet through another computer that has a high-speed Internet connection. While Computer A would be configured to enjoy its high-speed connection as it did before.

Like this, Computers B and C would enjoy a relatively fast connection to the Internet as would Computer A. The problem here starts when all three computers are accessing the Internet at the same time. Computers B and C would enjoy a relatively fast connection to the Internet while Computer A would suffer some moderate slowdowns because it not only has to handle its own traffic but the traffic of the other two computers as well. The user on Computer A is going to get quite upset if Computers B and C decide to download files at the same time. Because downloading a file is such a data intensive process, demanding large amounts of data be transferred from the Internet as fast as possible, Computers A may suffer some severe speed problems because of the demand being put on it from the other two computers.

Unfortunately because of the fact that the hub does not have built-in firewall or any other such software that can protect the computers behind the hub Computers A must also be running Windows firewall in the background which provides an additional performance hit.

So although the ICS is the cheapest way to go, it is definitely not the speediest way to go. In fact, to be honest, I would only follow this route if the users of Computers B and C had something against the user of Computer A and want to get even!

The second type of setup that I'm going to talk about it is the router based set up. Nice thing about the router is that most routers are very intelligent. They have built-in firewalls, parental controls, can block sites or even allow users to have access to your network from the outside if they know the proper passwords and/or ports to connect through. No additional software is required that might add a performance hit and all three computers get configured the same way.

To hook up or router you simply plug a cable from your Internet connection into the router then plug the three computers into the router as well. When you set up your computers you tell networking software that all three will computers have direct access to the Internet. There is some setup involved with router as is usual with any complicated piece of hardware but usually it is very painless and if you follow the instructions, quite easy!

The nice thing about router set up is that once it is set, up all three computers enjoy the same speed advantages of being on a high-speed Internet. No one computer is impacted by the fact that someone else is downloading a file. In fact, all three can download a file at the same time and still enjoy impressive speed while doing so! Face it guys this is the network that you want to set up if your wife is on Computer A!

Routers tend to be a little more expensive than hubs but the advantages of having them a part your network far outweigh any price difference. So if you must go with ICS, then do so with pride! But personally, I would recommend spending the extra money to go the "router route"!
About the Author
Don Willson is 53 years old and living in Virginia. Not new to writing H enjoys sharing his knowledge of computers! For more information on setting up your home network, visit his webpage at http://donwenterprises.com/networkingebook/index.htm
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