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SOHO Network Primer
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This excerpt (before formal editing) is from an original piece written
by Kass Johns for U S WEST (copyright).
Excerpt from a non-tech, but friendly How-To guide to building your own SOHO network to share your DSL or ISDM modems across computers.
Verify that you already have a functioning network and what kind it is...Do you have a network already? Are you sure? Sorry that we have to ask but many computer users (even some in big corporate offices) do not understand what a true network really is. Simply having multiple computers does not a network make. They must be able to share files or devices like printers between them electronically without using manual transmission methods. If you have to use a disk (floppy, CD or Zip, or some other brand of cartridge or tape) to move files between computers, you probably do not have or use a network. If you all can print to the same printer from each of the computers, then you probably do have a network.
Your network may be wired or wireless. We will discuss those differences later.
"Styles" of NetworksPeer-to-peer
This means that your computers are connected together to share files or services (printers, internet accounts, etc) without having to have a central storage computer, also known as a Server. You can use file sharing to access other computer files or desktops. If Bob's computer has a file you need, you can log into his computer and pick up a copy of what you need. He does not need to copy it to a Server for you to download. Or use any computer on your network as a pseudo server host for shared files.
Peer-to-peer is ideal for small networks. It is also the least expensive networking software option. Peer-to-peer comes free with most desktop computer operating systems. On the Windows platform it is called Networking (a control panel). On the Macintosh platform it is called Personal Appleshare.
This web site only covers peer-to-peer networking.
Server-based (not covered by this documentation)
A server-based network (aka client-server) uses a host computer dedicated to sharing data and applications between computers. This allows for all computers on the network to post or upload files to the server. Then the other computers would copy or download files from the server. It is a central storage unit but is normally dedicated to this function and cannot be used as a working computer station. The software used to turn your computer into a dedicated Server is usually costly. Servers require more administration to keep then maintained and running at all times. Server-based networks are generally for larger networks.
This informational web site does not cover Server-based networks.
LAN and WANA network is generally defined in acronyms. The two most common acronyms are LAN and WAN.
LAN is Local Area Network. This means that the computers on your network are usually contained at one site, locally -- normally within one building or campus. The data signals on the network only need to travel a short distance.
WAN is Wide Area Network. This means that the network is comprised of two or more LANs. A WAN uses common carrier lines (usually telephone or fiber optics) to connect across two different geographical areas. The jump between LANs is usually made through a sort of tollbooth called a bridge.
Four different types of networks
- Cabled (aka "wired")
Uses network cables - wire.
- Over household (or office) electrical lines
This type of network uses your home or office electrical wiring to run the network. Subject to electrical interference. Slight security risk if your neighbor uses same technology (they could obtain your data). Maintaining brand consistency in the interface cards or devices on your entire network will help avoid compatibility problems. Very slow compared to other network options referred to in this web site.
- Over telephone lines
This type of network uses the existing telephone lines inside your home or office to run your network. Subject to telephone and line interference. Slight security risk if your neighbor uses same technology (they could obtain your data). Maintaining brand consistency in the interface cards or devices on your entire network will help avoid compatibility problems. Telephone line networks are generally slower than cabled networks.
Diamond HomeFree Phoneline(tm)
Dell Phoneline Home Networking
Linksys Homelink Phoneline(tm)
- Four Types of Wireless:
- Radio Frequency (RF)
This standard in wireless technology uses radio waves to carry the network signals through the air. Radio frequency can pass through walls. Suitable for home networks. Slight security risk if your neighbor uses same technology (they could obtain your data). Subject to radio wave interference (cell phone, cordless phone, baby monitors, CB radio, Ham Radio, etc).
- Infrared (IR)
Need line-of-sight or point-to-point connection because infrared light cannot penetrate obstacles (walls, furniture, etc). 50 foot limit. Subject to object interference ("Hey! Could you move? I can't print with you standing in the way!").
Uses satellite or land-based microwave stations to transmit. This option is far too costly for small network users.
Uses narrow beam of light to transmit. 25 to 100 foot limit. This option is too costly for small network users.
See the links (Wireless section) for details.
© Copyright 1996-2001 for U S WEST (written by Kass Johns), all rights reserved world wide.
This work may not be used on another Web site or online service, sold for profit, included within commercial works, or altered or changed in any way without the express written permission of the author and/or copyright owner.