Computer Connections at Home, Office, & School
By Mike Angelo - 8 January 2001 (C)
If you have more than one computer at your home, office, or school you can get so much more out of them if you have them connected to each other and to the Internet. Connecting several computers together in a workgroup or a playgroup is easier today than ever -- especially if you have the right software and hardware for connecting your computers.
The most popular and best type of computer connection is a network. There are other ways to connect several computers together too, such as a direct cable connection. With a direct cable connection, you connect two computers via their parallel, serial, or USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports. Today we focus on some benefits of networking your computers and setting up a home, small office, or classroom network.
In our article, Getting Started with Wireless Network Technology: Part I: A Simple Wireless Computer Connection for Home, Office, or School, we discuss networking your computers without wires. Wireless networking is easier to set up than is wired networking and it is more convenient too. A wireless network gives you freedom to roam about with your laptop or notebook computer.
I you are a computer or networking novice, you might want to read Some Basics for Computing & Networking Novices before reading on here. That should help to get you up to speed about networking
The Internet Is a Network
If you use the Internet, you already are an experienced network user. The Internet is the world's largest computer network. For the most part, the Internet works on a server-client networking model.
Many schools today are networked. So if you use a school computer, chances are you already are an experienced network user too -- even if you do not realize that. Likewise if you work for a large company.
It's likely that your Internet, school, or company networking experience is as a user, not as a network administrator. When you set up your own network, then you will be the network administrator for your own network. Cool!
Don't let the idea that being a network administrator is an all too difficult task. If you use the right software and hardware, administering a small home, office, or classroom network can be a piece of cake. More about that further down in this article.
Computers connected to the Internet are a mixture of all sorts of hardware and software. You can connect most any desktop computer to the Internet whether its operating system is Linux, Mac OS, Windows, or whatever. Or you can connect a mainframe computer running UNIX or other such mainframe operating system (OS). And these days there are all sorts of wireless and hand-held devices that can connect to the Internet too,
In like manner but on a much smaller scale, you can connect desktop or laptop computers running Linux, Mac OS, Windows and other personal computer OSs to your home, small office, or classroom network. It is very easy to mix Linux and Windows PCs on the same small network these days.
There are lots of good reasons to network your home, office, or classroom. Some of these reasons are listed and discussed in the Why Network? section immediately below. However, if you already are convinced that you should network your computers, you might want to skip to the Getting Connected section further down.
Networking allows you to share computer resources on one computer such as programs, files, printers, scanners, CD-ROM drives, CD recorders (burners), and so forth with any of the other computers on the network. You even can share a single Internet connection with all the computers on your network.
Internet Connection Sharing (ICS)
For example, let's say mom and dad have a computer and the children have a computer. Without a home network, if you have only one phone line and Internet account, only one of those computers can be connected to the Internet at any one time. However, if you have a home network, both mom and dad can have their computer connected to the Internet at the same time the youngsters' computer is connected to the Internet too. Or, if mom, dad, and each child has his or her own computer, they all can be surfing the Web at the same time. This often is called Internet connection sharing (ICS).
With networking you do not need to have a printer for each computer you have. You can configure your local network so that any computer on your network can access your one and only printer.
If you have several computers networked and several printers, you can configure your local network so that any computer on the network can use any printer on the network. For example, suppose the computer you are at has the black and white laser printer attached to it. However, you want to print an in-color document or picture but your color ink-jet printer is attached to another computer on your network. Simply use your network to send that in-color document to the ink-jet printer. It's pretty darn slick.
These same sorts of networking benefits apply also to small offices and classrooms. And they apply to all sorts of peripheral devices too. Rather than have printers, CD-ROM drives, CD burners, and so forth for each office or classroom computer, you can have just one or two printers, CD-ROM drives, CD burners, etc., which are shared by all or some of the computers on the network.
File sharing is perhaps the most often used network sharing. That lets you access files stored on one computer with another computer on the network. With a peer-to-peer network, you can access files on any computer on the network from any other computer on your network -- provided the owner of the files has given permissions for those files to be shared by other computers on the network.
Another networking benefit arises from situations in which several workers in an office, or students in a classroom, collaborate on the same project. They all can access the same common project files over the network.
Last, but certainly not least for lots of people, is using a network for game play. If you are in to multiplayer games, chances are you have used the Internet for that. With a small home, office, or classroom network family members, co-workers, and students can play games with each other. In the classroom setting the multiplayer games would be educational, of course.
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