written by: Jesma•edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 6/11/2009
Even many computer-literates cringe at the thought of networking, but with a little knowledge and direction it can be as easy as many of the other computing tasks you've mastered over the years.
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What is a Home Network
Networking is defined as the interconnecting of two or more network devices, like two computers, or a computer and a router, or perhaps a complex system of multiple computers, routers, hubs, and digital phone devices. Regardless of the size of your network the principles remain the same. 'Home Network' is simply the term that is used to describe a small scale network that someone has in their home. A typical 'Home Network' usually consists of two or more computers sharing files, a digital phone line, a wireless router, and perhaps a network-attached printer. In this series we'll discuss the different ways to implement a home network, both wired and wireless.
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Reasons for a Home Network
Ultimately, creating a home network is all about convenience. It is much more convenient to be able to send files between different computers, likely in different rooms, than it is to save those same files to a disk or portable storage and walk them over. It is also more convenient to be able to print to the same printer, no matter what computer you're on - even a wireless laptop. While there are advanced home networks for great purposes, some people simply want to be able to use their laptop wirelessly and feel secure doing it. Even something as simple as that can prove daunting without good direction, and will be covered in this series.
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High Speed Internet
The need for a home network usually becomes evident when a person decides to start using a high speed Internet provider that offers an "always on" connection. What exactly does that mean? Well, it means that whether you are using a web browser or other Internet software or not, your computer is connected. When this is the case, security becomes a pressing concern. You can be the victim of a hacker simply by having your computer turned on, unless you take the proper security measures.
When a person with a single non-mobile computer first gets high-speed access, they are typically given a single-port cable or DSL modem. Most simply plug their computer into this box, allowing them to access the Internet. However, by doing this, they are basically advertising their computer as a bed and breakfast for hackers. There is absolutely no shield between their computer and the vast expanse of the web, and their computer becomes just another hub, with ports open for docking. So how can someone protect themselves?
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Network Address Translation
Network Address Translation (NAT) is a technology developed for large networks sharing a single Internet connection, but has been adapted to serve a network of any size - even a single system. What does it do? It essentially outfits your computer with an alias to use on the Internet. In technical savvy terms, it translates your Public IP Address into a Private IP Address. This goes half the distance into ensuring your computer is secure from hackers. But how do you obtain and implement this technology? The next article in this series discusses this.
Most computer users have heard the term "Home Network" but aren't quite sure what it is, or they are under the false impression that it is a complex technology that they will never be able to grasp, let alone implement. This guide simplifies the technology and makes it possible for anyone to use.