Monday, December 5, 2011

Is Networking Our Home Computers Worthwhile?

By Owen Jones

If there are a number of computers in your household, you can easily network them together. Just as if your home were an office. You may be asking yourself why you would want to do that, but there are good reasons. If business thinks that it is a decent idea, then there has to be something in it.

The main advantage for a family is the ability to share software. The foremost advantage for parents is the ability to see what their kids are searching for. Call that spying if you want, I call it taking care. Of course, that is your prerogative, but in an office situation someone is able to observe what traffic passes through the office machines, although in some countries this is illegal or illegal-ish.

The easiest manner to do this is with Ethernet cards or by plugging every computer into a residential gateway, which is often called a router. The Ethernet cards are not expensive, but it means running a cable from each computer to the main computer (known as a server). This is the fastest and most dependable method.

Otherwise you could plug each computer into the residential gateway using a similar type of wire. This latter method has a variation - it can be a wireless connection. However, the wireless connection will mean that all the computers need a wireless card, which means more money and it can be slower and more prone to interception by others outside the house.

There are also more complex variations on these techniques. For example, you could link all the upstairs computers by network (also called LAN) cards and have one of those computers use a wireless connection to the server or router to which the server is connected.

Once the hardware is connected, setting up a local area network (LAN) is not that difficult because Windows has a wizard to help you do it. This is a step-by-step wizard which makes it fairly easy to do, although in practice there are a few things that you have to understand to complete the process, not that it should be above anyone.

Once up and running, each computer on the LAN will become able to share any file that is designated as 'shared'. The term 'file' includes programs, text, writings, pictures, audio files and anything else on any computer in the house that is designated as 'shared' by its creator.

It also means that devices or peripherals can be shared. For instance, you will only have to have one printer and one scanner, which can be shared. Every computer will also be able to take part in multi-player games too - each in their own rooms in conditions that suit them - lights on or off, et cetera.

Another enormous advantage of having an LAN is the ease of regulating Net security. It means one firewall, one virus protection system and one anti-spyware system all controlled by the most reliable person in the house or on the LAN.

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