When you connect 2 or more computers together, you are creating a Network.
When you connect a computer to the Internet, you are joining a Wide Area Network!
At one time, the only way to achieve connecting 2 or more computers together was by using an “Ethernet” cable. For the past 15+ years this cable has consisted of 4 pairs of wires and this is still the most reliable method of connecting (networking) computers together. The cables are often described as CAT 5 & CAT 6 patch cables.
For the past 10 years or so we have been able to use WiFi to connect our computers together. Many improvements have been made to WiFi and it has become more reliable but because of its popularity, it is sometimes a victim of its success. WiFi (Wireless Fidelity) is just a name coined by someone to describe a “Wireless” (without wire) method of connecting computers using “Radio waves”. Without a doubt, WiFi is so convenient but it does have limitations and due to it being a “Radio Signal”, it does suffer reliability problems. Bluetooth is also a “Radio Signal” but very much shorter range and isn’t generally used for “networking”.
Connecting to other computers.
If you are only connecting 2 computers to share information, this is called a Peer to Peer network and you can do this using an Ethernet cable (might need to use a crossover cable) or you can use WiFi and in some cases you can use Bluetooth but Bluetooth isn’t very fast and doesn’t really have the capacity of WiFi. With either method you need to manually assign an IP Address to each device. You could connect both computers to a hub or switch, again using Ethernet or WiFi. If you use the router supplied by your ISP, it will normally include a 4 port switch and will have a DHCP capability built-in. It will automatically assign an IP Address to each device connected.
You can normally connect up to 4 computers to the ISP Router. 2 or more computers connected are called a LAN (Local Area Network). It is local because it is local to you and completely separate from the Internet. The LAN is “Private” and the Internet is “Public”. The ISP Router makes this separation by using a basic Firewall called NAT, the router does a lot more but You can read more about NAT and Firewalls on www.pcjudo.co.uk.
Connect to the Internet (Join a Wide Area Network) a.k.a.WAN.
Once you have connected your computer or computers to the ISP Router, connecting to the Internet is like falling off a log! Just open a browser and enter the Website address (a.k.a.the URL). When you connect to the Internet, the Outside Public world, you are joining a Wide Area Network (WAN) and can potentially connect to millions of other computers around the world.
Creating a Local Area Network (LAN).
These days it is very easy If you make use of the ISP Router and built-in 4 port switch, if you have more than 4 devices that you want to network use a separate switch with more ports. Having a LAN, enables you to share printers and exchange information between computers such as photos and documents. You could even set up a device for storing your photos or music etc so that all computers on the LAN would be able to access this “resource”.
You could use an additional combined router/ switch/ WAP. This would allow you to create a Guest LAN. All devices connected to the Guest LAN would only be able to access the Internet and NOT your Home LAN.
There’s lots of combinations. If you’re having trouble getting the WAP in the right place to to get the signal in all rooms, you could use a standalone WAP that can be connected to the 2nd router either by Ethernet or if the 2nd router is also a WAP, you could connect using WiFi (it then becomes a Bridge) You just need to have a think about what you are trying to achieve and be very careful that you don’t open your LAN to the Internet. Lots of info on my sister site (pcjudo) about network and Internet security but if you don’t fancy DIY, give me a shout.
© Jeff DVOIT