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Create Home Network

Create Home Network If you have more than one computer in your household, you should consider creating a network. It will enable multiple computers to be connected, allowing for easy sharing of essential files, printers and a single Internet connection. The cost of networking can be surprisingly affordable, and creating a network has become easy and user friendly even for the computer novice. In this feature, we'll give you some basic pointers for creating your home network.

Your Network Options

There are several ways that you can network your computers, or create a local area network (LAN). When deciding how to network your computers, choosing your networking method is the first step. When deciding on your method, you'll want to consider factors such as the cost of networking hardware, the data transmission speed, the logistics within your home environment and the maintenance costs.

  • Telephone line networking enables you to network your computers and peripherals through your home telephone lines. You can buy a program that will allow regular use of your telephone, even while computers are connected, though it will not work if you're actually surfing the Internet. The downside of networking requires logistics such as: How are you going to run telephone wire through multiple areas of your home? There are also bandwidth difficulties as most telephone line-based LANs operate at 800 Kbps.
  • Wireless local area networks are becoming very popular. A plus to taking your network wireless is that you can be connected to your network and the Internet whether you are actually seated behind the desk of your home office or out by the pool. Wireless LANs work on the same premise as portable telephones. Wireless networking technology can offer you a trouble-free connection at distances of several hundred feet. An additional benefit is that many hotels and airports are offering wireless networking capabilities to their clients and guests. This adds value to the initial investment in wireless cards and equipment since you could be connected to your network even when on the road. As the number of wireless roamers grows, so will the coverage areas. When purchasing a wireless networking kit, make sure the speed is up to standard. The latest standard is 11 Mbps, but the technology is quickly changing. Be sure to ask your vendor before purchasing a kit.
  • Ethernet networks allow the transmission of data at 10 Mbps. The wiring for Ethernet can be bulky with limited mobility. Although many new constructions are wiring buildings and homes for Ethernet sockets, to have an already existing home re-wired is generally cost prohibitive. To get your Ethernet up and running, you need to purchase an Ethernet hub, Ethernet cables and a NIC or PCI card that will facilitate the transmission of data and the connectivity of your network. An Ethernet or computer professional can recommend specific components. When purchasing equipment, shop around for a kit that has user-friendly installation and a set-up program that will guide you through it step-by-step.
  • AC Power Line Network enables you to network your computers through existing electrical sockets. It is very easy to network your computers via AC power lines; you purchase adapters that will plug directly into your electrical sockets and then into your computers and peripherals. However, there are several major drawbacks to AC networks. Transmission is slow--about 100 Kbps. You must also be careful when using large appliances in addition to your computers, as fuses can blow during data transmission. AC power line networks are likely to be used by appliances of the future "smart home," which will network home appliances--not for graphic, sound, and text intensive file sharing.

Note: If you need to network a mixed environment of PC and Macintosh computers, you can purchase equipment to link the two types of computers. Consult your networking vendor for recommendations.

Set Up Tips

If you've decided, as many people do, to set up your LAN yourself, you'll need to read all component directions and prepare (e.g. with necessary tools nearby) before attempting to install components. If you follow instructions step-by-step, you could set up your network in just about an hour. Network set-up instructions vary widely according to the type of network you're installing and the particular components you've purchased. Regardless of what type of network you install, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Write down your network configurations. You may need them when configuring another computer on the network, or in the event that a networked computer crashes, setting it up again will be a snap.
  • Test computer configurations. Network set-up wizards can help you through this step.
  • Set up file-sharing and printer-sharing options on each computer so that your computers know its OK to share files and printers with other computers on your network. However, to network safely through Microsoft Networking, you may also have to re-configure your NetBIOS configuration through NetBeui. The NetBIOS re-configuration will ensure that hackers cannot access your computer files via the Internet. While configuring NetBIOS is not complicated, there are a number of steps involved. There are a number of online tutorials to help you understand how to secure NetBIOS step-by-step.
  • Back up regularly. A network means that all your computers can back-up to the same device, whether it's a CD-RW, tape or cartridge drive (e.g. Iomega Zip drive). Remember to schedule back-ups for computers often, so that you can recover your computers' valuable data after a crash or virus attack.

Securing Your Network

Computers that are networked and access the Internet via broadband connections are at greater risk for hack attacks and other malicious online activity. Hackers can:

  • Steal information such as credit card numbers, passwords and email
  • Steal, or piggyback, your bandwidth causing you degraded Internet performance
  • Introduce malicious computer programs, such as BO2K, or Active X and Java controls that enable hackers to control your computer or track your computer activities--without your knowledge.

It is very important to be vigilant about security on your home network, especially since it can take months to discover that someone has broken into your network. When it comes to computer crime and fraud, prevention is the best course of action.

Security solutions that can help you to better protect your home network include:

  • Norton Internet Security, which offers several features designed to make surfing online safe for you and your family, including Norton Personal Firewall. This home firewall program controls incoming and outgoing Internet connections and will alert you to any intrusion attempts. It also allows you to block potentially malicious ActiveX and Java controls from unfamiliar sites. Norton Privacy Control ensures that credit card and other confidential information is not sent via an insecure Internet connection. It also protects your email address and other personal information from being sent via cookies to Web sites. In the Norton Internet Security Family edition, you'll also get Parental Control, which enables you to designate which applications (e.g. chat software) and which content children may access while online.
  • Norton AntiVirus, which will keep your networked computers protected from the latest computer viruses, worms, Trojan Horses and other malicious code. Since new viruses are always emerging it is important to frequently download updates to virus definitions through Symantec's LiveUpdate site.

A home network has many benefits: You can share printers and ISP connections among multiple computers, save time copying files between computers, and play computer games via the network. It is becoming a viable option for many multi-computer families. To prevent installation headaches, be sure to do sufficient research before attempting to network your computers. Keep in mind that maintenance, including regular security upgrades, is critical to the long-term success of your home network.

Norton Internet Security Product Page

Norton AntiVirus Product Page

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