Through the use of a dedicated network print server, which is a box about the
size of a deck of cards that connects to the printer's parallel or USB port (or
even a wireless 802.11 protocol connection) on one end and the network on the
other end. Dedicated print servers also contain the hardware necessary to act
as print servers. This can be a good option when you need to share a printer
that does not contain the necessary networking connections.
Just as you can share files on a network, you can often also share applications. For
example, if you have the proper type of software license, you can have a shared copy of
some applications stored on the network server. When a workstation wants to run the
program, it loads the files from the network into its own memory, just as it would from a
local disk drive, and runs the program normally. Keeping applications centralized reduces
the amount of disk space needed on each workstation and makes it easier to administer
the application. (For instance, with some applications, you need to upgrade only the
network copy; with others, you also must perform a brief installation for each client.)
Another application service you can host on the network is a shared installation
point for applications. Instead of needing to load a CD-ROM onto each workstation
to install an application, you can usually copy the contents of the CD-ROM to a folder
on a server, and then have the installation program run from that folder for each
workstation. This makes installing the applications much faster and more convenient.
Make sure any applications you host on a network server are licensed appropriately.
Most software licenses do not let you run an application on multiple computers. Even if you need
only one actual copy of the application to set up the files on the server, you still must have a license
for every user. Different applications have different fine print regarding licensing--some require one
license per user, some require one license per computer, some allow your network users to use
a copy at home freely, and so forth. Make sure to carefully read the license agreements for your
business software and adhere to their terms and conditions.
An extremely valuable and important network resource these days is e-mail. Not only
can it be helpful for communications within a company, but it is also a preferred vehicle
to communicate with people outside a company.
E-mail systems are roughly divided into two different types: file-based and client/
server. A file-based e-mail system is one that consists of a set of files kept in a shared
location on a server. The server doesn't actually do anything beyond providing access
to the files. Connections required from a file-based e-mail system and the outside
(say, to the Internet) are usually accomplished with a stand-alone computer--called
a gateway server--that handles the e-mail interface between the two systems, by using
gateway software that is part of the file-based e-mail system.