Choosing a Home Network Technology
Due to the growth in interest in home networking, many manufacturers offer special
home networking hardware and software. Additionally, in many cases, a home
network can take advantage of traditional networking hardware and software. This
section provides an overview of the various home networking options.
Standard Network Hardware
In the past, it wasn't viable for home networks to use networking equipment designed
for businesses, because business network equipment was too expensive and was
designed to support only larger networks. A 24-port Ethernet hub would definitely be
overkill for a home with two or three computers!
These days, business network equipment is available in all shapes and sizes, and
low-end solutions designed for business use will often work quite nicely in most
homes. Small Ethernet hubs or switches that can economically support two to four
computers are readily available for around $50 to $75.
If you consider all the components that you would need for a small network, you'll
find that you really don't require all that much:
Central hub or switch
You can install this hub in a convenient location, such
as where the home's telephone wiring is located, or in a garage, closet, attic,
or basement. You will need an available power outlet for the hub in whatever
location you select.
Network interface card
Each computer needs a network interface card
(NIC) that supports the type of network that you are installing. Most modern
computers come with built-in 10/100/1000Base-T Ethernet cards. If your
computer doesn't have one of these cards, it's usually easy and inexpensive
to purchase and install a standard NIC. The cost for a good Ethernet NIC is
around $50 to $100. Also, there are good Ethernet interfaces that can connect to
a computer's USB port, and these are similarly inexpensive and work well.
You will need to be able to cable the network. This could be the
hardest part of network setup, depending on the actual location of the
computers and the ease with which you can run network cable to each location.
If you aren't comfortable running the cable yourself, a good electrician or
telephone wiring technician should be able to do the job for you. The cost of
professional wiring is about $100 to $150 per network cable run, and this price
should include all connectors, cable, and extras (such as wall plates and jacks).
The operating system on most home computers--usually
Windows XP or Vista, but possibly Windows 9X or Windows Me--is perfectly
capable of handling all of the networking duties that you'll need for a home
network. If you configure the operating systems for a peer-to-peer network,
you'll be able to share printers and files through the system's built-in
networking software. No additional software is needed.