Ever wish you didn’t have to get up to go to the desktop computer to work on the budget just because you don’t have a copy on your laptop? Wish every computer in the house could access the latest digital vacation photos?
Ever wish you didn’t have to get up to go to the desktop computer to work on the budget just because you don’t have a copy on your laptop? Wish every computer in the house could access the latest digital vacation photos? With networking, solutions to these issues are easy.
In this series of articles, we’ll look at networking as it was designed to work: sharing information, devices and communicating. This month, we’ll start with a little background on networking. Next month, we’ll learn how to create a grid of the important information on our computers. After that, we’ll evaluate that list to learn what might be changed, and then, we’ll look at how to configure our computers so we can share files with every computer in the network. Finally, we’ll talk about the risks involved in network sharing so you can decide if the convenience is worth it, as well as how to safeguard your network if you decide to move forward.
Keep in mind that storing personal information on an Internet- connected computer makes you vulnerable to identity theft and other types of fraud and that this risk dramatically increases when devices and files are shared. Additionally, once one networked computer is infected by malware, sharing resources potentially increases the risk of all computers on the network being infected.
Networking is simply the practice of linking two or more devices (computers, printers) for the purpose of sharing data, services (printing) and communication (email, IM). Both hardware and software comprise a network.
Larger business networks likely use a client/server network. This type of network has one or more computers “in charge” of access to resources, such as printers, email or other data. More importantly, network security is controlled through these computers via authentication before these resources can be accessed. Authentication means you prove that you are who you say you are. This is usually accomplished via the user providing logon information, usually in the form of a username and password.
In the home arena, most of us have peer-to-peer (workgroup) networks. This means our computers are loosely connected; each computer manages its own security or access (authentication) to resources located on those computers. For smaller home networks, this makes sense. We don’t want to dedicate separate machines to separate functions (and complex network services, such as email, are “outsourced” so we don’t have to set them up on our small networks). Still, we should log on to any computer connected to the Internet. The extra seconds it takes to provide logon information is a great investment in security. Computers and networks without authentication are like buildings without locks and keys—anyone can walk in.
Connectivity between computers is usually provided by a central device connected to your broadband, cable or DSL modem called a switch or router. Thus, the network is a “star” with all devices radiating outward from the central device. TPW