Hardware Basics for Networking
Hubs and Switches
When setting about to Network a bunch of PCs together, certain
specialized pieces of Hardware need to be sourced and purchased
to allow it all to happen. Prices vary considerably in every facet
of PC Networking, and although you generally do get what you pay
for, in many cases the more expensive equipment is simply overkill
for the job at hand.
Much can be achieve with inexpensive and even 2nd hand equipment
found at swapmeets, although if your income depends on the reliability
of it all, it's worth the extra dollars to pay a consultant to
organize the right gear for the job and oversee the installation
of it all.
Below I've given brief descriptions of the more mundane parts
and accessories used in a Computer Network.
Commonly referred to as NICs (Network Interface Cards)
NICs come in many brands and price ranges. You get what you pay
for, but I believe the best value for money comes from brands
like Netgear and D-Link in the $40-100.00 price range, as you
are less likely to get conflicts with other devices and motherboards.
They come in 4 different forms depending on where they need to
1. PCI Cards.
2. ISA Cards
3. USB Ethernet Devices (As supplied by Telstra & Optus. Treat
the same as a card)
4.PCMCIA Cards (for laptops)
There are three basic speeds - 10, dual speed 10/100 or 100 mbit.
Broadband modems are 10 mbit so they will only work with 10 or
To fit a network card, my best advice if you haven't done this
before, is to get someone who has to show you how to do it, or
pay a professional.
That being said, it's not too hard to DIY if you're game and straight
forward 90% of the time first go.
But there are some precautions you'll need to take -
Try not to use two of the same brand of cards on the same Motherboard.
This will avoid odd, inexplicable conflicts and makes it easier
to tell them apart when configuring them later.
If your PC has a sticker on the cover saying "void if
removed" you will void your warranty if you break the seal.
Take static precautions.
Electronic parts are sensitive to static electricity and the
slightest zap can kill expensive parts.
Turn the power off at the socket but leave the PC plugged
in. This provides an Earth for the Case and reduces the opportunity
for static electricity to develop.
Touch the case before anything else and maintain contact
while touching other things.
Better still, use a static strap. The best $5.00 you'll ever
spend. Clip it on the case and the other end on your wrist for
a constant connection that frees up both hands for working.
At the very least, keep one hand firmly on the case at all
Don't poke anything you don't need to.
Be careful not to accidentally unplug leads or bump other cards.
If the PC refuses to boot up once the card is fitted, switch
it off, remove the card and see if starts without it.
If it doesn't, check all the leads are plugged in firmly and
remove and replace the all cards, especially the video card, and
When the PC boots up with the new card in place, the "New
device wizard" will automatically start. Follow your nose.
It's self explanatory.
When the wizard starts, select "Automatic Search"
and tick the box for the drive, or browse to where ever you have
Windows 2000 & XP may not start the wizard if it already
knows what it is and will automatically install it. Check if it's
already in the device manager before freaking out.
Reboot if and when it asks you to.
OzCableguy online shop has a range of Network Cards to choose
come in two basic types.
Standard (or Straight Through) - Used to connect PCs
to hubs or Broadband Modems.
Crossover - Used to connect two PCs together without
Hubs and Switches
Hubs and Switches perform much the same task in
that they provide a central "hub" for a bunch of computers
to link together.
The difference is that a Switch is somewhat smarter and will relay
the data traffic in a sensible manner, whereas a Hub will broadcast
the data willy-nilly to everywhere at once.
They come in all shapes, brands and sizes to suit any sized Network
and budget and, as with Network Cards, have three basic speeds
- 10, dual speed 10/100 or 100 mbit. If you plan on plugging a
Broadband Modem into a hub, it will not work in a straight
100 mbit hub or switch and will also need to be connected
to an uplink port or using a crossover cable to a standard port.
An uplink port provides a "crossover" and is usually
used for stacking (or cascading, Daisy Chaining etc) hubs together.
online shop has a range of Switches to choose from.
What's a Router?
A router is fairly inexpensive and the ultimate
pain-free solution for sharing a Broadband Internet connection.
The beauty of these things is, you plug the modem into one side
of it and your LAN into the other and it takes care of all the
logging in to the ISP, sharing the connection to a Local Area
Network and securing you from Hackers.
You can think of a Router as being another PC with
its own Operating System (called firmware), except all it does
is connect to the Internet, share the Internet connection to a
PC or Network and stop unauthorized access.
Routers range in price and features enormously.
The beauty with the cheaper ones is that they are designed for
ordinary people with a minimum amount of technical ability to
get working, and this amongst many other features, makes them
a viable and in many ways superior method of connecting to, and
sharing, a Broadband Internet Connection. They are usually configurable
through a Web Browser and generally have Wizards to get you on-line
in minutes. Bear in mind that dearer ones rise dramatically in
price as well as the technical knowledge necessary to make them
See the Router Review page
for more details about common Routers for homes and small businesses.
See the OzCableguy online
shop for details, pricing and orders for the better Routers
on the Market today.
Sometimes called Print Ponies, a Print Server is a device that
allows a printer (or several) to be shared on a Network without
the need for another PC to act as a Server to share the printer.
The Print Server pictured has ports for three printers on the
left, which will then be shared on the PC Network via the RJ45
port on the right hand side.
Many have their own spooling and memory which work together to
reduce Network performance degradation and resource consumption
on the PCs.
For any home or office where medium to large amounts of printing
to Networked Printers takes place, Print Servers are a must.
OzCableguy online shop has a range of Netgear & Linksys
Print Servers to choose from.
KVMs (Keyboard/ Video/ Mouse) allow a number of PCs to share
the same keyboard, Monitor and mouse, which can save heaps in
Hardware costs and storage space.
They range from cheap and prehistoric looking things with a dial
to change PCs to more modern push-button designs and keyboard
shortcuts so that you don't even need physical access to the KVM
to control it.
On researching for this section I came across a truly
amazing rack mountable KVM that comes with it's own keyboard
and fold away LCD Screen from A-Ten International Technology Group.
Now I want one...
OzCableguy online shop for a range of Linksys KVMs.