|Ethernet is the most common type of network, mainly because it's
fast and relatively inexpensive. A wired network, it relies on cables to
connect all of the nodes.
Ethernet commonly operates at two speeds,
measured in megabits per second (Mbps):
- 10 Mbps, also know as Standard Ethernet or
- 100 Mbps, also known as Fast Ethernet or 100Base
Gigabit Ethernet is a new, faster Ethernet technology, but not
as widely used as Standard and Fast Ethernet. At 1000 Mbps, it's
lightning fast, but also more expensive.
Each computer in an Ethernet network needs a network interface
card (NIC) so it can talk to the other devices on the network.
Network interface cards are also sometimes called Ethernet cards,
network cards, or network adapters. The good news is that
most newer computers already have an Ethernet card installed. If not,
you need to purchase an Ethernet card for every computer you want to add
to the network.
Ethernet cables are used to connect all of the nodes on an
Ethernet network. The most common type of cable is called Cat 5
(short for category 5), an unshielded twisted-pair cable. Cat 5 looks
like ordinary telephone wire, but with 8 wires inside instead of 4 and a
larger wall plug-in called an RJ-45 connector.
All of the devices on an Ethernet network need a common place where
they connect. There are three kinds of equipment that do the job:
A hub is like the hub of a wheel, a central box that all of the
devices on the network plug into. A hub allows any two devices on the
network to communicate with each other.
A switch is like a hub, except it not only connects devices, but
directs the flow of information between them as well. A switch allows
for faster communication when many people are using the network at the
A router is a type of switch that also connects to your DSL/cable
modem, allowing many people to access the Internet on different
computers at the same time. It acts as a sort of gateway between the
Internet and all of the computers on your home network.
There are two main things to consider when you're deciding whether to
go with a hub, switch, or router: (1) how many devices you want to
network, and (2) if you want to share a single Internet connection. If
you want multiple computers to share one broadband Internet connection,
then a router is the best choice. Otherwise a hub or switch will work
just fine. As a rough rule of thumb, use a switch if you are connecting
more than four computers. Less than four, and a hub is okay.
No matter what you choose, pay attention to the number of ports it
has, because the number of ports tells you how many devices you can
connect to it. For example, a four-port hub can connect four devices.
Here's an example of how a typical Ethernet home network might be set
Say you have three computers that you want to network, one of which
has a printer attached. Plus you have a broadband Internet connection
you want to be able to use at all of the computers simultaneously.
|Each of the computers needs a network interface card so it can
talk to the
other computers. So check each computer and install a NIC in any
doesn't already have one.
|Since you want to be able to access the Internet at all three
router is the best choice for your connecting device. Plug your
modem into your router.
|Run Cat 5 cable from each computer to the router.
|Configure the software on each computer to enable your network.
And that's it! With a setup like this, you can swap files between the
computers, surf the Internet on all of the computers at the same time,
and print from any computer to the printer.
Ethernet Pros & Cons
Because all of the nodes are connected via cables, Ethernet is the
fastest and most stable of the home networking options. But cables can
also be a limitation. If your home is not pre-wired for Ethernet and
your computers are far apart, running cables between rooms can be
unsightly and installing wiring and jacks can get expensive.