Sharing an Internet Connection
It should seem that it would be easy to connect a single computer to the Internet, and be able to use that connection simultaneously with all other computers in the same room (on a LAN). Unfortunately, it's a bit more complicated than that. Naturally, you can have a separate phone line and a separate modem for each computer, but there is a better way. This is especially useful for the newer high-speed connections, such as DSL and cable modems, where paying for more than one line is not practical. You can do it either with a software or a hardware solution:
Software to utilize existing hardware:
If you have Windows 98 Second Edition, you can use the included
Internet Connection Sharing feature.
and WinProxy are third-party, shareware alternatives that enable you to configure your computer as a gateway or a proxy server, respectively.
Drawbacks to using software to share Internet connections:
The performance will be slower than a hardware solution (below)
The computer hosting the connection must be on for the others to have access to the Internet.
The software can be difficult to set up.
A special router (sometimes called a lan modem) is connected directly to the Internet.
Each computer is then connected to the router (which is also a hub), which provides Internet access to all connected computers simultaneously.
Both 3Com and Ascend make lan modem routers. You'll need one that supports your connection type specifically: ISDN, DSL, cable modem, 56k v.90 analog, etc.
These routers typically are very easy to set up, and support 4 to 10 computers. Since they connect via ethernet, each computer will need an ethernet card.
Drawbacks to using hardware to share Internet connections:
The hardware solution is much more expensive.
If you have DSL, contact your provider to find out about getting additional IP addresses. Five IP addresses, for example, would typically provide Internet access for four computers without any special software or expensive hardware.
The downside is the additional monthly expense, although this can be as low as an extra $30 per month.