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    Guide to Network Components


We will stay to the basic network for our discussions.  The basic network components today are:



The two most popular types of network cabling are twisted-pair (also known as 10BaseT) and thin coax (also known as 10Base2). 10BaseT cabling looks like ordinary telephone wire, except that it has 8 wires inside instead of 4. Thin coax looks like the copper coaxial cabling that's often used to connect a VCR to a TV set. 

We recommend that 10baseT or Cat5 cables for most home or small business networks.  It is thin, easy to manipulate and comes in custom lengths easy to purchase.  The 10baseT/Cat5 cables have connectors that resemble a phone cord connector, only larger.  These are called RJ-45 connectors.

Which type of cabling is best for you?
Thin coax and 10BaseT can both be used exclusively or together, depending on the type of network that you're putting together. Small networks, for example, may want to use 10BaseT cabling by itself, because it's inexpensive, flexible, and ideal for going short distances.  This is recommended for home networks as it is the easiest.

Larger networks (usually with 10 or more computers) may use a thin coax backbone with small clusters of 10BaseT cabling that branch off from it at regular intervals.



Network Adapter Card
A network computer is connected to the network cabling with a network interface card, (also called a "NIC", "nick", or network adapter). Some NICs are installed inside of a computer: the PC is opened up and a network card is plugged directly into one of the computer's internal expansion slots. 286, 386, and many 486 computers have 16-bit slots, so a 16-bit NIC is needed.  Faster computers, like high-speed 486s,  Pentiums, PentiumII and PentiumIII, all have 32-bit, or PCI slots. These PCs require 32-bit NICs to achieve the fastest networking speeds possible for speed-critical applications like desktop video, multimedia, publishing, and databases.  And if a computer is going to be used with a Fast Ethernet network, it will need a network adapter that supports 100Mbps data speeds as well. These cards are often referred to as 10/100cards.

If a PC lacks expansion slots (which is true with portable PCs), special network adapters are used. A PCMCIA network adapter connects a PC to a network if the PC has a credit card-sized PCMCIA expansion slot, while a pocket adapter connects a PC to a network through the its printer port.


The central connecting device is called a hub. A hub is a box that is used to gather groups of PCs together at a central location with 10BaseT cabling. If you're networking a small group of computers together, you may be able to get by with a hub, some 10BaseT cables, and a handful of network adapters. Larger networks often use a thin coax "backbone" that connects a row of 10BaseT hubs together. Each hub, in turn, may connect a handful of computer together using 10BaseT cabling, which allows you to build networks of tens, hundreds, or thousands of computers. 

Like network cards, hubs are available in both standard (10Mbps) and Fast Ethernet (100Mbps) versions. 


The Switching hub, sometimes called a "Switch" is a more advanced unit over the basic hub.  In a basic hub, all the computers connect to it and the speed of the network is defined by the slowest computer network card connected.  If you have 10 100Mbps cards on the network and just on 10Mbps card, the system cannot run faster than that one 10Mbps card.  There in comes the Switching hub.  This hub treats each network card independently and in the matter of the 10 100Mbps network with the one 10Mbps network card, the Switching hub allows all of the faster connections to remain at the higher speed and still interact with the 10Mbps system.



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