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
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.