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Learn the nuances of networks

Today’s lesson is on networks. Before you roll your eyes and go flipping around for the crossword puzzle, understand that I’m going to make this super easy. Let’s get going.

Networks. Perhaps you’ve heard people, TV commercials or magazine ads throwing that term around. And then there are all those companies out there that “do something” with networks: Nortel, Novell, Cisco S but the question still remains for the majority of the non-technical population.

So, um, what exactly is a network, anyway? Do I have a network? Do I need a network? Aren’t networks only for businesses?



Let’s take the big topic of networking and break it up into little, understandable pieces.

First of all, we need a layperson’s definition. A network is just two or more computers that are linked so that they can exchange files or share resources such as printers. That’s it.



Networked computers can be linked together via cables, telephone lines, radio waves, satellites and even the ever-fancy infrared light beams.

Without a network, a computer is an island. The old, dusty computer sitting in your den right now is probably not connected to any other computers. It is not networked.

If you set up another computer next to that old, dusty computer and networked the two, you could share data (yep, even REALLY BIG files) back and forth between them – without e-mail, Zip discs, or CD-Roms.

You could then set up a third computer and connect it to this little network in your den; in fact, you could connect as many computers as you’d like to the network.

While that may not matter at home, just imagine how useful that same network would be to a small business office spread out across several rooms within a building.

Networks can be tiny. They can be set up in the same room between two computers. They can also be gigantic – reaching across the globe interconnecting thousands of computers.

Networks aren’t solely for businesses, though. Many families like to set up small two- or three-computer networks in their homes. I mean, how else could siblings simultaneously play together in multi-player computer games?

Let’s simplify even more. Here’s a great way to think about networking. Know this much, and you’ll be set.

Say there are three computers in an office. Without a network, everyone in the office in essence has their own paper filing cabinet and their own paperwork. Files can get messy, overlooked and, worst of all, be handled more than once.

With a network these three computers would share the same information. This would be like having one central paper filing cabinet in the office. Everyone can access the same information. No two people can modify/change the same files at the same time. Things are kept organized, nice and neat, thanks to the network.

How do you know if you or your company need a network? Here are a few issues to consider:

Do I ever need to access resources on another computer while I’m working away on a different computer? Would my life be easier without transferring data via floppy or Zip disks? Does my company expect to grow and have employee tasks overlap? If you answered a strong “yes” to any of these questions, a network just might make your life easier.

So that’s it! Now you know what networks are and why people get so excited about them. They’re not for everyone, but for those who use them, they’re infinitely valuable.

Based in Frisco, eRin pheiL

is the primary creative force behind timeforcake (www.timeforcake. com). She can be reached via phone at (970) 668-0709 or e-mail at info@timeforcake.com.


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