In This Chapter
Evaluating the advantages of a network
Connecting to other computers and devices
Selecting networking hardware and software
Networking is neat stuff: The ability to copy or edit a document that's on another computer halfway down the hall is invaluable, whether that hallway is in a business or your own home. (Even a home office like mine, where six computers constantly vie for my attention in the same room, benefits from a network. Although the computers are only a few feet apart, moving 60GB worth of data between them would be no small feat without a common network connection.)
However, not everyone with multiple computers needs a network. For example, if you don't often exchange information between your computers, you can get by using a "sneaker net" or a simple USB or FireWire transfer cable. However, if you regularly need to share files, applications, and an Internet connection, you'll want a network. (I think you know which course of action I usually recommend. After all, look at the rest of this chapter and this minibook!)
Here, I cover what a network can do for you, which hardware and software you need, and how much work is involved. Later chapters in this minibook fill in the blanks (and compare the pros and cons of wired versus wireless), but after you read this introduction, you'll know whether a network is worth your effort.
If you've never used a network to link multiple computers, ...