Build Your Network

Firewalls notwithstanding, your connection to the Internet is not much different than your connection to other PCs in your home or office. It’s this fact that makes Windows all at once easy to network and frustrating to troubleshoot and secure.

Terminology Primer

To start building a network, you should understand a few basic networking concepts:

The distinction between local and remote resources

A local resource is an object—a folder on your hard disk or a printer physically connected to your PC—that’s accessible without a network connection. A remote resource is one that resides on another computer to which yours is connected over a network. For example, a web page at http://www.annoyances.org is a remote file, but an HTML file on your own hard disk is a local file, even though they may appear indistinguishable in a browser. Microsoft tries to blur the line, a strategy that sometimes works and other times backfires: for instance, Windows applies different security restrictions and drag-drop rules to remote files than to local ones, and that subtlety can be a pain in the keester.

LAN versus WAN

LAN is shorthand for Local Area Network, a small assemblage of PCs in a home or small office connected with cables or wireless signals. Likewise, WAN stands for Wide Area Network, or a network formed by connecting computers over large distances (e.g., the Internet).

Ethernet

Ethernet is the wired technology upon which the vast majority of non-wireless local area networks is built. ...

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