Networking 101

A network allows two or more computers to connect to each other to share files and printers, exchange data, and share an Internet connection. Networks have been common in large companies for decades, are ubiquitous in small businesses, and have become extremely common in homes as well. Home networks have become inexpensive and easy to set up, and as more homes have multiple PCs, networks are commonly used to share a broadband Internet connection, such as a DSL or cable modem.

Among the things you can do with a simple network are the following:

File sharing

Documents and even some applications stored on one computer can be accessed by another computer on the network, as though they were on the remote computer’s hard disk.

File synchronization

Files can be automatically synchronized between several computers—for example, between a PC and a laptop. When the laptop is disconnected from the network—for example, to take on a trip—the files can be altered on the laptop, and when it plugs into the network, those files are automatically copied to the PC, where they can be worked on.

Device sharing

Printers connected to one computer can be used by any other computer on the network. The same goes for many scanners, backup devices, and high-speed Internet devices, such as DSL and cable modems.

Online gaming

Networkable games can be played against other users on your local network or even over the Internet; after all, it’s more fun blowing up your friends than computer-generated ...

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