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A basic network is not that complicated to set up. Even a couple of Windows 95 (Win95) or Windows 98 (Win98) PCs, connected together by a special cable that runs between their parallel ports, can be considered a network. The problem with the Direct Cable Connection is that you can only connect two PCs, and they cannot be more than 12 feet apart. So, instead, why not set up a “real” network—one that links three or four PCs together? If this is your intention, there are some things you should know in order to become well-connected. We’ll start off with the basic Ethernet, a type of network that has become the standard for most businesses, both large and small.

Ethernet Topology 101
A simple Ethernet network is made up of cables, a network hub, and network interface cards (NICs). A NIC for a desktop PC is a type of expansion card that plugs into your computer’s motherboard. Most Ethernet networks employ a star topology: a single Ethernet cable runs from each PC to the network hub, just like spokes in a wheel. Think of the hub as a convergence point where all of the PCs on the network interconnect. The hub also acts as sort of a traffic cop, making sure that the signals coming and going from one PC to another end up at the desired destination.

Faster & Faster
Most Ethernets support a data transfer rate of 10Base-T, meaning the speed across the network is 10 megabits per second (Mbps) on twisted-pair cables. For new installations and network upgrades in businesses, though, 10Base-T is being replaced by 100Base-T, which has a transmission rate of 100Mbps, and is known as fast Ethernet. Pricing differences for NICs are negligible between the two speeds for a small number of computers in the network.


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