In the vast world of computers and technology, the Internet acts as a lifeline. The World Wide Web connects everyone together, allowing users to chat with each other, to buy things instantly through websites, and to find almost any information. If the Internet is the spinal cord of the technological world, network cards are the vertebrae, allowing computers to communicate with each other.
A network either allows one or multiple computers to connect to each other in a Local Area Network (LAN), or it allows them to connect to the Internet in a Wide Area Network (WAN). Some networks are configured to allow both. In domestic applications, networking usually consists of allowing the computers in a household to share the same printer, to send and receive files, and to connect the computers to the Internet.
In order for one computer to be able to talk to other computers, or to an Internet service provider (ISP), it needs what is called a Network Interface Card, or NIC. This card is usually found inside the computer, and may be wired or wireless. Many computers offer both options.
A wired network card requires an Ethernet cable. This cable resembles a telephone wire, though slightly larger in diameter, and its end is about twice the size of a standard RJ11 jack. An Ethernet cable is standard for connecting a computer to a high-speed Internet modem, or to a network within the home.
Many computers, particularly laptops, now come with network cards that are wireless. These cards can communicate with a wireless router or network device. Wireless network cards allow users with laptops to roam the house while staying connected to the Internet, eliminating the need for a tethering Ethernet cable.
While network cards are readily available, many computers come with one already installed. In cases in which a card is not preinstalled or if a user wants to upgrade his or her connection, network cards are actually quite simple to install. The instructions provided with a new card should give adequate detail, and many installation walkthroughs exist online.
Regardless of whether the user is creating a wireless network or a wired network in your home, network cards are a necessity for each computer. A computer user should give serious thought to a wireless network if he or she owns a laptop or two. Although there may be more security precautions required with a wireless network, and the speed may be slightly slower, the flexibility gained is quite often worth it.