What Is a Home Network?

R. Kayne

If you have more than one computer in the house, you may want to consider linking them together in a home network. This network allows multiple computers to interact with one another in order to share files, resources and an Internet connection.

DSL filter.
DSL filter.

Sharing Files: Swapping files between computers is standard procedure for anyone with more than one computer in the house. In the past this was done with floppies, then CDs, and now memory sticks. A home network makes it easier than ever, as you can access any other computer from the comfort and convenience of your own keyboard. Directories and files appear as if they were on your own system. MP3 libraries, digital photographs, spreadsheets and word processing files are only a click away, no matter where they reside on the network. Whether an individual with a laptop and desktop system, or a large family with multiple computers in the house, network users will find file sharing to be one of the biggest conveniences.

An Ethernet cable, which can be used to connect a computer to a router.
An Ethernet cable, which can be used to connect a computer to a router.

Sharing resources: A home network allows all computers direct access to a single printer. This not only saves the expensive of multiple printers, but also allows for the purchase of a single high-end printer that everyone can use. If more than one person on the network is sending data to the printer, jobs will enter a queue. Another central resource might be a scanner. With the low prices of hard disks, a large central drive can even backup all computers on the network.

Shared Internet access: One of the most popular reasons for a home network is to share a high speed Internet connection, such as DSL or cable. One account will service all computers in the house and every member of the family can use the connection simultaneously on his or her own system.

Gaming: If your family is big on gaming, a home network will allow multiple players to compete against each other from different computers in the house. You can also send Webcam images or DVDs to other computers on the network.

The software used in the network can be set up many ways with administrative privileges that can allow restricted access. Parents might choose to protect their systems from file sharing, while the kids' systems might be fully available to the network.

There are four main technologies that can be used to implement a home network: Ethernet, phone-line networking, power-line networking and wireless networking. As there are advantages and disadvantages to each, consider each option carefully before deciding which is best for you. Security, speed, convenience and cost are the main issues of concern.

No matter which technology you choose, once installed and configured you might find yourself wondering how you ever got along without a home network.

A wireless router can be used to set up a home network.
A wireless router can be used to set up a home network.

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