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Welcome to our quick hardware guide. There are many different brands and models of hardware commonly used to make a good network, such a large number of choices makes it impossible for us to document each and every one. The examples shown here are good representatives of devices of their type and are included so that the reader can get an idea of what they might look like.

Ethernet Cables

Ethernet or network cables connect computers and other devices together to communicate with each other. This type of network is often referred to as an ethernet or wired network. The computer must have an ethernet card (also called a network card, Network Interface Card or NIC for short) which the network cable plugs into. They are particularly usefull in wireless networks for connecting to devices such as access points for their initial configuration.

Ethernet Cable

Ethernet or Network Card

Ethernet or Network Card

Network cards (also called an ethernet card, Network Interface Card or NIC for short) are used to connect computers to wired or ethernet networks. A network cable is plugged into a network card installed on the computer and the other end of the cable is plugged into a switch or similar device so that the computer can communicate with other computers and devices. Most computers and laptops have one built into them however if your computer doesnt have one a network card such as the one to the left can be installed in the majority of cases.

Network Switch

Switches are used in conjunction with network cables to join multiple computers and devices (such as wireless access points) together so that they may communicate. One end of the network cable is connected to the switch and the other is plugged into the computers network card. The computer can then communicate with any other computer or device plugged into the switch.

Network Switch

Wireless Network Card

Wireless Network Cards

Wireless network cards are used to connect computers to wireless networks. Wireless networks allow computers and devices to communicate with each other without being physically connected by wires, instead they communicate using radio waves. The current trend is for mobile computers (laptops, pda's etc) to have wireless cards built into them however desktop computers tend to be lagging behind in this respect and most desktops will need to have a wireless card installed.

Access Point/Bridge

Access Points or AP's are the wireless equivelent of an ethernet switch. Although computers can talk directly to each other (called an ad-hoc wireless network) access points allow computers or devices to connect to them as clients (called an infrastructure wireless network) so that they may communicate with each other. Access Points generally have a single ethernet connection so that the wireless network (wlan) can be joined to a wired or ethernet network. In this role the AP may be often referred to as a bridge.

Access Point/Bridge

Wireless Router

Wireless Routers

Wireless Routers are much like access points however they generally perform additional tasks as well. For example, the Asus router pictured here has 5 ethernet ports (not visible), 4 are used as a switch and the 5th is used as a WAN port (Wide Area Network, generally the internet). The WAN port is usually connected to a cable or DSL modem. The router then distributes the internet from the WAN port to computers on the wireless network as well as any plugged into the switch via ethernet. Generally the WAN port is protected by a firewall which protects the computers connected to the router from direct attacks from the internet.

Wireless ADSL Modem

The ADSL modem pictured here has its own built in wireless access point. ADSL is the most common form of broadband internet and the objective of most people building a wireless network is of course to share a common internet connection between multiple computers or to connect a computer or several computers to the internet in a location where network cabling is undesirable or not possible. ADSL modems with built in wireless access points are a viable and easy option when all the computers that require the internet connection are within range of its radio.

ADSL Modem with wireless

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