In one of our previous blog posts, we left off saying we were going to take a look at the internet order form. On the form you’ll find a lot of technical terms like shared Ethernet, DHCP, dedicated lines, public IP, VPN and T1. If you don’t know what some (or any) of those mean, don’t worry – you don’t need a degree in computer science to order your internet services for the show.
So what do all these terms mean?
Well let’s just start with the term Ethernet. What is Ethernet? Basically, Ethernet is a system for connecting a number of computer devices to form a local area network or (LAN). It has protocols to control the passing of information between devices. It also avoids simultaneous transmissions. In other words it is a way for computers, printers, scanners, and other devices to talk to each other without talking over each other.
A basic hard-wired LAN consists of:
- Two or more computer devices to be connected together, or networked.
- A network interface card (NIC), also referred to as a ethernet card, in each device. This card will accept an RJ45 8 pin connector which is a little bigger than a regular phone line connector and is accessible from the back of most desktop computers.
- An Ethernet cable to connect to each device
- A hub, switch, or router to direct network traffic.
- Networking software
Now I’d like to go back to number four on our list. Although a lot of people use the terms hub, switch, and router interchangeably, they are actually different devices with different functions.
When using a hub, information is broadcast to every one of its ports every time. It doesn’t matter that the information only needs to get to one port – like from the computer to a printer. The hub has no way of identifying which port the information should go to. By sending it to every port the hub guarantees that it will get where it needs to go.
This puts a lot of traffic on the LAN, or network, and can slow things down – big time. So the next level up would be a switch. Now a switch will identify the MAC addresses (a unique identifier for each device) of all the devices connected to it. Knowing these addresses, a switch can identify which device is on which port. So when information comes into the switch, it knows exactly which port to send it to. So regardless of the number of PCs transmitting, users will always have more bandwidth since a switch generates less network traffic. This is why a switch is a much better choice than a hub on busy networks.
Now we have made it to the top – the router. Routers are used to connect multiple networks, such as the Internet and your LAN. A network with only switches or hubs must designate one computer as the gateway to the Internet and that computer must possess two network adapters for sharing – one for the LAN and another for the Internet which is a WAN, or Wide Area Network. With a router, all computers connect to the router and the router performs all gateway functions.
We will continue with more about Internet order terminology next week.