Your very first network

Simple networkMost small businesses that have more than one computer start out with a peer-to-peer network. This means there is no server – the computers talk directly to one another, as peers. If you have Windows XP or Vista, setup is fairly easy and can be done entirely through wizards. With older versions of Windows, the mechanics are a little more complicated, especially for the novice, but it certainly can be done.

Why bother? Networked computers can share not just your Internet connection but also printers and files. You can even backup files from one computer to another.

While you can connect two computers directly together, your network will be much more reliable if you purchase a router, around $50. Linksys, Netgear, and D-Link are popular brands. A router will manage your network for you, by “routing” the signals between your computers and your Internet connection, much like a traffic cop. In addition, most routers have a built-in firewall that will provide basic protection against hackers.

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