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  • The term LAN (Local Area Network) is best described as a small to medium sized network of computers located in the same area, usually even in the same building (from dictionary.com, "A system that links together electronic office equipment, such as computers and word processors, and forms a network within an office or a building.") I'm sure that most of us have come in contact with a LAN in one way or another, be it in a school, a local library or friend's house. Local area networks are mainly used to offer resource sharing (such as internet and data) and also for my personal favorite, multiplayer games.

    As broadband Internet access has become increasingly popular, and many people have invested in multiple computers in their household, a home LAN is on its way to becoming the norm. Sharing broadband internet access through a LAN can save you a lot in the cost of a modem & additional IP address for each PC connected. But how do we go about setting up a LAN, and what about sharing our broadband Internet access?

    Networking bandwidth is measured in megabits (Mbps) as opposed to megabytes (MBps), the latter of which most of us are familiar with. One byte is actually a collection of eight bits; therefore there are eight bits in one byte. Today's networking runs on either a 10base-T (10 Mbps or 1.25MBps) Ethernet or 100base-TX (100 Mbps or 12.5MBps) Ethernet networking cable connected to the switch, router, hub, or computer using an RJ-45 interface, which resembles a standard phone line.

    Before you start going networking crazy wiring up your house you should know a little about the different networking cables available. Depending on the desired location of PCs in your house you may need to go through your walls to properly wire with cat5 cable for a network. For some, especially those without attics or crawlspaces, this can be a daunting task and may even be impossible.

    Wireless networking can come in handy for those who do not want the headache of drilling through walls. Be warned though, wireless networking is usually not as fast, and much more expensive to implement. Yet another option to consider is a 10 mbps phone-line kit. Phone-line kits are available from common names in the networking industry such as D-Link, Linksys, 3com and Netgear which can utilize your existing phone line to send data between computers.

    For those of you that won't go wireless, you'll probably end up with CAT 5 twister pair network cable. In case those words are foreign to you, the Electronics Industry Association (EIA) explains cable classifications as shown below by breaking the cabling solutions into six categories according to quality and speed of the cable:

    CAT 1&2: Low data speed transmission less than 10mbps (basic telephone wire)
    CAT 3: Data speeds of up to 16 mbps
    CAT 4: Data speeds of up to 20 mbps
    CAT 5: Data speeds of up to 100 mbps (what we will use)
    CAT 5 Enhanced: Data speeds of up to 200 mbps
    CAT 6: Data speeds of up to 600 mbps

    Category 5 cable is the most common, and least expensive to use for an Ethernet network.

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