Setting up a network is
fairly easy these days. Each of your computers needs a network card (NIC),
you need a centralized hub or switch, and with the proper tweaking of your
computer's network settings, you're off to the races.
What I'll discuss here is
more the setup of your network.
I'll make the great assumption
that the cabling you use will be Category 5 cable (Cat 5) with the RJ45
jacks that look like phone jacks but have 8 wires instead of 2 or 4 wires.
The reason this type of cabling is clearly the best way to go is because
almost every type of network card out there has the jack for this cable.
Also, this cable allows you to reach faster speeds than normal coax cable.
Also, with cat5 cabling, you can have each computer connect to a central
hub so that if one of the computers goes down, the other computers can
stay online. The old coax cable linked one computer to another in a circle
so that if at any point in the circle there was a break, every computer
went down. The cat5 cabling method with a centralized hub is in a spoke
wheel configuration. If one spoke breaks, the other computers can remain
connected to the network.
With the price of hardware
the way it is today, I cannot think of a good reason to go with 10baseT.
10baseT gives you a theoretically maximal transfer rate of 1.25 megabytes
per second. 100baseT alternatively is rated 12.5 megabytes per second although
I have yet to see a network hit that speed. 3-5 Megs per seconds is a much
more realistic number. If you're going to be transferring large files from
computer to computer, the speed difference is very noticeable. If you're
going to be just surfing the web, you won't see any difference at all.
Get 100baseT, it cost only a little bit more and makes life on the LAN
less of a headache when it comes time to upload/download files from your
server. Trust me.
Another reason you'll want
a fast network (100baseT) is that you'll probably double up your webserver
as a file server or print server. My webserver acts as a file server that
is only accessible from the LAN side, not from the Internet or WAN side.
I have a directory that has all the install files, programs, even complete
copies of CD-ROMs that I've copied onto the hard disk. I do this so when
I build a new computer, I can simply install all my programs and drivers
off the network instead of looking for dozens of floppy disk and CD-ROMs
with drivers and programs. It saves a lot of time! I also make back ups
of important files and documents from my own personal computer onto the
network card is the best?
We wondered the same thing
so we did some tests and came up with some interesting answers. Check
it out: Network Adapter Testing.
the difference between a hub and a switch?
Send OR receive data
to or from a node
Send AND receive
data to or from
a node at the same time
All users share the hub's
Each user enjoys dedicated
bandwidth without sharing with other users
Sends data to all nodes
it finds the right address
Recalls data packet's destination
and sends it there directly
As you can see, there are
many advantages to switches over hubs, however, switches are usually twice
as expensive as hubs. If you can afford it, get a switch.
Otherwise, a hub should be fine.
Cables - Straight or Crossover?
are two major types of Ethernet network cables, "straight through" (also
known as regular) and "crossover" cables. In most situations, you
will use straight through cables for most of your network needs, however
there are a few instances where you need crossover cables. The most
likely time you will need a crossover cable is when you connect two computers
together without going through a hub. In the typical situation where
you DO use a hub, the hub "crosses" the wires internally. What a
crossover cable does is put the "cross" inside the cable itself so you
don't need a hub, hence the name crossover cable. Unfortunately,
this may not be the only time you use a crossover cable. There are
special situations that require crossover cables such as with certain DSL/Cable
modems, or when connecting several hubs together. Here is a small
guide for your cabling enjoyment. By the way, "hub" in this table broadly
includes network switches as well. Also, "NIC" stands for "Network
Interface Card" which I'm sure you already knew!
Cable Connection Table
NIC - Crossover Cable
Hub - Straight (regular) Cable
Uplink - Crossover Cable
to Hub (regular) - Crossover Cable
to Hub (Uplink) - Straight (regular) Cable
Modem to Uplink port on a DSL/Cable Router (WAN port):
your Modem came with a Straight Cable:
Modem came with a Crossover Cable:
to NIC - Straight (regular) Cable
to Hub - Crossover Cable
to Uplink - Straight (regular) Cable
to NIC - Crossover Cable
to Hub - Straight (regular) Cable
to Uplink - Crossover Cable
Dynamic, and Mixed Static/Dynamic LAN IP addresses.
Here, we are talking about internal (LAN) IP addresses, not external (WAN)
IP addresses. The WAN IP address is the one that your DSL/Cable provider
gives you. The LAN IP addresses are ones that exist on your local
network and are not accessible from the Internet unless you enable port
forwarding or DMZ (demilitarized zone) on your router. Clear?
Look at this diagram if you're
(LAN) IP addresses
this type of network, you must manually configure each computer's network
settings. This is okay if you have a small network but can become
very tedious if you have several computers. This type of network
is good for networks that don't change very often. A webserver MUST
have a static LAN IP so that the router can know exactly which IP address
the webserver is at. Here is a diagram
of what this type of network looks like.
(LAN) IP addresses
a dynamic IP network, your computers will get their IP numbers from the
DHCP server. This makes life really easy because you don't have to
configure each computer's network settings, you simply tell the computer
to get the network settings from the DHCP server. This type of network
is good if you are constantly adding or removing computers. It's
good for workstations that don't care what their internal LAN IP's are.
It's also good for networks with many computers. Heck, it's a good type
of network no matter how small your network is.
(LAN) Static/Dynamic IP addresses
To run a webserver behind
a router, you must assign the server a static IP number so that it never
changes. This way, the router can forward web/ftp/email requests
to the proper computer each time. Otherwise, if you gave the server
a dynamic LAN IP address, the IP number could change and then your router
wouldn't know where to send the web/ftp/email requests.
However, having a dynamic
LAN IP's for the rest of the workstations is still desirable because of
all the advantages we listed above. This is why it's called a mixed
static/dynamic IP LAN. We get the best of both worlds (Static for
the server, dynamic for the rest of the workstations) The workstations
are dynamically assigned IP numbers by a DHCP server (usually the router).
You must set the DHCP router to start assigning IP numbers AFTER the IP
number of the static IP numbers you assign. For example, if you assigned
your server 192.168.1.20, then you must tell your DHCP server to start
assigning IP numbers at 192.168.1.21 and beyond. Here is a diagram
of what this type of network looks like.
IP numbers can I use inside my LAN?
you can select any IP number you want, but technically, LAN IP addresses
should stay within these ranges:
within these ranges, you'll make life a lot easier for yourself if you
start asking for help since people will know that you're talking about
LAN IP numbers and not WAN IP numbers. Currently it seems like the
most popular LAN side IP numbers all begin with 192.168.xxx.xxx.
(Not to say that you have to follow the crowd =)
bondage refers to the binding of network protocols (TCP/IP, IPX, Netbeui)
to particular services such as "File and Printer Sharing". In order
to make networking easier, Microsoft by default binds every protocol to
every service. This makes things easier for the average user, but
creates huge security holes that allow anybody with some network knowledge
to potentially have full access to your computer. Do you want to
share your hard disk with the whole Internet? I didn't think so,
but there are tons of people out there that have their computers wide open
for the taking. The solution? Only bind the protocols to the
services that need them.
is a huge problem for people who have their computers directly connected
to a Cable or DSL modem, but even if you have a home DSL/Cable router,
you're still vulnerable. I can't do justice to the subject, but there
is a great article out there that will explain everything you wanted to
know about network bondage and how to secure your network. Network
Bondage Article at GRC.com
Want to know what's going
on with your network? There is a free Windows utility called FREEping
which is designed to monitor your network (or any IP number in the world
for that matter). I recommended this utility in the DNS section because
it also works great at keeping your DSL/Cable connection alive and preventing
your IP number from changing by pinging an IP number or domain name at
an interval that you specify. This was not what this utility was
designed for, but it works great at that job.
From your LAN, this utility
can monitor several computers on your network by constantly pinging them
to see if there is any network failure or if a particular computer is down.
Don't forget to ping an outside IP address just to maintain activity on
your network as well.
However, this utility is
also great from outside your network. For example, if you happen
to be at work, you can install this utility on your computer and have it
ping your DSL or Cable IP number. You can see if your webserver is
up. This utility also has a feature where it can pop up a message
to warn you when that your IP number becomes unreachable which means that
either your DSL/Cable connection went bad or your server went down.
Good information to have.
a little trick that I picked up for Windows NT and 2000. Most of
the time when you are not using your server I assume that you log out of
your computer so that it is inaccessible from grubby little hands.
However, if you have a program that is not designed to run as a service,
the program will shut down when you log out which is a big problem.
The trick that I found was to hit "Control, Alt, Del", then select "Lock
Computer" which will basically log you out. The difference between
1. logging out of your computer and 2. locking your computer is that authorized
users can still log into 1. while for 2. only there person who locked the
computer or an authorized administrator can unlock it. Since I now
which isn't designed to run as a service, I can't log out of my server
but I can still lock it for an additional measure of safety.