Sharing Resources

Sharing Resources

There are many times when you need to print some work from different computers, use some data that might be on another computer, or communicate with someone using another computer. One way of doing this is to save the data that you need to print, use or send onto a floppy disk and walk over to another computer, log in and load the data from your floppy disk.
On the other hand, if the computers and printers are connected together with cable and they are able to communicate with each other then you have a network - can do all this without having to walk anywhere.

One of the benefits of a network is that it allows groups of computer users to share data, share software and even share hardware (such as a printer or a modem). Most organisations that use many computers have them connected together as a network. In fact, networks are now becoming common that hardware and software is available for people to set up cheap, simple networks in their own homes.

Microsoft XP home network setup wizaed

What You Need

a Network Interface Card

To set up a network you need at least two computers (there's not much point having a network if you've nothing to share your resources with). Each computer needs to have a Network Interface Card (like the one shown here). The Interface Card is installed inside the computer in one of its special expansion slots.

In a simple network you just have to use a special cable to connect the computers together via their interface cards. However the cables must have the right sort of connector to attach it to the interface card.

Special software is needed that will allow the computers to communicate with each other. The network can then be used to share a printer or modem, play games against each other, or send messages.

LANs and WANs

If the computers that make up a network are all kept in a small area, such as a single building, (like a school network) then it is called a LAN or Local Area Network. The computers (or terminals) on the network can share data and send messages. One of the computers on the network may have a modem which allows all the network computers to use the Internet through it.

A Wide Area Network (WAN) on the other hand cover a large area. For example, the computers in a big supermarket chain may be situated in stores all over the country but they all link to a central computer over telephone lines (or more specialised cables). WANs allow people in different places to communicate and to share data and information.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages / Good Things
Disadvantages / Bad Things
Messages can be sent very quickly to anyone else on the network. These messages can have pictures, sounds, or data included with them (called attachments).
Setting up a network can be an expensive and complicated experience. The bigger the network the more expensive it is.
Expensive things (such as printers or phone lines to the internet) can be shared by all the computers on the network without having to buy a different peripheral for each computer.
Security is a real issue when many different people have the ability to use information from other computers. Protection against hackers and viruses adds more complexity and expense.
Everyone on the network can use the same data. This avoids problems where some users may have older information than others.
Once set up, maintaining a network is a full-time job which requires network supervisors and technicians to be employed.


Now, answer these questions:

  1. What do you call a collection of computers connected together ?
  2. What can be shared over a network ?
  3. What does LAN stand for ?
  4. What does WAN stand for ?
  5. What type of network would someone use in their own home ?
  6. What type of network would a bank use with many branches around the country ?

You scored out of 6 on that test