What is meant by networking?
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Peer-to-peer networking
(Under R1 000 per computer connected)

The simplest form of network links a few computers together as equals. Popularised by Microsoft giving it away free with its Windows for Workgroups and Windows 95 software (as well as by networking specialists like LANtastic), this kind of network appears to save money by leaving out the dedicated server computer. In practice it can cost more in terms of lost data and staff frustration unless you follow some golden rules:

Don't put more than half a dozen PCs on a peer-to-peer network.
If you are storing valuable data on the network, make sure you back it up reliably and regularly, and that you check your backups before a disaster, rather than afterwards.
Beware of the chaos disguised as democracy that is permitted by peer-to-peer networking. Just because you can scatter data and security access far and wide on the network, doesn't mean there is any good business reason for losing control over your most valuable information.
Local area networking (LAN)

(Core infrastructure of R50 000 to R150 000 plus R1 000 per computer connected.) Fast becoming the norm for any office with more than half a dozen computers. Requires a powerful central computer with specialised network server operating system software and client access licenses for each PC connected to the server. Provides key infrastructure services such as file and printer sharing. Crazy to implement without other expensive infrastructure like a large-capacity tape backup system and battery backup for the electricity supply (known as a UPS). And all this just gives you basic infrastructure. Expect to pay more for software and systems that make the network useful, such as e-mail, PC faxing, Internet access and shared applications like accounting systems and other databases.

Wide Area Networking (WAN)

(Add R30 000 to R50 000 per site, plus monthly Telkom charges for leased lines to link the sites.) Linking together two or more Local Area Networks on different sites, usually by means of leased (permanently connected) telephone lines. Previously restricted to those big enough to have offices scattered around the country or the world. Now fast on its way to becoming a requirement, if only to link your LAN to the Internet.


(Close to R10 000 a month split between your Internet Service Provider and Telkom.) The Internet is a very large and very public linkup between lots of LANs and WANs. Technically, linking to it is just like making your own WAN, except for two problems: l You need better security if you are going to allow the whole world to visit your doorstep. l You will have to pay an Internet Service Provider quite a large fee every month for the privilege of using them as a gateway to the rest of the Internet.

If your connection to the Internet is really only for e-mail and browsing the World Wide Web, then several cheaper options exist, all based on a dial-up modem connection for which you pay about a tenth of the leased line fees. See recent PC Reviews for details.

Connecting 2 (or more) computers together for the purpose of sharing data or devices.
Networking not only involves connecting two or more computers, it also includes connecting to other devices, such as (fax)servers, printers, etc.
Basically, the internet is one big network.
Glosary of networking terms

Password: the thing you forget when you most need it. Until they start taking electronic ID via smartcards or digital certificates, the combination of login name and password is the only way computers can check who you are.

Network: Several computers linked together electronically with enough useful stuff available for you to want to log in.

Internetwork: Several networks linked together electronically.

The Internet: An internetwork that is global, public, cheap and cool.

Server: A computer that shares some of its resources with other computers linked to it on a network. The term is also used to denote software rather than the computer itself: a mail server is software that acts like an electronic post office for your e-mail.

File Server: Basically a big centralised electronic filing cabinet.

Print Server: Allows a printer to be shared on a network. The latest printers come with this bit built in so you just plug them into the network.

Application Server: Uses its own processing power to crunch large volumes of data "in the back room" in response to queries or commands from client computers.

Network Client (Workstation): Your PC. Being a network client gives it access to resources on the network such as file servers, printers, and application servers Ñ provided you have a valid user account and password.

Ethernet: By far the most popular standard for office networks today, defining how data is passed through cabling and network adapter cards. While Ethernet has several variants, the ones to go for are 10Base-T, or preferably its faster cousin 100Base-T.
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