Internet Connection Sharing

ok, I'm sure this has been asked before, but just for convience . . .

I will be moving into a house next year with 3 or 4 other college buddies. We will each have our own computers and we will purchase a cable internet connection. We want to split up that connection somehow to all the computers without having the cable company charge us extra (My guess is they do it by how many IPs we would be using, but i dont know for sure.) So my question is this: What is they best way to setup our network for file and print sharing, but also internet connection sharing?

I have been trying to read through the differences between Hubs, Switches and Routers, but everyting i read tells me something different.

I have already started to build a server system (to hookup to the cable modem and share the internet connection) for the network, but now im not sure that is the best idea.

ALso, using programs like AOL Instant Messanger and Peer-to-Peer File Sharing programs are a must, so I need to keep that in mind too. . .

I'm sure this is unclear to a lot of you, but If yo uhave specific questions, I will answer them.
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jmiller47Connect With a Mentor Commented:
Very easy! Buy one of these routers. Connect the cable modem to the WAN interface and each computer to a different LAN interface.

Set each computer to just get a address from the DHCP server (That's the dafault anyways)

Configure the router (Through a web browser) to  use the parameters from the ISP like PPOE, IP Address, gateway, etc...

You're done. It really only takes a few minutes....

All Instant messengers, file sharing applications, etc. will work fine!
You'll find that this is the most popular and easy-to-use  home network router. It is the Linksys BEFSR41 4 port router.

(I forgot to mention what kind it was...)
ijfAuthor Commented:
Sorry, Im new to networking!

"Very easy! Buy one of these routers. Connect the cable modem to the WAN interface and each computer to a different LAN interface"

Does this use a server computer, or just the router?

I have also read that there are ways to make a server act like a router by using a switch and some software. True?
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what jmiller is describing doesn't need a server to do what you want.  The WAN (Wide Area Network) interface is the port on the router that connects to your cable modem.  Then you will have several other ports to connect your computers to.  They will get to the Internet by, strangely enough, being routed through the, you guessed it, router.  You don't have to have a server.  

You can make a server act like a router.  This is true.  Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, this would be done in different ways.  For your purposes, I would use the Internet Connection Sharing feature in Windows (if I didn't buy the router, which is faster and just better).  Otherwise, you would enable IP forwarding on one of your network cards.  

That's my two cents.
For your pruposes the router is probalby better.
1) It is always on.

2) It is only about $50 ( les if you watch the rebates ).

If you shared a connection on a computer using ICS, then that computer MUST BE ON, in order for the others to access the Internet !

I hope this helps 1
ijfAuthor Commented:
Are there any benefits to having a server WITH a router?
Sorry for the slow response, my web hosting service has had my e-mail basically down for like 3 days now! I haven't been getting almost any notifications of new comments here. I have to check manually...

The router has one main purpose. To take the internet connection coming from the CABLE/ADSL connection and distribute it to all the computers connected to it. This is very easy to set up.

One port says WAN. Plug the CABLE/ADSL modem into that.

Plug your other computers into the ports labelled LAN 1-4

Go into network properties on your computers and ensure that TCP/IP is installed if it is not and make sure that "Obtain an IP address automatically." is checked. This is by default, but you might as well check to make sure! All of this is described for each Operating System in the easy-to-follow instruction manual.

After all that is done. Open up a web-browser and type in the address like the book says and put in the default password as described in the manual. Then, using a web page-based admin utility you can put in your ISP information like a static IP, unique name, gateway, PPOE, or other inormation. This information is dependant on your ISP. They will provide you with all the information.

The router will give you easy, RELIABLE internet access from all the computers. ICS is not too hard to set up, (although more difficult than the router...) but troubleshooting and tweaking becomes a bear!

Adding new features like port forwarding, tweaking DHCP, logging, security, DMZ, MAC address cloning, etc. are sometimes unnecessary, but you way want to have the extra features later. The admin utility makes this a snap and easy to understand. If you want to do this using a Windows machine, you'll be hard pressed to find information on it.

I hope this helps.
My last message may have crossed yours.

"Are there any benefits to having a server WITH a router?"

You can use a server to store files centrally. One place for all your other computers to store and retrieve files. If you have the money for a server, go for it. One place to store all your files means one place to worry about them, one place to back up and restore etc. You could also create a domain and have one central User Management scheme instead of creating individual users on each computer. You could also implement roaming profiles so that no matter what computer you logged into in your little home network, your settings would stay the same..

Otherwise, if it's just Internet sharing you want, go with the router only!
ijfAuthor Commented:
Alright then, i guess i will just continue with the router option. (Sux that I already started buying parts for a server though :(

Thanks for everyones help! I think the points on this question go to jmiller47.
Well, if you already have parts for the Server, go ahead with it. It will be a nice addition and give you many added features!
ijfAuthor Commented:
If i build the server, would be best place to put it be between the incoming cable connection and the WAN port on the router, or on one of the LAN connections with all the other computers?
On the LAN ports. You cannot really place it inbetween the router and the cable modem without making the server a Router itself which would not be a good idea. Make it another node on the LAN.
Check out the information I posted here:

And do a search for Linksys here:
ijfAuthor Commented:
OK, i think im finally getting the hang of this . . .

Just to clear up one thing for me . . .

If i use the router option, is there any way for the cable company to know and/or charge me extra for having more than one computer hooked up to their cable modem?

(Now i wish i had taken that networking class in high school when i had the chance!)
ijfAuthor Commented:
Also, what will this do to the IP addresses of each computer? Will they even have them???
there is no way for them to know unless they see it or you tell them.

They will get DHCP addresses given to them by the router.
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