Peer-to-peer networking for the entrepreneur, part 2

In part two of this three-part series, Steve Pittsley takes what you learned about peer-to-peer networking in part one and puts it all together in an easy-to-follow format.

Now that you understand what components form a network and how computers communicate, it’s time to put it all together and build your network. So, without further delay, grab yourself a Phillips screwdriver, and let’s get started.

In case you missed part one
If you missed the first article in this series, click here to read Steve Pittsley’s introduction to peer-to-peer networking concepts.

Phase 1—Equipment needs
The first step is buying the computers. Depending on your budget, you may opt for used computers or clearance sale systems. My only advice is to get systems that have a minimum of 128 MB of RAM and a processor that is at least an Intel-based Pentium III or AMD-based Athlon. At the time of this writing, you should be able to find systems like this for under $1,000. When ordering new systems, remember to also order network adapters so they will be installed on the computer for you.

If you must purchase and install the network adapters yourself, now is the time to do so. Network adapters are a very common component these days, and you should be able to find them at nearly every computer store. The adapters are designed for different network speeds, the most common of which are 10 Mbs (10 million bits per second) and 100 Mbs (100 million bits per second). As you can probably guess, the faster the adapter, the faster your network will run. Most network adapters can run in both speeds and are listed as 10/100 Mbps. These are the ones that you will want to buy. Some common and reputable manufacturers are 3COM, Intel, and Linksys.

The network adapter should come with installation instructions. The basic steps consist of removing the computer's cover, gently pushing the adapter into the correct slot, screwing it into place, and then putting the cover back on.

After installing the network adapters, you will need to install the network cabling. The most common type of cable in use today is called Category 5, or CAT 5. This type of cable will have an RJ-45 connector at each end. These connectors are easy to recognize because they resemble, but are slightly bigger than, the one used by your telephone. Once you have the cables, connect one end to your computer and other end to the network hub or switch. Do this for each system.

Hubs and switches allow you to connect multiple computers together. Each computer connects directly to the hub or switch, allowing the data to move between the computers. Hubs and switches may look similar, but they are quite different. A hub simply passes all information it receives to every port that has a device connected to it. This is kind of like junk mail. Everyone gets it, but only the one who needs it will use it. A switch, on the other hand, has built-in logic and will learn which computer is on each of its ports. When the switch receives data from one computer, it looks for the destination computer on one of its ports. If it finds the computer, the data is only sent to the one port. If it does not find the computer, the switch will send the data out to all of its ports in case another switch or hub is attached, and the destination computer is instead attached to that device.

Because switches are more efficient, they are also more expensive. However, the price difference is rapidly shrinking, and for a small office with only a few computers, you should be able to find an inexpensive switch. As with network adapters, try to buy a 10/100-Mbs rated switch so you can use it at either speed.

Phase 2—Client software configuration
After you have installed the hub or switch and connected all of the cables between it and your computers, you are ready to configure the client software on each of the computers. When you install your network adapter, your computer will use its Plug and Play capabilities to find the new adapter and will then prompt you to configure it. You can also configure the network adapter by going to Control Panel and opening the Network icon.

The Network dialog box should look similar to Figure A, although the network adapter might be different.

Figure A
The network dialog box shows that the network adapter is already configured.

To begin the client software configuration, click the Add button. This will bring up the Select Network Component Type dialog box, as shown in Figure B. Select client and click Add.

Figure B
At this dialog box, you should select Client and click the Add button.

You will then be presented with the Select Network Client dialog box, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C
Select Microsoft as the manufacturer and then select Client For Microsoft Networks.

After clicking OK, you will return to the Network dialog box, which will look similar to Figure D. Take notice that the Client For Microsoft Networks is now displayed in the Installed Components window. The other new components, IPX/SPX Compatible Protocol and NetBEUI, will be removed after we install TCP/IP.

Figure D
Also, notice that the primary logon has changed to Client For Microsoft Networks.

To install TCP/IP, click Add. This will bring up the Select Network Component Type dialog box again, as shown in Figure E. Select Protocol and click Add.

Figure E
This time, you should select Protocol and click the Add button.

You will then see the Select Network Protocol dialog box, as shown in Figure F. Choose Microsoft as the manufacturer and TCP/IP as the protocol, and then click OK.

Figure F
Choose Microsoft as the manufacturer and TCP/IP as the network protocol.

After completing this step, you will be taken back to the Network dialog box, where you will see that TCP/IP has also been added to the installed components list. Before configuring TCP/IP, you should remove both IPX/SPX Compatible Protocol and NetBEUI. To do this, simply select each one and click Remove, as shown in Figure G.

Figure G

Now that you know what equipment you need and how to configure your client software, you are ready for the more complicated task of TCP/IP configuration. In part three, I will cover the steps required to set up TCP/IP and give you a brief how-to on file sharing.

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