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SOHO Networking: A Guide to Installing a Small-Office/Home-Office Network

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SOHO Networking: A Guide to Installing a Small-Office/Home-Office Network


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A guide to installing a secure wired or wireless network in a home office or small office environment.

° Perfect for professionals working from home or small business owners looking to build a network.

° Includes coverage of how to install and configure a router and how to use a SoHo LAN.

° Entire section devoted to wireless technologies.


  • Copyright 2003
  • Dimensions: 7" x 9-1/4"
  • Pages: 464
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-13-047331-6
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-047331-8

  • Choose the right network-wired or wireless
  • Set up your hardware and Windows networking—step by step!
  • Share your high-speed Internet connection
  • Secure your network and protect your data
  • Build a networked multimedia entertainment PC

The quick, easy guide to networking your PCs—and making the most of your network!

Own more than one PC? Now's the time to network them. Networked PCs are more powerful, more convenient, more cost-effective, more fun ... and networking is easier and cheaper than ever! In SOHO Networking, one of the world's most practical and experienced PC and networking professionals gives you all the help you'll need. Step by step, you'll learn how to choose equipment, set up your network, share your resources and Internet connections, and keep "prying eyes" out—whether they're inside your house or half a world away. Best of all, you'll learn how to do more with your network than you ever thought possible!

  • Choose the right network for you: wired or wireless, peer-to-peer or server-based
  • Set up your hardware and Windows networking
  • Share high-speed Internet access throughout your home or office
  • Protect your networks with firewalls and other security tools
  • Set up reliable, secure telecommuting
  • Build a networked multimedia entertainment PC—and listen to MP3s anywhere
  • Use your network and VoIP telephony instead of an expensive PBX
  • Troubleshoot network problems quickly and easily

Sample Content

Downloadable Sample Chapter

Click here for a sample chapter for this book: 0130473316.pdf

Table of Contents

Introduction: SOHO LANs.

SOHO LANs Defined. SOHO LAN Components. Small SOHO “Peer-to-Peer” LANs. Larger Small-Office Client/Server LANs. SOHO LAN Technologies. SOHO LAN Applications. Book Objectives. Who Needs This Book. What This Book Covers. Summary. Key Technical Terms. Review Questions.

1. SOHO Network Uses/Applications.

Basic Networking Applications. Disk Sharing. File Level Access Control or File Sharing. Printer Sharing. Internet Access. Cable Modems. Digital Subscriber Line (DSL). Web Serving. Internet Information Services. FrontPage. Intranet and Internet Publishing. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Telephony. TCP/IP. VoIP. Telecommuting. Virtual Private Networks (VPN). Remote Access Server (RAS). Host Network Access. General Networking Approaches. Home Wiring. Universal Serial Bus (USB) Networking. Ethernet. Wireless Networking. Our Networking Focus. Summary. Key Technical Terms. Review Questions.

2. Networking Components.

Windows Networking Model. Networking Hardware. Network Interface Cards. Hubs. Switches. Cable/DSL Modem Routers. Servers. Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) Servers. Cabling. General Cabling Schemes. Wiring Categories. CAT-3 Cabling. CAT-5 Cabling. Beyond CAT-5 Cabling. Software. Peer-to-Peer. Client/Server. Summary. Key Technical Terms. Review Questions.

3. Installing and Configuring a Basic LAN.

Installing LAN Cabling. General Cabling Tasks. Home-Office LAN Cabling. Small-Office LAN Cabling. Installing a Hub. Installing a Switch. Linking Hubs and Switches. Hub and Switching Hierarchy. Ethernet Cable Configuration. Building and Testing a Cable. Manufactured Patch Cables. Installing Network Interface Cards. Network Interface Card Types. NIC Driver Program. Installing Drivers. Upgrading Drivers. Configuring Windows Software. Selecting and Configuring a Protocol. Disk Sharing Configuration. Client/Server Configuration. Summary. Key Technical Terms. Review Questions.

4. Wireless Networking.

Wireless LAN Technologies and Standards. IEEE Wireless Specifications. Bluetooth. Coverage and Penetration. Wireless Networking Components. Wireless Access Point. Wireless NICs. Installing a Wireless LAN. Ad-Hoc Mode. Infrastructure Mode. Point-to-Point Mode. Point-to-Multipoint Mode. Wireless Access Point Installation. Wireless NICs. Security. Wireless LAN Operation. Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing. Summary. Key Technical Terms. Review Questions.

5. Internet Access.

Connecting to the Internet. Cable Modems. Digital Subscriber Lines. ISDN. Other. Internet Connection Sharing. Windows Internet Connection Sharing (WICS). Routers. Firewalls. Windows Internet Connection Firewall (WICF). Proxy Servers. Network Address Translation. Installing and Configuring a Cable Modem/DSL Router. Installing a Router. Configuring the Router Software. Summary. Key Technical Terms. Review Questions.

6. Networking for Telecommuting.

Telecommuting System Configuration. Central Site Configuration. SOHO Configurations. Configuring SOHO Telecommuting Software. Video Teleconferencing. PC Components. Server Connections. PC to PC Connections. Telecommuting Administration. Telecommuting Enterprise Self Determination. Establishing a Telecommuting Program. Telecommuting Policy. Setting up a Telecommuter. Summary. Key Technical Terms. Review Questions.

7. SOHO Network Security.

Network Security Threats. Virus Programs. Worm Programs. Trojan Programs. Spyware. Cookies. Virus Costs and Prevention. Denial of Service (DoS). Disgruntled Employees. Network Security Measures. Virus Scanning Programs. Windows Update. Firewalls. SOHO Security Administration. Summary. Key Technical Terms. Review Questions.

8. VoIP Networking.

VoIP SOHO Network Application Configurations. Home-Office Networks. VoIP PBX/Router/Gatekeeper Configuration. SOHO LAN Connections. Internet or IP Network Connections. Public Switched Telephone Network Connections. Overall Configurations and Costs. VoIP Network Components. VoIP Gatekeeper/Router/PBX. Multimedia PCs. VoIP Telephones. Summary. Key Technical Terms. Review Questions.

9. Wrap-Up.

SOHO LANs Review. The Future. Key Technical Terms. Put This Book to Use.

Appendix. Multimedia PC Entertainment System Networking.

Multimedia PC Entertainment System Components. Graphics Card. Monitor. 5.1 Sound Board. Speakers. DVD Drive/CD-RW Drive. Cordless Keyboard and Mouse. Web Cameras. LAN Connection. Software. Multimedia PC Entertainment System Functions. Viewing TV. Viewing DVDs. Playing Music. Encoding WMA and MP3 Music from CDA Discs. Web Surfing. Viewing and Writing E-Mail. Captures and Displays Web Camera Images. Prints Images in Color. Acts as a Security Monitoring System. Ancillary Applications. Networking a Multimedia PC Entertainment System. Summary. Key Technical Terms. Review Questions.





Chapter Syllabus

  • SOHO LANs Defined
  • Book Objectives
  • Who Needs This Book
  • What This Book Covers
  • Summary
  • Key Technical Terms
  • Review Questions

This book describes and examines from a plain language and practical viewpoint the technologies, technical terminology, installation, and operation of small office/home office (SOHO) Local Area Networks (LANs). SOHO LANs started in 1983, with PC Net and Ethernet—like disk and printer sharing networks using PCs and XTs.

SOHO LANs have evolved today into inexpensive home and office networks that support a variety of home and office applications. Home applications include the ubiquitous disk and printer sharing as well as sharing high-speed Internet access. Business applications add Web serving and telephony applications. Newer applications encompass networking home appliances to provide inventory control and centralized management of the home. Business applications are expanding to include all office communications, e-business, research, and telecommunications functions.

Such SOHO LANs are the key communications fabric used by businesses today and into the future. Knowledge and understanding of the technologies, configuration, and operation of them is vital for everyone's personal and professional life.

SOHO LANs Defined

SOHO stands for small office or home office. It describes a working environment and a business culture. Virtual office is sometimes used as a synonym for SOHO. A SOHO LAN is a local area network that supports the SOHO work environment.

At the low end, a SOHO LAN consists of two or more computers (typically, Windows or Macintosh PCs) linked together to share disks and printers. These computers are all labeled "hosts," even though they do not necessarily host anything.

Larger small-office LANs may involve a hundred Windows or Macintosh PCs and a variety of other computer and communications equipment to provide basic LAN disk and printer sharing. Since small-office LANs are larger, they use more sophisticated software. This permits sharing disks and the files on those disks as well as printers. Larger SOHO LANs use more sophisticated software and networking components to support a wider variety of applications and functions. File sharing capabilities on larger SOHO PC LANs provide greater data security than file sharing on simpler home office LANs by providing more features limiting access to sensitive files. In a two-PC SOHO LAN, such added file security features contribute little to overall LAN security.

What makes SOHO LANs more appealing today is that the cost of implementing them is hugely reduced. My original SOHO LAN was Orchid Technology PCnet. It was designed to facilitate sharing resources on PC XT computers. The cost of my network was about $800 per Network Interface Card (NIC), the hardware component installed in each PC to connect it to the network. The software for resource sharing was provided with the boards. My cost for three computers was around $2,500 when the cost of the cabling was included.

This SOHO LAN used coaxial cable equivalent to the coaxial cable used by cable TV, also known as Community Antenna Television (CATV), systems. Any break in the cable meant that the entire LAN became inoperative.

An equivalent SOHO LAN today would cost $15 per NIC, $50 for a hub, and $30 for three cables, for a total cost of around $150. Some SOHO networking kits, including a hub, two NICs, and two cables, cost as little as $50. Windows, Macintosh, and other software supports basic networking, so no added software cost is needed. Each added PC would require around $25 of hardware and cable to add to the network up to the hub's limit of four to eight devices. Not only is a basic SOHO LAN cheaper than my original SOHO LAN, but it is also much more reliable. The hub isolates each cable from every other cable so that in the event one cable fails, only one PC is affected and the remainder of the LAN operates as usual.

My points so far regarding SOHO LANs are that they vary in size and sophistication, and newer SOHO LANs are cheap and reliable. These trends are the underlying forces that catapult SOHO sales forward.

Brain Teaser: LAN Kits

Check a local computer or electronics retail store for LAN kits. What do they include? Compare this with the Linksys EW5PCISK network kit:


What kind of price can you find online at www.pricewatch.com by searching for Linksys EW5PCISK? My prices ranged from $47 to $56.

SOHO LAN Components

A SOHO LAN uses PCs running Windows. Such personal computers are ready to network. Windows software provides basic networking capabilities, which requires the addition of a NIC to each PC to build a simple SOHO network. Many laptops and other newer PCs have the NIC built into the main logic board, such as the Sony Vaio PCG-GR300 laptop that I am using to add this comment.

Any network and any SOHO network are constructed from three basic components. See Figure 0.1. These components include the following:

  • Hardware—The tools a network is built from is the hardware. Hardware includes PCs (referred to as hosts), NICs, and all the network hardware components used to construct the network. Hardware is the tools used to build a network.
  • Channel—The pipe used to interconnect network components is the channel or wire. A channel or wire interconnects all components in a SOHO LAN. In some cases the channel is not wire but rather a radio frequency (RF) connection between two hardware components. A channel is the pipe that interconnects all network PCs (or hosts) and components. Channels work just like pipe; you stuff bits into one end and they pour out the other end, similar to the way water poured into one end of a pipe soon flows out the other end. Channels, like pipe, come in different sizes or capacities. We can have large pipes like water mains from the central reservoir that carry millions of gallons. Similarly, smaller pipes distribute the water to the faucet in our homes. In SOHO LANs the channel (or pipe) capacity is measured in bits per second (bps). It can be thousands of bits per second (Kbps), millions of bits per second (Mbps), billions of bits (gigabits) per second (Gbps), or higher. Most SOHO LANs use 100 Mbps channels. Some older SOHO LANs still run at 10 Mbps because the components that implement them are capable of no higher speed.
  • Software—The glue that holds the network together as a cohesive whole is the software. Software as presented earlier is generally built into Windows and other operating systems. Since most SOHO LAN hosts are Windows-based PCs, we focus primarily on Windows here. Software provides a variety of functions, such as connecting applications programs to the network, providing security, transferring data from network host to network host, and interfacing to network hardware. The only software that is sometimes not provided by Windows is the software that interfaces the NIC to Windows. Later in this book we examine how the functions performed by Windows software are organized in a logical fashion. Understanding this logical organization helps when configuring a Windows SOHO LAN.

When configuring or troubleshooting a SOHO LAN, we focus our efforts in these three areas because they are the highest level at which a SOHO LAN can be readily subdivided. Problems in hardware, software, and channels have unique distinguishing characteristics that help identify their source and resolution.

Small SOHO "Peer-to-Peer" LANs

A small SOHO LAN ranges in size from two to 10 personal computer systems. In two-PC SOHO LANs the PCs can be directly connected to one another, but most often small SOHO LAN hardware components consist of NICs installed in each PC and a wiring hub. See Figure 0.2. The channel is the wire from the PC NIC to the wiring hub. This wire is referred to as Ethernet cable, or as networking cable. Sometimes networking nerds call this Ethernet patch cable, especially when it is used for short runs. The software used is a driver program provided with the NICs to interface them to Windows, and then Windows software to transfer data between the PCs and set up disk and printer sharing. The operation of the Windows software is described as "peer-to-peer," which infers that each PC host participates and shares equally in network responsibilities. Each PC designates which disk drives or folders to share and sets the level of security for those disks and folders.

In our two-PC SOHO LAN, performance is not an issue. The PCs are connected directly to each other using the wire and the hub. The entire communications capacity of the wire is available to transfer data between the PCs, making exchanges quite fast. Only files that are hundreds of Mbytes in size, like videos and large photos, would make the transfer seem slow to the casual SOHO LAN user. Even if this network were to expand to three, four, or five PCs, performance should not be an issue because file transfers among PCs rarely all happen at exactly the same instant. Network users work with the disks of their PC and occasionally transfer a file to another PC as needed to share data.

One network application is e-mail. When I switched my early SOHO LAN to Novell's NetWare, an e-mail application came with the Novell software. This application, an internal e-mail system, was promptly implemented. Although I (the boss) thought it was very useful for sending directives to all employees, the employees (emulating Dilbert) rarely used the internal e-mail.

In the small SOHO LAN case, it is more effective to use a free Internet mail service like Yahoo! e-mail or a subscription Internet e-mail service like AOL for both internal and external e-mail. In this manner, SOHO LAN users can communicate with vendors, customers, and internal company personnel using one e-mail service. Just select professional-sounding screen names like TMCMktDir or TMCOwner and not ones like Philtrout or DialANerd for a more professional e-mail demeanor. My e-mail address is DialANerd, so I present a somewhat less professional image, which matched with my TV persona and not my business persona.

Larger Small-Office Client/Server LANs

The cutover point between small and larger SOHO LANs is around 10 Windows PCs. Windows peer-to-peer capabilities support up to 10 PCs simultaneously accessing the disk drive of your PC. There could be 20 PCs on the network that are permitted to access your disk drive, but only 10 can access it at any instant in time. There are many reasons for this limitation beyond the obvious need to sell Windows server software and make more money for Microsoft.

Microsoft's server software is implemented in Windows NT Server and Windows 2000 Server software. This software implements a client/server network model where the PC running the server software provides centralized services to the client PCs. Only the centralized server needs to run the server software; the client PCs can run any version of Windows. The central server PC manages all network security and access. See Figure 0.3.

The most prominent reasons for moving to client/server networking software are performance and network administration. When a Windows 9x PC has network activities running in the background or actively, it consumes significant CPU cycles or processing power, as well as other PC resources. If there are more than 10 connections into a Windows 9x PC that are actively accessing files and printers on that PC, the performance of that PC can be easily degraded significantly. The PC user just sees the PC seemingly stop dead in its tracks while in reality it is performing the networking tasks requested from it. Once these networking tasks are complete the Windows 9x PC again becomes responsive to its user. There have been instances when my Windows 9x PC would lock waiting for network communications to complete a simple task, while it was really supporting any number of other computing tasks. Such Windows 9x PC network performance is unacceptable in a busy office.

Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows XP are all designed to support network operations much more efficiently. The core of their software design more effectively distributes the CPU cycles or processing power across the variety of tasks the Windows NT/2K/XP PC is performing simultaneously. Because these CPU cycles are distributed across all processes more evenly, performance under significant network loads is much better than performance for Windows 9x.

Network administration is another major reason for moving to a client/server network model. In peer-to-peer networks, security is administered at each individual PC. If anything goes wrong with a PC, then the network administrator may need to rebuild the data, security access, and passwords at that PC. This means the network administrator must travel from PC to PC to manage a network. For 10 PCs this is not too bad, but when we reach 20 or more, the administrative work can be very time consuming. In a client/server network all network administration is performed at a single server. Every client gets security permissions from that single server. Network administration is performed using the server and not many individual PC hosts. Such centralized network management reduces the network administrative workload significantly. This is especially true where access to some network resources must be restricted to special groups of users.

In larger small-office LANs, a wider variety of networking equipment is used to provide more services and better performance for network users. Instead of simple hubs, switches are used to increase network transmission speed between PC hosts and PC servers. Gateways support high-speed Internet access. Printers attach directly to the network. Special servers sometimes support internal Web site hosting and e-mail. We examine these components in greater detail later in this book.

SOHO LAN Technologies

In the 1980s several LAN technologies fought for market dominance. These technologies included Xerox-Intel-DEC Ethernet, IBM's Token Ring, and DataPoint's ARCnet. Each LAN technology had several positive and negative points. The early implementation of each LAN technology met the simple networking needs of the 1980s, but those implementations did not provide sufficient performance and reliability to support current and future SOHO LAN uses. Over several years the Xerox-Intel-DEC Ethernet technology evolved more rapidly to meet the needs of modern LANs. ARCnet dropped by the wayside, and IBM's Token Ring fills a niche market need but is expensive compared with today's Ethernet products.

The overriding factor in selecting SOHO LAN technology is cost. Cheaper products are more widely used than more expensive products. The cheapest networking products today are products based upon the original Xerox-Intel-DEC Ethernet technology. This is generally known as 802.3 Ethernet. Ethernet technology is implemented in NICs and other network hardware components. It uses a protocol or language labeled CSMA/CD, which stands for Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection. This protocol (communications language) manages access to the communications media or wire. It functions similar to citizens band (CB) radios that permit any user to broadcast a message at any time.

Ethernet of the 1980s carried data at 10 Mbps. As an example, the size of the electronic files that comprise this book—including the diagrams—is about 250 MB. To backup these files at 10 Mbps would take a calculated three minutes, but in reality five to 10 minutes. In the 1990s the Ethernet transmission speed was increased to 100 Mbps. The same 250 MB backup would require a calculated 20 seconds, but in reality one to three minutes. Ethernet operates at these speeds—and up to 1 Gbps—today, and someday 10 Gbps components will be commonly available. Most SOHO LANs use Ethernet components operating at 100 Mbps because these are the most prevalent and cheapest network components. Both the Token Ring and ARCnet technologies lagged behind Ethernet technology in the increases in transmission speed. Further, the Token Ring technology was more expensive than Ethernet to implement. More on the operation and evolution of Ethernet and Token Ring technologies is presented later in this book.

SOHO LAN Applications

As described earlier, the basic applications of SOHO LAN are simple disk, file, and printer sharing. Such sharing turns every SOHO-network-attached PC and printer into resources available to an entire office. Particularly in an office of 10 people or smaller, sharing a printer makes sense because a shared printer is just a few short steps from everyone's desk. In the home where cost is of primary consideration, sharing one printer among all PCs saves money. Similarly, sharing one large-capacity disk drive among all office personnel as a master electronic file cabinet spreads the cost across every PC. Having two big disk drives containing copies of all key data provides instant online backup of that key data. This does not, however, relieve any home office of the need to keep offsite copies of data to provide disaster protection.

A new key application for the SOHO LAN is to provide a mechanism to share high-speed Internet access among all SOHO LAN-attached PCs. This is readily accomplished by either using the Windows connection sharing capability or installing a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) or cable modem router. This is rapidly becoming an increasingly important application that drives the implementation of home office LANs.

Some newer SOHO LAN applications are beginning to emerge. I've been running a SOHO LAN since 1983 and once made the bold prediction that I would one day attach my SOHO LAN to my refrigerator. Consequently, new applications do not seem cutting edge to me. However, you should be aware of what looms over the horizon.

Home PCs are used for multimedia applications and Internet access. Multimedia applications include playing music encoded in MP3 and other formats, playing DVDs, and processing and managing photographic images. Increasingly, the entertainment and image information that we use in our daily lives is fast becoming digital information stored on our PCs. Consequently, we will soon find that having a PC with a large, reliable disk drive is a necessary part of our homes; this drive will store all our key entertainment and image files. My SOHO LAN has two servers, each with over 300 GB of storage. Each server contains about 100 GB of MP3 music that can be played on any PC attached to my SOHO LAN. These PCs act like the "smart house" systems of the 1980's, providing music in any room of the house. Their attached amplified speakers with subwoofer reproduce music adequately for my untrained ear and can certainly reproduce the music loud enough to deafen any teenager.

One PC is my television. It is attached to a 42-inch diagonal flat panel display, the CATV feed for the house, and my SOHO LAN with a high-speed Internet connection. The Internet connection is used to download weekly program guides. These guides are used to tune in TV programs for viewing off the CATV connection. The PC also plays DVDs and MP3 files. The SOHO LAN permits the MP3s to be stored on my servers, and it supports access to the Guide Plus+ Web site containing the weekly CATV program schedules.

These are the simplest of home entertainment applications. When we get to business applications, the SOHO LAN is central to accessing remote data at our office, permitting us to work at home. Further, the SOHO LAN at a central office can have an internal company Web site reside on a server that publishes key company information like policy and procedures manuals. Such an internal company Web site is usually called an intranet. An intranet brings Internet technologies into a closed corporate LAN or a SOHO LAN. An intranet is basically any SOHO LAN segregated from the Internet, whether it hosts an internal Web site or not. Most intranets host internal Web sites.

Depending upon business and related network activity, company Web site hosting and e-commerce applications may be implemented externally by an Internet service provider, or internally on a small office LAN. To implement Web site hosting and e-commerce applications on a SOHO LAN would require more expensive and higher-speed Internet access than is currently offered by DSL or cable modem connections. While Web hosting and e-commerce is possible using DSL or cable modem connections, it is not prudent because anything other than a very light Web site or e-commerce network transmission load could easily overload a DSL or cable modem link. When e-commerce is intended to be a key part of a business, overloaded Internet links and servers are highly undesirable.

E-mail is the backbone of most business communications. Have you tried to reach someone by telephone lately? It is almost impossible. E-mail and fax communications are more effective. SOHO LANs provide access to external e-mail services like Yahoo!, AOL, and Hotmail, or they can support an internal e-mail post office server. Internal e-mail post office servers act just like a post office; they receive mail destined for company e-mail addresses from external e-mail servers and hold that mail until the e-mail recipient logs onto the e-mail server. The e-mail is then sent to their PC when they request it. Similarly, e-mail sent from internal PCs is relayed by the internal e-mail post office server to external e-mail servers for forwarding to the destination e-mail address.

The next killer application is mixing voice communications or telephony with the SOHO LAN. This general class of application is labeled Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). In this case our client PCs can become telephones or we use special VoIP telephones and we have a special server or Private Branch Exchange (PBX) that interfaces those PC telephones to other PC telephones across the Internet and to other ordinary telephone company-connected telephones found in everyone's home. Soon such VoIP applications turn into full video telephony applications. At that time AT&T's 1950s vision of the video telephone will become everyday reality. This is about 10 to a maximum of 20 years away.

The next step will be when the SOHO LAN connects to everything in our homes, including the refrigerator. This permits us to readily monitor everything we consume (permitting easy reordering of our everyday consumables) and the operation of everything in the home (permitting us to control our environment). So you see, my refrigerator LAN connection is not really off the wall. The refrigerator would have a sensor mounted around the door so that anything placed into or removed from the refrigerator would be recorded. Diets will never be the same.

Brain Teaser: SOHO LAN Use

Write down a list of what you plan to do with your SOHO LAN. Arrange it in order from what you think will be the easiest and least costly to implement to most difficult and costly to implement. Please save this list for later comparison.

Book Objectives

This is an essential guide that shows readers how to:

  • Install
  • Configure
  • Operate

a small office/home office network. Non-engineering professionals and other nontechnical home users are shown in easy-to-understand steps how to select, install, and configure networking components for a small or home office to support disk, printer, and Internet connection sharing.

SOHO LAN technologies and terminology are explained using simple and hopefully sometimes humorous analogies to facilitate learning. Network design principles are discussed to permit readers to understand the most effective SOHO LAN configurations to support SOHO LAN applications. Design principles help readers understand LAN performance and reliability issues. Network security and management issues are presented and discussed. Throughout the book Brain Teaser exercises are used to illustrate the practical aspects of the concepts presented.

Who Needs This Book

The target audience of this book is my grandparents, Paul D. and Edna Moulton, rest their souls, because they truly represent nontechnical PC users and non-engineering professionals who need to install and operate a small-office or home-office network. The book includes practical explanations of selecting networking hardware components, configuring Windows software, and operating a network. This is a "how to" book, as well as a book that explains the technical terminology of SOHO LANs.

Most people think that they can escape advancing technology. They believe they do not need to know anything about how PCs and networks work. This thinking is generally correct because all computer products are becoming easier to implement and use. They are also incorrect in that they do not need to be able to understand PC design, but rather they only need to learn how to make a PC and a SOHO LAN do what they would like it to do. There is no escape, or as a Borg in Star Trek would state, "Resistance is futile!" Let me illustrate.

In 1965 Dr. Gordon Moore of Intel Corporation observed that the number of transistors per integrated circuit would double every 18 months. He forecast that this trend would continue for 10 years through 1975. Moore's Law, as his observation came to be called, has continued far longer and is still true as we enter the 21st century. Everyone has seen the implications of Moore's Law. PC and PC component prices have continuously dropped as the capabilities and capacities of PCs have increased.

Low PC prices and increased PC capabilities have made it possible for the PC usability research performed by a wide variety of companies and institutions to be implemented in each new generation of PCs. Unfortunately, there are no ready measurements for ease of use. If there were, I could postulate Pete's Law stating that ease of use increases twofold with each new generation of PCs. Because manufacturers implement new ease of use designs in their latest PC products, much simpler PC and SOHO LAN operation and installation result. Thus the axiom to Pete's Law would be something like, "Automatic and default settings work best."

For example, early PCs used DOS, requiring all users to remember cryptic commands like format, deltree, and fdisk. This made the PCs of the 1980s impossible for my grandparents to use. The PCs evolved to Windows and the graphical user interface (GUI), making them somewhat easier to use. However, the implementation of Web browsers and the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) providing a point and click interface really made computers accessible to most all users (including my grandparents). This trend toward easier to use computers is a direct result Moore's Law.

The trend toward easier to use computers is spilling over into networking, with networking components becoming easier to install and configure. A simple rule to remember that can fix most networking and PC problems is that "default settings most often work best." Hopefully, this book can guide you to those PC and SOHO Networking components that are easy to install and can prepare you to work with those components that are almost "ready for prime time," but not quite as easy to install and configure as we'd like them to be.

We cannot escape the relentless advance of microelectronic technologies. They will soon invade every aspect of our lives. Once I was being interviewed on TV for a year 2000 show, and I made the comment that at least we didn't have to worry about the computers that run our toilets failing. My co-panelist disagreed because he had a computer-controlled toilet (imported from Japan). There is no escape and resistance is truly futile. So the more we learn about how to make computers and networks do what we want them to do for us, the better off we'll be. There is a finite risk that the only surviving life form from planet Earth may be some future cyber being that we humans created. Regardless of this warning, there is no turning back because we are already too committed to following the slippery slope of technology wherever it may lead us.

What This Book Covers

This book explains the applications of SOHO network hardware, wiring, and software. It presents the information using many pictures, with supporting text making it easy for the reader to understand how to select components and install, configure, and operate a SOHO network. Where helpful, information identifies and explains the technical specifications describing the most effective SOHO LAN technologies used in today's SOHO networking product offerings. These technical specifications are associated with SOHO LAN products that implement them. Such technical specifications are a step in ensuring that products conforming to those specifications interoperate in SOHO networks. They also help explain how SOHO network components work.

Concepts and procedures are illustrated using practical, real-life networking experiences as well as current industry product and service offerings. Practical exercises are included to reinforce the concepts and procedures presented in each chapter.

In Chapter 1 we look at SOHO LAN applications in detail. We expand on the applications described in this Introduction and see how they are implemented.

Chapter 2 details SOHO networking components, their function, their features, and their selection. Then, in Chapter 3, we examine installing and configuring a SOHO LAN. In most cases this is a direct and simple implementation process. However, when there are curves you will be alerted and shown how to avert or resolve problems.

Chapter 4 delves into wireless networking technologies because they promise to make SOHO LAN installation easy for everyone. However, there are some cautions to using wireless LAN technology, the most significant of which is security. Chapter 5 examines high-speed Internet access in detail. Configuring a router is covered step by step.

Telecommuting technologies are covered in Chapter 6. Chapter 7 presents SOHO networking security issues. Security is an increasingly important aspect of SOHO networks because a security breach can impact every network-attached PC and result in the loss of thousands or more dollars.

Chapter 8 looks into VoIP networking, a rapidly emerging application that is now in a key transitional period. As VoIP becomes mainstream, it will represent a real cost savings potential to all businesses. In Chapter 9 we try to bring everything into a practical perspective, wrapping up this book.

Finally, in the Appendix we look at multimedia entertainment PCs and discuss in detail how to build a multimedia entertainment PC. What executive office can be without a TV today, so why not turn executive PC hosts into televisions?


In this chapter we started by describing in high-level terms what a small and a large SOHO LAN is. We examined both peer-to-peer and client/server LAN configuration and operation. These basic descriptions are expanded upon later in the book as we examine SOHO LAN applications, components, installation, security, and more. SOHO LAN technologies and applications were introduced and described. The chapter concluded with the objectives of this book, a description of who needs this book, and what the book covers.

Key Technical Terms

Cable Modem—This is a technology used by cable television companies to provide high-speed Internet access over CATV cabling.

CATV—Community Antenna Television.

Client/Server—A type of network operation with a central server PC sharing resources and managing network resource access and security.

CSMA/CD—Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection is a protocol (communications language) used by Ethernet to manage access to the communications media or wire.

DSL—Digital Subscriber Line is a telephone company technology that provides high-speed Internet access using telephone cabling.

Ethernet—A LAN technology developed by Xerox, Intel, and DEC; used in most SOHO LANs.

Gbps—(Giga) Billions of bits per second; a measure of transmission speed.

GUI—A graphical user interface, such as that used in Macintosh and Windows systems, provides a user interface with mouse controlled pointer and icons.

Host—Any PC that is attached to a SOHO LAN or the Internet.

HTML—Hypertext Markup Language is a page-description technology that implements point and click capabilities in Web browsing software.

Kbps—Thousands of bits per second; a measure of transmission speed.

LAN—Local Area Network is a network that serves a confined geographic area like a home or a small office.

Mbps—Millions of bits per second; a measure of transmission speed.

NIC—Network Interface Card.

PC—Personal computer that usually runs some version of the Microsoft Windows operating system.

Peer-to-Peer—A type of network operation in which all PCs participate as equals.

SOHO LAN—Small office/home office Local Area Network.

Virtual Office—This is another term for a SOHO.

VoIP—Voice over Internet Protocol is a set of technologies and products that implements voice telephony across SOHO LANs.

Review Questions

  1. What three components comprise all SOHO LANs?
    • Answer:Hardware, channel, and software.
  2. A two-PC SOHO LAN has what physical components?
    • Answer:Two PCs, two patch cables, and a wiring hub.
  3. What makes a small-office LAN different from a home-office LAN?
    • Answer:Small-office LAN is generally a client/server LAN and a home-office LAN is a peer-to-peer LAN.
  4. Why are computers easier to use today than they were a decade ago?
    • Answer:Because PC processing power and capacities have increased as predicted by Moore's Law, we can build PCs that are easier to use. These PCs implement HTML and point-and-click Web browsing.
  5. What are the two most common SOHO applications?
    • Answer:Disk/file sharing and printer sharing.
  6. What application is driving home-office LAN sales?
    • Answer:Sharing high-speed Internet access.


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