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When you set up a network, you will probably be working with three different kinds of network connections.
1. Phone Line Connections
The telephone wire can allow connecting using DSL, ISDN or Dial-Up. Typically you will connect your phone line into a router which then allows your home or office computers to access the Internet.
This is an example of a router with a network connection to a wireless access point. You also see the ADSL connection which provides a connection to your local phone system so that ADSL is your connection to the Internet.
2. Ethernet Connections
Ethernet is the most widely used network media on networks (LANs) today, it is part of the 802.3 protocol. Ethernet uses coaxial, twisted pair, or fiber-optic cable. It was created by the Xerox Corporation and developed be Xerox, Intel and Digital Equipment Corporation. Ethernet uses CSMA/CD and runs over a variety of cable types, such as 10Base2, 10Base5, and 10Base-T. Ethernet runs at 10MBPS (10 Million Bits per Second) There are faster versions of Ethernet, Fast Ethernet which operates at 100MBPS and Gigabit Ethernet which operates at 1000MBPS. RJ-45 Network card which connects to Ethernet category 5 cable.
Here is a illustration of an 8 wire Ethernet wire being connected to a computer to allow network connections.
You may have some of the computers on your network, like a server, or maybe a workstation connected to Ethernet and other computers connecting using wireless.
3. Wireless Connections
In order to have wireless you will need two devices. First you will need a wireless router or a wireless access point. A wireless router will attach to the phone line, thus to the Internet, using a phone line and it will then broadcast a wireless connection for all of your wireless devices. The other option you may have is a wireless access point. The access point functions just like the wireless router except the access point does not connect directly to the Internet but will be used to connect to a router first.
Setting up the wireless router is more difficult as you will need to setup a firewall to protect the internal network from attack coming from the Internet connection.
In the picture you see a wireless router with a laptop which has a wireless card installed.
Wireless Access Point
Wireless networking requires a physical device that sends radio waves to the computer. This physical device is called a wireless router or wireless access point. A wireless router connects the internal network to the Internet and has a firewall to protect the inner network. A wireless access point connects the wireless user to a local network.
The wireless access point simply provides connectivity to the rest of the network. It provides the convenience of wireless and the availability of resources found on the network like printers, servers, etc. So the purpose of the router is primarily to connect to the Internet and to provide the protection afforded by a firewall.
The second device you must have to establish wireless is a wireless card that can receive the message from the wireless router or wireless access point. Computers that connect with wireless have a wireless network card, PCMCIA or internal, that they use to connect to a wireless access point or a wireless router. Below is an example of a wireless card (PCMCIA) that is inserted into a laptop for a wireless connection. If you have a laptop it may have an internal wireless card that you can also use.
Connections may be established between computers either using a network cable or using wireless technology.