Doing business in the Bay Area since 1985!

Here are various ways we can take your single internet connection point and share it throughout your home or business.

We can work with Cable, DSL, StarBand Satellite or Dial-Up access types. On this page is some great information on networking in general and internet connections in particular.

Before we get to the technical aspects of networking and what we can do for you, lets answer a question: WHY would you want to do something like this?

Because you can share a single Internet connection between multiple computers without having to pay your Internet Service Provider (ISP) an additional monthly charge per computer is the most obvious answer. Additionally, you can, in many instances, share your files and printers, too! This can be another cost-saving for your network: Why spend money on multiple printers for you and others in your business or home?

Throughout these pages, you'll see words that are underlined. Click on them to read their definitions from our on-line glossary!

Here are a few items that you should be aware of before proceeding:

We can work with Apple (iMacs, G3's, G4's, PowerBooks, etc.) computers if they have a built-in or previously installed network adapter. With Intel / Windows based computers - desktops or laptops - we can install and configure the required network adapter for you. With computers running the Linux operating system we can, in some cases, install and configure a network adapter (in other cases it'll need to be previously installed).

Client and server are relative terms when discussing how we would connected multiple computers to your internet service. You may, or may not, use an actual client/server network. A peer/peer network would work as well. Normally, client and server are simply terms used to more easily describe the behavior of the computers in a local area network (LAN).

The layout of the kind of networks are describing in our examples is known as a star topology. [There are other types, like a coaxial cable based bus topology for instance, that we can work with in an existing installation, but that we will not install as a new network.] This section deals with what goes on within your walls, your LAN, not with your internet connection - we'll talk about that a little further down. This does not include your 56k / DSL / Cable connection device nor the WAN half of the router / firewall / proxy server machine. Here, then, are the relevant points that should be made here about your internal networking:

  • All nodes in the LAN connect via a hub or a switch and have "speed" ratings in millions of bits per second (Mbps) that refers to how "fast" they are in transmitting and receiving data. Both devices, and the network adapters in the computers, are rated as either 10Base-T (10Mbps), 100Base-T (100Mbps) or 10/100Base-T. [Recently, 1000Base-T (1,000Mbps) and 100/1000Base-T devices have become available at a "reasonable" cost.] A 10/100Base-T auto-sensing auto-switching capable device is the most preferable since it can support both 10Base-T and 100Base-T only nodes on the network.
  • The maximum speed to any particular node on the network will be on that of the slowest node being communicated with. This means that a 10/100Base-T switch will communicate with a 10Base-T network printer at 10Mbps while being able to communicate with a 100Base-T computer at 100Mbps. The print job from the computer to the printer is, in essence, only 10Mbps. However, it will be 100Mbps between two 100Base-T capable computers on the same LAN.
  • The major difference between a hub and a switch is also important, especially when you are either (1) moving a lot of data across the network, or (2) adding approximately 10 or more nodes to the LAN. A hub is basically a "broadcast" device. This means that any data sent from it goes to all network nodes. This can cause a lot of network collisions, known as "chatter". This can slow down the LAN as a whole and cause erroneous intermittent network error messages [e.g.: a computer can't find a printer right after you just printed something to it]. A switch, on the other hand, "knows" where all the nodes are, and is able to route the data directly to where it is destined. Therefore, you get about an 80% increase in efficiency, due to the decrease in the "chatter" across the network, thereby having the effect of increasing "speed".
  • Most wireless communications will top out at 11Mbps. [Sort of like 10Base-T +1 grin.]

We also talk about Category 5 (Cat5 or more likely Cat5e [enhanced]) unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cables connecting the whole network together [if we're to consider a 1000Base-T network, we'd use Category 6 (Cat6) cabling]. It is possible, and we can do this for you, to connect the network via wireless. It does, obviously, require some components to be changed. However, at this time, wireless can be a very "iffy" proposition in terms of quality of service. So we do not recommend it at this time.

When it comes to file and printer sharing, please keep in mind that there will be no sharing between Apple machines and Intel/Windows machines in a "basic" type setup. We can provide sharing with specialized software and/or a server running a network operating system, like Windows NT.

Now a word on DSL dynamic vs static IP addressing [as provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP)] and running a public internet server (HTTP - web, or FTP - file transfers) of some sort. Although it is a very easy thing to set up a public internet server using a static IP address [example (2) would be best for this], we can most certainly set one up for you even if you have a dynamic IP. We would do it using example (1), with a real server as both a private (internet sharing) and public (web and FTP) computer. Dial-Up connections can also be set up to allow public internet server access, but this is not recommended. Most Cable services do not allow public servers to operate on their network.

Finally, lets talk about speeds again - as they pertain to actual connections to the internet. This deals with what's known as your wide area network (WAN), and includes the 56k / DSL / Cable connection device as well as the WAN half of the router / firewall / proxy server machine, if you have one:

  • 56k analog modem (Dial-Up): Theoretically you can go as fast as 56kbps. In real life this isn't quite true. Due to FCC regulations, the fastest you can go is 53kbps. Due to the nature of modems and the "plain old telephone system" (POTS), you should only expect around 48,000bps - slower if phone line conditions deteriorate, like when it rains. You can get Dial-Up modem connections virtually everywhere. This is still sufficient for most web browsing and e-mail.
  • StarBand Satellite: First a word on DirecPC: Since DirecPC uses a landline to send data to the internet, and a satellite dish the get the data from the internet. Because of this arrangement, internet sharing is almost impossible. StarBand Satellite send and receives data through the dish. Speeds are 150kbps to 500kbps to the PC/network, and 40-60kbps away. This is an acceptable "broadband" solution for those people who live in areas not serviced by DSL or Cable.
  • DirecWay [DirecPC Two-Way] Satellite: This version provides a two-way satellite connection to the internet. Theoretically, you should get download speeds in the same range as common DSL - or 1.5Mbps. Upload speeds are significantly less. In reality, you can expect much, much slower connections during sustained data transfers (we've seen as slow as 4kbps). Additionally, there is a large-ish degree of latency, which means that our request for data from the internet, such as a web page, may take a while before it actually starts to appear on your computer screen. Once it starts, however, it should complete fairly quickly. Also, be advised that your overall speed can be adversely affected by: the weather, usage limits imposed by the satellite company, equipment failure either on-site or at the service supplier's end, plant foliage, solar flares, the amount of total traffic present on your particular satellite at any given time and more. The good news is is that we can preform internet sharing in the same fashion as either 56k modem or StarBand satellite (where StarBand may be next to impossible to do this, DirecWay makes this a much easier proposition) using a proxy server. Like Starband and DirecPC, this can be and acceptable alternative for those who cannot get DSL or cable.
  • DSL: Typically, with a standard asymmetrical DSL line (aDSL), the top speed to your PC/network is 1.5Mbps, with 7Mbps being the tops. Data leaving your PC/network goes about 384kbps - hence the asymmetrical moniker. However, DSL is distance limited, meaning that you must live with about 22,000 feet (4 miles) from a DSL equipped phone company CO [Here in California, some phone companies have limited the distance to as little as 15,000 to 18,000 feet]. The further you are from the CO the slower you go - so if you're on the outside fringes of the service area, you may only get 386kbps to you - still about 7 times faster than a 56k modem connection. sDSL should be 1.5Mbps to and from your PC/network. In the DSL world, you'll pay more for sDSL than aDSL. sDSL would only really be a consideration if you're planning on running a dedicated public internet server.
  • Cable: Cable can achieve speeds of up to 27Mbps, far exceeding DSL speeds. However, a most cable companies limit the actual speed to something between 500kbps and 2.5Mbps to your PC/network. From your PC/network, you can expect around 256kbps - so this is an asymmetrical connection, just like aDSL. Cable is available wherever they have installed the proper equipment, and is not [realistically] distance limited. It is, however, a "segmented" network, meaning that the speed you actually get will be determined by the number of people in your local neighborhood who are currently using the internet. So a speed test done at 2 a.m. when every one is asleep can be dramatically faster than one done around 6:30 p.m. when everyone is online checking their e-mail. This is not a preferable situation for most business users.

Here is a diagram of a typical Internet sharing scheme for DSL and Cable access. We can share Apple computers as well with this set-up. This set-up will not be used for 56k or StarBand connections (which we can do for you as well):

We can also share your internet connection wirelessly, as well. Please read below about wireless issues.

(1) is your modem - either a DSL or Cable type. The DSL will connect to the service provider via a phone line, and the Cable type will connect via a coaxial cable (*).

(2) is a router of some type. Low-end routers offer internet sharing capabilities and not very much else. Higher end devices can offer content filtering, firewall capabilities, port assignments and forwarding [which is perfect if you want to run our own internet server (4a)], virus scanning, and much more! Most routers that we use for internet sharing allow for Network Address Translation (NAT) and Dynamic Host Control Protocol (DHCP) [for the client (4) computers -- perfect for laptops!].

(3) if sharing more than 1 computer to the router, you'll need a hub or a switch (preferable) to connect the computers together. A good 10/100 Mbps auto-sensing auto-switching device is recommended. If there are just 1 computer, you can use a special Cat5 cable know as a cross-over cable.

(4) these are the computers that have internet access, all of which must have a network card in them. They are connected to the hub / switch via Cat5 cables. They will be set up to route all internet information through the router (2). All information sent and received is using the TCP/IP protocol.

(4a) unlike the 56k modem internet sharing scheme, this scenario is almost perfect for running a web or file-transfer server for either public or internal use.

(5) is a network ready printer, or a printer connected to a print server on the network. A printer connected directly to a PC can also be shared to all PC's across the LAN.

There are a few things to take into consideration if you're thinking about getting wireless in your home or business. This will cover wireless for personal (business) use, and not for commercial use.

Here are some environmental factors that come into play that can decrease the range of a wireless network:

  • Organic materials which will absorb the wireless signal: Most wireless works on a frequency of 2.4GHz. This is the same frequency that microwave use to heat food.  This frequency was chosen because organic material (your food) absorbs that frequency particularly well. As a result, the wireless that you would use in your home will be absorbed by any organic material that is present, such as; wood, wool, cotton, leather, and even some paints, to name a few.
  • Materials which block or reflect: Older homes with lathe and plaster construction (as opposed to sheet rock) may have chicken wire in the walls. Also, cinder block, mirrors, appliances, and other very thick objects such as chimneys.
  • Radio frequency interference (RFI) that can cause the wireless to either not work, or work intermittently: Halogen lights (especially track lighting), 2.4GHz wireless phones, and other peoples wireless networks (if close enough), to name a few.

In the cases where a single wireless access point (WAP, or AP) is insufficient to the task of providing coverage to the desired locations in the space, multiple APs can be installed to provide such coverage. Also, changing the APs channel from 6 (default) to either 1, or 11, can help reduce interference, especially from others' wireless networks.

When we install a wireless network for a client, we are very conscience as to its security. There are two major types of wireless security that can be used:

  • WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy): This is an older standard that most all wireless device support. However, this protocol has been broken, and is therefore not completely secure. Additionally, this protocol is not particularly reliable. It is not unusual for a computer using this protocol to lose its connection for no apparent reason after a period of time.
  • WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access): This is a newer protocol that is both secure, and very reliable. The caveat here is that everything must support this protocol.This means that, for Windows systems, you must have Windows XP or Vista. Mac computers can (mostly) be using OS9 or OSX. Additionally, the wireless hardware in the computers must support WPA, which means that the computer should be, typically, 2-3 years old, at most. (NOTE: Some non-computer network devices, such as TiVos [which may use a USB to wireless adapter], Ethernet bridges, printers, etc., may not support WPA.)
  • No security at all: We do not recommend this option, as it will allow anyone to connect to your wireless network and, potentially, any other computer on your network. We will use this setting if the customer insists. However, we will not be responsible for any security breaches using this setting.

Last updated: September 4, 2009