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Understanding networking hardware

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Right now we have a Zoom Modem/Router combination. It has become very problematic over the past year and Zoom support just isn't there. We have three computers connected to the modem/router with ethernet cables although it is rare for all three to be in use at the same time. I am assuming this direct connection does not constitute a network.? In reading sales pitches, I see too many descriptions I don't comprehend. What is the difference between a bridge, a switch, and a router? I would need a 4 hub router but don't know which to purchase. What modem should I consider? I think we still have the old westell 6100 some where; would that work with a new router and how is it connected to the router? Last is one brand of router better than another. I guess I would avoid Zoom because of their non support status.
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Neil Jones

Neil Jones

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A network is effectively two or more computers being used together with a common connection device as the inbetween. So technically you have a network. A computer on its own is a standalone computer, not a network.

With respect if you don't know what a Bridge, a Switch or a Router is, you probably don't need them.
A bridge is effectively a repeater (or relay if you like), a switch at its most basic level adds extra network ports to the back of your router by network cable, and a router sends and receives data from all the computers connected to it.

If the computers as, as you say, not in use all at the same time, you probably don't need another router. You can use a technology called Internet Connection Sharing, and for this you simply set it up on the PC used the most (providing it has a relatively recent copy of Windows on it) and tell the others to go through that one.

Here's the details for XP:
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Did you use the Westell 6100 previously? Just to check if you're running DSL.

If you intend to re-use the Westell, all you should need is a switch. Please refer to this link for an illustration of what I mean.

There are many cheap post-consumer switches in the market and a simple one would do. Something like [url="http://www.linksysbycisco.com/US/en/products/EZXS55W""]this[/url] would be perfect.

Simply connect one port on the switch to the modem and the rest of your PCs to the switch. The Network Interface Cards (NICs) on your PCs should be able to do the talking among themselves. To share files, you can create a common workgroup. But I guess we can leave that till later.

I can go technical with the terms Router/Switch/Bridge... read on if you want to know more.

A router handles Layer 3 issues in the OSI model. It handles IP addressing and routing.

Switch and Bridge are basically the same thing. They operate at Layer 2 which is concern with physical addressing aka Media Access Control (MAC) addresses. The only difference between them is that a switch operates by hardware using Application Specific Integrated Circuits which greatly increases switching speed. Bridges operate pretty much like a simple computer, reading each packet by software for the MAC address.

Another term you might need to know is modem which is short for Modulator Demodulator. It "converts" Ethernet signals to Telephone signals (DSL).

Some consumer modems are routers and switches all in one and can hence handle everything albeit in simple home environments. The Westell 6100 is a Modem and Router (at least from what I've googled).

Wow, this is a great way to pass time at work :) Hope these help.
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