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Networking Products
Networking is the practice of linking computing devices together with hardware and software that supports data communications across these devices. A LAN supplies networking capability to a group of computers in close proximity to each other such as in an office building, a school or a home. LANs are useful for sharing resources or applications like files, printers and games. A WAN spans a large geographic area, such as a state, province or country. WANs often connect multiple smaller networks, such as local area networks (LANs) or metro area networks (MANs). The world's most popular WAN is the Internet. Some segments of the Internet, like VPN-based extranets, are also WANs in themselves. Finally, many WANs are corporate or research networks that utilize leased lines. WANs generally utilize different and much more expensive networking equipment than do LANs. Key technologies often found in WANs include SONET, Frame Relay, and ATM.
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A hub is a small, simple, inexpensive network device that joins multiple computers together.

Most hubs manufactured today support the Ethernet standard. Non-Ethernet hubs (Token Ring, for example) also exist, but Ethernet is always used in home networking. Technically speaking, hubs operate as Layer 2 devices in the OSI model.

To join a group of computers with an Ethernet hub, one connects an Ethernet cable (that has an RJ-45 connector attached) into the hub, then connect the other end of the cable each computer's network interface card (NIC). Hubs also require external power and can be connected to other hubs, switches, or routers.

One good way to differentiate between Ethernet hubs is by the speed (data rate) they support.

The most basic Ethernet hubs support 10 Mbps speeds. Newer hubs support 100 Mbps Ethernet. To help users move ahead to the newer technology while still supporting the old, some hubs support both 10 Mbps and 100 Mbps data rates. These are so-called "dual-speed" or "10/100" hubs.

A common differentiator in hubs is the number of ports they support. Four- and five-port hubs are most common in home networks, but eight- and 16-port hubs can be found in some home and small office environments.

Managed Switches

A network switch is a small device that joins multiple computers together at a low-level network protocol layer. Technically, network switches operate at layer two (Data Link Layer) of the OSI model.

Network switches look nearly identical to hubs, but a switch generally contains more "intelligence" (and a slightly higher price tag) than a hub. Unlike hubs, network switches are capable of inspecting the data packets as they are received, determining the source and destination device of that packet, and forwarding that packet appropriately. By delivering messages only to the connected device that it was intended for, network switches conserve network bandwidth and offer generally better performance than hubs.

As with hubs, Ethernet network switches are the most common. A network switch offers differing port configurations starting with the four- and five-port models, and support 10 Mbps Ethernet, 100 Mbps Ethernet, or both.

Managed switches are different from Unmanaged switches in the fact that a managed switch offers more features in terms of layer 3 routing and traffic shaping ability.

Network Interface Cards

A network adapter interfaces a computer to a network. The term "adapter" was popularized originally by Ethernet add-in cards for PCs.

Modern network adapter hardware exists in several forms. Besides PCI Ethernet cards, some network adapters are PCMCIA devices (also know as "credit card" or "PC Card" adapters) or USB devices. Some wireless network adapter gear for laptop computers are integrated circuit chips pre-installed inside the computer.

Windows and other operating systems support both wired and wireless network adapters through a piece of software called a "device driver." Network drivers allow application software to communicate with the adapter hardware.

Network device drivers are often installed automatically when adapter hardware is first powered on.

A few network adapters are purely software packages that simulate the functions of a network card. These so-called virtual adapters are especially common in virtual private networking (VPN).


Voice and IP Communications

Wireless Access Points

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