FAQ: How Do I Share my Internet Connection?

Rory Bowman of MacRory.com

Q: How do I share my Internet connection?

A:The explosion of interest in the Internet has meant a lot of good things for a lot of people, but some people have more interest than Internet. Depending on what kind of Internet connection you have, it can be relatively simple to share a single Internet connection between multiple computers.

How Deep Is the Ocean?

Before sharing your Internet connection among computers it is important to consider how much Internet you have to share. If you are currently connecting to the Internet through a standard telephone modem, you have probably had times when you felt frustrated at how long it takes for files to appear and how slow things seem. When you share this same connection between more than one computer, it will get even slower. Very few people are so modest in their use that a single dialup connection will keep more than two or three happy. If you mainly use your Internet connection for email and VERY LIGHT web surfing, though, the time savings from not having to constantly hang up and redial may be worth it.

If you have a high-speed connection such as cable or DSL, sharing the connection will give everyone high-speed. Unless someone is using a lot of “bandwidth” to download video, files or songs, most people don’t even notice the difference when a high-speed connection is shared with even four or five people.

Plumbing

Your local network (sometimes called a “LAN”) is very similar to the plumbing or electrical network in your home. Instead of pipes to connect things together, though, you will use ethernet cable or “wi-fi” radio signals, pretty much as we do with corded and cordless phones.

The single connection that you previously had (whether a telephone, DSL or cable modem) that used to connect to a single computer will now connect to several, using a “sharing hub” “gateway server” or “router.” If you are sharing a dial-up connection with a Macintosh running OS X, that Macintosh will dial out to the Internet and then pass its infomagical goodness along to the other computers through its ethernet or airport connection, as configured in the OS X preference pane for “Sharing.”

Most small networks use a separate box called a “router” though, to share the Internet connection in a way much as a power-strip shares an electrical connection, converting one outlet into many. Instead of plugging a single computer into the cable or DSL modem, you plug the router into the modem instead, then connect the other computers to the router. Computers can connect to the router using ethernet cable (which looks almost exactly like a fat phone cable) or wirelessly using 802.11 “wifi” or “airport” connections if they are able. “WiFi” and “Airport” are the same thing, with different marketing names.

Some routers will come out of the box and just work, but most routers require some configuration of the router (so that it can talk to the high-speed modem) and/or of the computers (so that they can talk to the router). Instructions on how to do this will usually come with the router, and you may need to check with your ISP to confirm your settings before you start. That is what the router and ISP tech support people are for. If you have any Windows computers on your network, you will definitely want to read your router instructions to set up your firewall, as well as configuring your Windows security software to be as cautious as you want to. Either should theoretically work, but it never hurts to wear a belt as well as suspenders.

Lifeboat

If you would like to schedule Mac Rory to assist you in setting up your home or business network, please telephone (360) 695-6929.

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