One of the first things to decide upon is the medium that will most effectively accomplish your networking needs.
Ethernet cabling is by far the most popular, and probably most economical, means to link your computers. It requires a separate cable be run to every workstation, from a central hub. In a larger building, multiple hubs can be linked with single, high-capacity runs. Using CAT-5 standards, up to 100 Mbps speeds can be achieved. That translates to copying a 10 megabyte file in less than 15 seconds. As well, using Voice-over-IP technology, your phone system can be consolidated to operate over the same cabling used by your network.
Wireless is quickly gaining popularity, as consumers are realizing the long-term maintenance costs of wireless networks are often lower than their wired counterparts. For more details, review our wireless section.
At least one hub or switch will be required. These devices link the wires to your computers together, and transfer data between computers. While both have the same function, switches better optimize transfers where very many computers or different speed NICs may be connected.
A NIC (network interface card) must be installed on each computer participating in the network, and are popularly available in 10 and 100 Mbps models.
If you're connecting a large office or a building complex, many small networks should be created and linked to each other through the use of routers.
The protocol is the language your computers use to talk to each other. Leapbeyond Solutions deals exclusively with Windows-based systems (98, NT, 2000, etc), where three protocols are available: TCP-IP, IPX/SPX and NetBeui. The first is generally required for Internet access, the second is popular for multiplayer gaming, and the last is a simple but easy-to-maintain protocol.
An internal network can be connected to the Internet through a variety of means. Use of a traditional modem is cheap, but slow. A special digital ISDN line can be ordered from your phone company, and is typically very reliable. The most effective connection, however, is made through an ADSL or Cable modem from your telco or cable company. Both offer a phenomenal value to cost ratio, and can be configured for efficient and high-speed Internet sharing.
Many popular software packages have built-in support, and even extra features, available for networked environments. As well, custom software can be developed to meet your specific needs. See our consulting section.