Basic wiring and networking is described below. For more advanced network setup, see Computer and Network Setup. For recommendations when setting up network users in Windows, see Network Users.
Basic Physical Wiring for a Small Office
To setup a LAN (Local Area Network):
- Each computer in the office should have an Ethernet port. That's the RJ-45 plug that looks like a giant telephone plug.
- Connect all your computers to a switch (~$50). A switch is just a small box about 6 to 12 inches big that has about 8 Ethernet ports in it, although the number varies. If you have a router (see firewalls, below), you probably already have a switch built into it which you can use.
- Position the switch in a central location in the office and connect all the computers to it using Cat 5 cables (or better). You can get very long cables with plugs on each end and simply drill 2" holes in the walls with a hole saw to get from room to room.
- If your cables are too short, you can join two cables using a simple coupler, but try to avoid using couplers if you can.
- Don't coil too much Cat 5 in a pile since that creates interference.
- Don't kink the cables or let them get bent.
- If you are tacking them in place, you cannot let them get compressed. There are simple clips available which you can use to tack the cable to the walls.
- Make sure they are neat and nobody is kicking them or tugging on them.
- They should not be run very far next to power cords since the A/C causes interference.
- They can also be run under the building or through the ceiling.
- Alternatively, you can have a low-voltage contractor install the cabling out of sight using wall plates. Then, you just plug your cables into the wall plates.
See Wireless if you are interested in using any wireless connections.
Basic Networking - Peer to Peer
Small offices with less than 5 computers are generally set up as a peer-to-peer network. In a larger office, one of the computers will need to run server software, (e.g. Microsoft Server 2008). In a peer-to-peer network, you still designate one of the computers to be the 'server', but it just runs a version of Windows that allows simultaneous connections (e.g. Windows 7 which has a built in 20 computer limit). See Computer Hardware Requirements under Operating Systems.
If you are not using a server, after the computers are connected, set up your network as follows.
- Right click on MyComputer and select Properties, Computer Name.
Computer description: Optional (it is easier to not fill it in).
Full computer name: Take note of this name. Every computer on a network has a unique name.
Workgroup: All your computers should have the same Workgroup name.
- To change the Full computer name or Workgroup, click Change. The Network ID button just launches an unnecessarily confusing Wizard.
- Enter a descriptive Computer Name (e.g. SERVER, RECEPTION, DROFFICE, BACKOFFICE, BUSOFF, OP1, OP2, a person's name, etc.) typically ALL CAPS
- Enter the Workgroup in ALL CAPS.
WORKGROUP is easy to remember. All computers on the network should have their workgroup set to this value. If you were using a server, then you would be part of a Domain instead of a Workgroup.
- If desired, share files on a computer so that other computers can access them:
- Locate a folder that you want to share, right click on it and select Sharing and Security, or Properties. Just share important folders. You should NEVER share your entire C: drive, since that gives viruses easy access to your system files and allows them to infect your computer. You can share as many folders as you want.
- Under Network sharing and security:
- Check both boxes or just the first.
- Enter the Share name (typically the same name as the folder).
After the network has a few moments to recognize the newly shared folder, you should be able to access it using the network path. For instance \\SERVER\OpenDentImages\ . Also, see the Windows 7 and Vista page.
To view your network computers and shared folders, click on MyNetworkPlaces (usually available on the desktop or from the Start menu). This is an example of what it might look like:
Ignore the MSN advertisement. The first two folders are shared folders on the local computer.
The other two are shared folders on a different computer, as you can see either by looking at the name, or by noticing the drawing of the pipe connected to the bottom of each folder. Usually, when you open My Network Places, it will take a few moments for it to refresh. You may have to be a little bit patient while waiting for a folder you just shared to show here.
To see the other computers on your network, click 'View workgroup computers'. If you cannot see the computers on your network they were not attached to the right workgroup, or there is something wrong with the way your network is set up. For instance, a cable might be unplugged.