The Advantages of a Network
If you’ve never used a network to link multiple computers, you might not realize which applications are network ready. Here’s a quick list of the most common uses for a network.
File transfer on a network
There’s no faster method of moving files between computers than a network connection. And network file transfers are transparent to the person making the transfer, which means that you don’t have to do anything special to transfer files between computers on a network.
You can just drag and drop files as usual or use your favorite file management application to copy or move files between computers on the network, and Windows acts like you would expect.
However, you certainly don’t want just anyone transferring files to and from your PC — or, for that matter, even accessing your PC over the network. To help preserve security, Windows 8, 7, Vista, and XP make certain that only the users and PCs with the proper rights can transfer files over your network.
If you’re running more than one PC with Windows 7 or 8 on your network, you can also take advantage of the HomeGroup feature, which helps automate the configuration of a secure file and printer-sharing network.
Share an Internet connection via a network
Another popular networking benefit is the ability of one computer to share a single Internet connection with all other computers on a network. Typically, this arrangement works best with a broadband connection technology like a digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable, but it’s possible with a dialup connection as well.
You can share a connection by using one of these methods:
Software: Use the built-in Internet Connection Sharing within Windows 8.
Hardware: Add an Internet sharing device (such as a network router), which usually comes with other features, such as a built-in firewall.
Enjoy multiplayer games over a network connection
What’s that you’re saying, Bunky? You’re tired of predictable computer opponents in your favorite games? Hordes of enemies in that zombie game that you can handle in your sleep? How about timid enemy monsters that don’t attack you or ambush your character in Borderlands 2.
Well, forget those lazy “artificial intelligence” tactics because in network multiplayer mode, you fight real human beings — the treacherous, backstabbing kind (which, oddly enough, usually turn out to be your best friends).
Share documents and applications via a network connection
Of course, a document that’s handed from person to person on a CD or flash drive is technically shared, but is that really a convenient method of working on a document together? (To this day, PC hardware technicians and software developers call this antiquated kind of foot-based transfer a sneakernet.)
Anyway, forget wearing out your shoe leather just to hand off a document for the next person’s comments — today’s office workgroup relies on the company network to share documents and common applications the right way!
After you network your computers, any PC on your network can copy or open a document on another computer: that is, if the owner of the PC being accessed has been granted the proper rights to that file or to the folder where it’s stored.
For example, say you have a Word document that others need to edit, but you want to keep it on your hard drive: You can move that document to a shared folder. Others on the network can open the document within Word from their computers, just as though it were on their local machines.
And, if that’s not sassy enough, consider the fact that Bob over in accounting (or your daughter in her bedroom) might be using an application that you don’t have. If that application has been written for network use, you can run it on your computer remotely over the network! This type of program is a shared application, and it’s the neatest thing since sliced cheese.