With a minimal investment in hardware, you can connect two or more computers and form a simple peer-to-peer network. Because these networks aren't built around a server, they don't allow you to manage users and shared resources centrally; instead, each computer contains its own database of authorized user accounts and shared folders, drives, and printers. Setting up a workgroup-based network offers the following advantages:
• Shared storage By designating certain folders as shared resources, you avoid the need to swap files on removable media or to maintain duplicate copies of files; instead, everyone on the network can open a shared document.
• Shared printers Sharing a printer allows any authorized network user to print to that device .
• Shared media You can open shared media files (music, pictures, and video) stored on another computer or device or stream media from one computer to other computers and devices on the network.
• Shared internet connection With a router to which all your networked computers are connected, every computer can use the router's connection to the internet. An alternative is to use Internet Connection Sharing (ICS), with which you can set up internet access on a single computer and then allow every computer on the network to share that connection. ICS is an acceptable sharing method if you have a dial-up connection to the internet; ICS lets you control it from any computer on the network. However, using a hardware router offers significant security and performance advantages over ICS and is clearly the way to go if you have high-speed, always-on internet service, such as that provided by cable or DSL.
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