Network equipment buying tips
Purchasing network cards and accessories for a network, for many, is a confusing and frustrating task. Below we have listed recommendations and considerations to look at when purchasing a network card or accessories for a network.
When purchasing a network card, look at the available connections that card allows. Today, this is not as important as it has been in the past as today many networks are only using RJ-45. If your network utilizes a different interface, such as Coax, verify the card you are planning on purchasing has this connection.
Connection speed is an important consideration when looking at purchasing a network card. Today, the majority of networks and cards are found in 10 Base or 100 Base, 100 Base being the faster of the two solutions. While slightly more expensive it is recommended that all users looking to buy a network card purchase 100 Base network cards as these cards, if needed, can be switched down to 10 Base.
The interface that the card connects to is also an important consideration. Below is a listing of the three available interfaces.
PCI - The recommended solution for desktop computers as it is a faster solution when compared to ISA. However, this is a slightly more expensive solution when compared to ISA.
ISA - Solution found with 10 Base network cards, ISA cards are a cheaper solution but can be a much slower solution when compared to PCI.
PCMCIA - Solution used with laptop computers, PCMCIA cards are the only solution for laptop computers. When looking to buy a PCMCIA card, it is important to look at the following:
- Connection - By far the most important consideration; when looking at PCMCIA cards, look at the connection and if any additional cables are required to connect the network card to the Network. These additional cables can become lost and sometimes damaged. The alternatives to additional cables are cards that contain the actual connection on the card.
- Slots used - Verify the card being used utilizes type II connection. If the card utilizes a type III connection, verify that the other cards besides the network can be inserted.
When purchasing a network card a network cable is not included, unless you purchase a network kit. Therefore, it is important to also verify if the network card includes a network cable, and if it does not include a cable, look into purchasing a network cable with your network card. The below information is what to look for when purchasing a network cable.
- Verify that you purchase the right cable. Today, the most common network cables are Ethernet and Coax. If your network card has an RJ-45 connection, you want an Ethernet cable; and if your card has a BNC connector, you want a Coax cable.
- If you are planning on only connecting two computers together, you may want to consider purchasing a Cross Over cable that is different from a standard network cable. This cable allows the computers to be connected without the need of a network hub.
- If you are planning on connecting to a large network, you need to purchase a standard network cable. Additionally, if you are planning on setting up a network with two or more computers, you also need to purchase a network hub or switch.
Network hubs are a stand alone hardware device that allow for several computers to be connected to a large or small network of computers. Network hubs are only required if you plan on setting up a network of 2 or more computers. If you plan on using your computer and network card to play network games, a hub may only be required if you plan on hosting that network party. When looking at purchasing a hub, it is important to look at the following.
- See if the amount of ports on that hub are sufficient for your needs.
- Verify that the hub is an auto sensing hub. This means that the hub can detect if the network is running at 10 or 100 base and switch to that appropriate speed. It is important to know that a hub only connects to a network running at the same speed.
- Verify that the hub has LED (lights) status indicators. LEDs to look for are the connection LED lights to indicate what speed a computer connected to that network may be, if the hub is experiencing activity, and collision LEDs to see if the network is experiencing a severe amount of collisions.
Other important considerations to look for when purchasing network equipment include:
Warranty – How long is the warranty and what does it cover.
Support – Is the technical support number a free number; is it open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Network equipment prices can be very broad in prices because of the quality or features that particular device may include. We have a general list of the major network equipment; however, this is not a complete list and prices can very likely exceed the prices stated below, sometimes by several thousand dollars.
Network Card: $20 to $200
Network Cable: $1.00 to $80
Network home Hub: $40 to $200
Network home Switch: $90 to $2000
Network home Router: $100 to $2000
Once you have reviewed the appropriate information and believe that you are ready to make a purchase of a computer network device, ensure that the source that you plan on purchasing the network device from is a reputable source and you have reviewed our section on what to look out for when purchasing over the Internet.
Computer Hope is ready to setup and help you with issues you may encounter during the purchase and installation of your network, regardless if you purchase through us or another vendor.
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Additional help and information about installing a computer network card and other computer hardware can be found through our Installation section.