Originally Published: Wednesday, 17 May 2000 Author: Jessica Sheffield
Published to: learn_articles_firststep/General Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

Networking for Small Businesses

You've got a small business and are looking to increase your productivity. One of the things you know you've got to have is Internet access for all your computers. Until now you've been tying up the fax phone line to dial up one computer at a time, but with your business expanding and potential customers emailing you all the time, you know there's got to be a better way.

You've got a small business and are looking to increase your productivity. One of the things you know you've got to have is Internet access for all your computers. Until now you've been tying up the fax phone line to dial up one computer at a time, but with your business expanding and potential customers emailing you all the time, you know there's got to be a better way.
Back on the corner table in your office is that old computer you shoved aside to make room for the Shiny New Computer that's So Fast You'll Never Need To Upgrade Again (didn't you say that about the last one?). You've been wondering what to do with it... Give it away? Take it home for your kids to take apart? Paperweight? Doorstop? Considering it cost three times what you laid out for the current one, you've been loath to part with it. The little 'Don't throw away anything that cost more than $2000' voice has been telling you that you'll find something you can do with it someday.
That day is today. Today, you've gotten your high-speed Internet connection installed (yes, it really was worth the six-week wait for the telephone company to insert that little piece of copper). Today, you're determined to network all the computers in your office so that your secretary can check the company email while you file your taxes online with your accountant and your contract marketing person can update your web page. Today, that poor neglected computer finds new life.
Start off by dragging the computer out, blowing the dust off (you may want to invest in a good can of air), and installing Linux on it. Linux can be purchased in various flavours, downloaded, or you may want to get in touch with your local Linux User Group to see if they have any Linux CDs you can borrow. You'll want the latest version of whatever distribution you choose, since that's the best way to get good hardware support. Pick up a network interface card (NIC) at a computer hardware store; to take full advantage of a high-speed Internet connection, you'll probably want 100baseT-capable cards. If you want to set up your server as a firewall for security purposes you'll need two NICs, one for incoming data and one for outgoing. (Check out ht p://www.linuxdoc.org/HOWTO/Firewall-HOWTO.html for information on setting up a firewall.) While you're at the computer hardware store, buy a network hub and some network cable - the hub should have as many ports as you have computers, plus a few to spare for expansion purposes.
For a small network (fewer than 20 computers), any computer that is a 486 or greater should work as a network server, although if it's low on RAM you may want to drop in some more to help it handle the processes. Install Linux, set up the network card(s), and configure your DSL or cable modem so that the server is on the Internet. Now comes the trickier part. Since you're only given one IP address by your Internet service provider and you're connecting several computers, you're going to have to fool that IP into thinking there's only one computer there. The way to do this is with a protocol called IP Masquerading. The Linux Documentation Project has an excellent how-to for this. What this protocol does is allows multiple computers to use one IP address and share one Internet connection.
So you've gotten the Internet connection working, the computer is humming happily along, and ipmasquerading is working fine. All that's left to do is plug in the other computers to the network. Make sure they all have NICs installed, then refer to the aforementioned IP Masquerading how-to for information on how to configure the network in each of them. (The how-to covers Windows and Mac machines as well.) Plug the hub into the server and the other computers into the hub, and your business should be wired and ready to go!
Jessica Sheffield (starlady@linux.com) is the Volunteer Coordinator for Linux.Com, and has been bugging her dad to wire his business for about three years now.