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    1. Getting Started - What is Home Networking?

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    • Wouldn't it be great to share the music on your PC with your kids? How about watching your home movies through a video game console without burning a DVD? The great thing about home networking is that it allows you to connect your computers, video game consoles and other media devices together so that they can share files.

      It's simpler than you think to create these connections, and the rewards can be amazing. Here we’ll start by exploring several different ways a home network can benefit you. You’ll not only find you may have many of these components already, but you may discover new uses for your home network you never even thought of!

      what_calloutSelect activities in the “Select your usage” menu below to see what each option can do for you, and what you’ll need:

      Home networking: Connecting family and ideas

      As you can see, a home network opens up whole new worlds of connection: sharing files, Internet connections, music, video and much more. Let's take a closer look at the solutions a home network can provide.

      Share My Resources 
      The primary reason to build a home network is simple: It’s all about sharing your resources. At your home, you probably have several computers and at least one printer. Do you have trouble moving files from one computer to the other? Do you have to switch systems to print, scan or use the Internet? Sharing can save you time, money and headaches.

      If you have Windows®  7 on your PC, HomeGroup is a new feature that lets you share your printers and music, picture, video, and document libraries with other PCs running Windows®  7 on a home network. 

      Do you need a little help with new Windows®  7 features? Let the Dell Solution Station come to your rescue. You can get support setting up features like HomeGroup and automatic data backup.

      If you’re planning to keep all of your devices in one room, a wired network gives ample functionality and can be easy to set up. Wired networks are also generally secure and free from interference. Grab a network adapter or two if your computers don’t already have them. 

      Wireless networks allow you to move beyond your home office to use the Internet anywhere1 in your house. Wireless-N technology has improved the speed of downloads and uploads so you can surf at near-wired speeds. When it comes to wireless, it's vital to keep security at the top of your mind. Your wireless router will have precise instructions on setting up security features—make sure you do! 

      Thinking of going wireless? Check out our comparison of wired vs. wireless networks

      Shop Wired Adapters     Shop Wireless Adapters     Shop Network Cables

      Connect My Media 
      Imagine sitting in your living room and watching a movie stored on your laptop. Not too exciting, right? But what if you could watch that same movie from your computer on your HDTV? Access your entertainment exactly the way you want it, when you want it. It's a revolution!

      Making media connections can take many different forms. One of the best things about having a home network is the flexibility—you can stream (a fancier word for "play") your media files through a host of different devices.

      A digital multimedia receiver, for example, allows you to view digital photos, movies and high definition programs on your HDTV, and listen to downloaded music on your home theater sound system. Using a high-speed Wireless-N home network, digital content on your PC can be wirelessly streamed to your home entertainment system. Plus, if your PC has Windows®  Media Center (found on all Vista®  and Windows®  7 systems versions except Windows®  7 Starter and Windows Vista®  Home Basic), you can access it all through one simple-to-use interface2. To learn more about PCs and home entertainment, visit our Home Theater Learning Center

      Having your media connected is about more than just watching movies at home. You can use remote access services to reach media stored on your home PC wherever you go.

      Did you make the trip all the way to Grandma's but forgot to print out photos from your vacation to show her? If you have a service called Dell Remote Access, you can pull those photo files from your PC at home and show them to her on your Internet-capable phone or netbook3. Dell Remote Access provides online connectivity for you and your family to your PCs at home. You can get to your files from any Internet-connected device. If you want to share photos on your hard drive with a daughter at college, Dell Remote Access even allows you to send her a secure e-mail link to access them. 

      Shop PCs with Windows® 7    Upgrade to Windows® 7

      Back It Up on Shared Storage 
      When you think about it, you’ve got a lot of data—financial records, photos, music, movies, work files and more—and it’s probably spread across your laptop, your desktop, or your kids' computers. You'd be lost without that data, but how can you make sure that it's safe and secure? Believe it or not, a home network can come to the rescue.

      There are three simple ways to back up all of that important data. You can use:
      • An external hard drive attached to one computer
      • A Network Attached Storage device that connects to every computer
      • Online data backup
      An external hard drive is a separate device that you connect to your computer with a USB or Firewire cable. It contains storage space for your files, just like the hard drive inside your PC. When you have file sharing set up on your home network, everyone in your family can transfer data to a set folder on the computer connected to the external drive. Then you just transfer that data onto the drive at a set schedule—once a week should do it.

      Windows®  7 makes it even easier. Not only does it have a feature called HomeGroup that makes networking Windows®  7 PCs a snap, it has a Backup and Restore feature that lets you set up a customized backup schedule. You'll never have to worry about missing a backup (and missing data) again. 

      Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices, on the other hand, can be connected via your wired or wireless home network to every computer in your house. Every user sets up a schedule to backup his or her data to the NAS device at regular intervals. The benefit of NAS is that the backed up files are easily accessible to everyone in the family from any PC. 

      You might be thinking that a storage device is all well and good, but what happens if your home itself is damaged? Using an online, or remote, storage service like Dell DataSafe Online helps protect your valuable documents, music, photos and more. Your files live remotely in a storage area in a secure data center, far from your physical home. You can choose which files to protect, and schedule regular backups. Restoring files from remote storage is as easy as downloading something from the Internet—just point and click. 

      Shop Shared Storage

      Communicate with VoIP 
      If you've been spending years watching your monthly phone bill climb ever upwards, you'll be pleasantly surprised to hear that a home network can slash your home phone costs. VoIP4 (which stands for Voice over Internet Protocol) is a technology that lets you use your Internet connection to make phone calls and even video chats, rather than your phone lines. Most VoIP providers offer flat-rate monthly or even yearly pricing, with long distance included. 

      Here are just a few of the things that set VoIP apart from a traditional land line:
      • Lower cost: Often VoIP offers a set price much lower than a phone company.
      • Integrates with your network: In practical terms, this means you can manage your telephone along with the rest of your network, saving hassle.
      • Flexibility: Take your home phone number with you anywhere.
      • Choose your area code: You're not bound by geography anymore when it comes to the area code you use.
      • Free features: Extras like voice mail and call forwarding may be included in the service.
      VoIP equipment can vary widely. Some services just require you to have a microphone or headset plugged into your PC. Others have a special device that you plug into your high-speed modem, enabling you to use the phones you already have.

      And what about features? There are features available from VoIP that just aren't there for analog phone lines. Imagine checking your voicemail on the Web from any computer. You can also bid farewell to roaming charges when you travel, because VoIP goes wherever you do. A device called a “softphone” — meaning it connects to the Internet to place calls — and a working high-speed Internet connection are all you need to place calls on the road.

      Services like Skype can make it easy to communicate anywhere via voice or even video chat if you have a Web camera. You can connect from anywhere5, and talk to anyone who has a Skype account, camera and/or headset. 

      Shop VoIP     Shop Web Cameras

      Bring Entertainment Home with Video Game Consoles 
      The video game console has outgrown its origins as a snappy toy to become the new home entertainment hub. Wired and wireless networking options have opened up new worlds of entertainment, even if you think Pac-Man was the pinnacle of gaming.

      You can use your networked gaming console for:
      • Streaming Media: You can use your XBox 360™ and PlayStation 3™ to watch high-definition movies on your home theater from Netflix, stream music from Last.fm, or enjoy the best of both in the Zune Store for Xbox 360™.
      • Social Networking: Brag about your achievements, update your status, display photos, keep up-to-date on others’ posts and find friends to game with on Facebook.
      • Media Extenders: Many gaming consoles can also dish up photos, music, and videos from a computer on the same network. Enjoy slideshows of your pictures, watch digital videos that you've uploaded from a camcorder or downloaded from the Internet, listen to your tunes, and even view the movies you own on the biggest screen in the house.
      • Playing Games: Play over your Internet connection with players across the street or across the world, or use multiple consoles to allow head-to-head play on the same local network.
      For optimal performance, use a cable or DSL Internet service and a top-of-the-line router with lots of Gigabit ports to manage multiple techno-toys.

      Shop Wireless Routers     Shop Gaming Equipment

      Streaming Music and Video 
      Home networking is all about accessing your media, your way, on your schedule:
      • Download movies, music and more, and shuffle them between your computers and hand-held media players with ease.
      • Stream files from one computer to your television or another computer, and back up your files in one central place.
      So what exactly is streaming? Streaming lets you store content on one computer (or on the Internet) but play it seamlessly on another device. Streaming requires an Internet connection and a network that’s fast enough to support streaming and allow for high-quality audio and video.

      Using your existing high-speed home network and Microsoft®  Windows Media Center (available on all full versions of Windows®  7), you can seamlessly stream media on your computer to other devices in your house for display wherever you want. 

      How would you like to watch your TV shows anywhere you go? Watch your favorite soap opera on your smartphone, or the big game on your laptop. That's called placeshifting, and media streaming devices like Slingbox can make it happen. It's just one more way you can take control of your entertainment. 

      Video and music files can be large, so you’ll need processing muscle and high-bandwidth capabilities to download them, stream them, and play them without slowing down your network. A cable modem or DSL Internet service is pretty much a necessity for music and movie buffs, and you’ll probably want both wired and wireless networking options. Add a wireless router and media extender to stream downloaded video directly to your TV or listen to downloaded music on your home theater sound system.

      Shop Network Entertainment/Digital Media Extenders     

      Keep Watch with Wireless Video Cameras 
      Whether you want to keep an eye on the cash register at your shop or want to watch over your pets when you're away, a home monitoring system can be your eyes and ears when you’re not at home. 

      Adding a security camera to your network is no harder than adding any other piece of hardware. You’ll need a broadband Internet connection, a router, a network video camera and special software that usually comes with the camera to manage monitoring and recording features.

      Choose a camera (or cameras) with simple set-up options. Many allow you the option of having the camera operate continuously or only when triggered by motion. Some come with remote viewing capabilities, so you can log on using a service such as Dell Remote Access and view the camera’s footage from outside your home. Note that if you want to record footage, you’ll need to dedicate storage space on your network. 

      Shop Network Security Cameras     Shop Home Automation & Security

      Clear Cord Clutter 
      Frustrated by managing all the cords and cables that come along with a modern home office? You'll be glad to know that you can banish most of them by going wireless with your peripherals. Wireless printers, mice and keyboards provide full functionality without taking up valuable desk real estate.

      Wireless USB hubs are another nifty way to de-clutter your desk. You can put a wireless USB hub up to 30 feet away, and plug all your corded USB devices into it. Once the hub is tucked away out of sight, you can access your devices wirelessly from just about anywhere in the room.

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