Using Hardware for Sharing an Internet Connection

Using Hardware for Sharing an Internet Connection

Perhaps the most popular way to share an internet connection is to purchase a device that connects to your internet connection, which then connects to your LAN. These devices are referred to as cable/DSL routers. The main downside to a hardware internet connection sharing device is that it costs more than just a software solution.
Cable/DSL routers are great because they are easy to set up and configure. Also, you can leave it turned on, which means constant access to the Internet for those on your LAN. You don’t have to worry about another computer getting online as you would with a software solution.
Apple’s AirPort Extreme Base Station and Backup Time Capsule are both wireless access points (WAPs) for your network, but wait, they also act as Internet Connection Sharing devices! (AirPort Express cannot share an Internet connection.) Some older flavors of AirPort Base Station have a built-in v.90 modem to share a single 56kbps connection using a dial-up account!
The base station typically has several Ethernet connections to share a high-speed Internet connection, including a dedicated port for connecting to a cable/DSL router and two or four ports for connecting to other computers on the LAN. Besides serving as a wireless access point, Apple’s Time Capsule includes a built-in hard drive, allowing it to back up data from your MacBook wirelessly.
If you think that a cable/DSL router, time capsule, or AirPort Extreme base station could be the karmic path for you to achieve your goal of sharing your Internet connection, here are a few things to consider when deciding which device to buy on your local network:
1. Do you need a switch? Most cable/DSL routers have a small switch of 3, 4, or 5 ports. This multi-port capability is great because the same cable/DSL router that shares your Internet connection is also the cornerstone of your LAN where all your connections come together, saving you from having to buy a switch on top of the cost of a cable/DSL router.
However, some cable/DSL routers have only one Ethernet connection to connect to your LAN. So keep in mind that if you choose a device with a single LAN connection, you must provide your own adapter which will then connect your cable/DSL router to the rest of your LAN.
2. Got a modem? If your only Internet connection is through a dial-up modem account, look for an analog phone modem built into your cable/DSL router. You must have this feature if you want to use a device to share your Internet connection.
(Again, older versions of the AirPort Base Station are great for this because the modem is built-in, but you’ll have to do some shopping on eBay or craigslist.)

Even if you have cable/DSL service, some ISPs also include a dial-up account with your broadband access. With this abundant set of connections, you can connect your cable or DSL service to your cable/DSL router as well as use your dial-up account as a backup in case of problems with the main service.
3. Want a printer with that? Some cable/DSL routers also have a port for connecting the printer – which is a nice feature to have because it allows you to leave the printer plugged in and powered on so that anyone on the network can print to it at any time.
(This is much better than connecting the printer to a computer and sharing it, because then the sharing computer must always be on to make the printer available.) Mac OS X can send a print job to a printer using Bonjour or TCP/IP, so just make sure that That your printer is compatible with TCP/IP printing, also called LPR (Line Printer Remote).