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Summary

If you ended up on this page, you probably need some help deciding how to get started in sharing your dial-up connection
Below you'll find a list of alternatives and a short explanation to help you understand your choices.

Before you make your final choice, you should look at the Special Applications section, especially if you are going to use online games, messaging or multimedia applications on your Client computers.

(If you'd like to see what we recommend, check this page.)
1) Using a Proxy server

A proxy server is a software application that takes the one IP address that you get from your ISP and routes the data to and from the other computers on your LAN though it.  

Advantages

  • No monthly cost.

  • Can be expanded to handle many computers.

  • Flexible control over who can access the Internet, when, and where from (access management).

Disadvantages

  • Requires that the computer running the proxy program be running for other computers to access the Internet.

  • Need to set the internet applications in each Client computer to point to the Proxy computer.

  • Can be difficult to set up.

  • Doesn't support some applications, especially multi-player web gaming.

  • No products available for Macintosh OS.  See the NAT section below.

Wingate is probably the leading proxy server, and if you have only two computers, it's free!
It runs under Win95, Win98 and WinNT. 
If this sounds like it's what you want, go to this page to get started or go back to the selection diagram.


2) Using a NAT program

NATs are another kind of software application that uses your one IP address to allow multiple computers to access the net.   They are available for Win9X,WinNT, and MacOS.  (The selection is limited for MacOS.  See this page for MacOS NAT products.

Advantages

  • No need to change the Internet applications onthe Client computers.

  • Handles multi-player web gaming well.

  • Easier to set up than proxies.

  • No monthly cost.

  • Can be expanded to handle many computers.

Disadvantages

  • Requires that the computer running the NAT program be running for other computers to access the Internet.

  • Access management may not be as flexible as proxies.

  • Doesn't support all applications. Can be difficult to add services for non-supported applications.

For more information on this method, go to this page, or go back to the selection diagram.



3) Using Linux
(or other Unix variants)

Linux is an (essentially) free version of Unix that is available for both the Intel and Motorola computing platforms.  It can be configured in various ways to allow you to share your dial-up connection.

Advantages

  • Free.

  • Very flexible.

  • Can run on slow, old (486) machines.

Disadvantages

  • Usually requires a dedicated computer.

  • BIG learning curve.

  • Hard, if not impossible, to set up by non-technical users.

I would recommend this option only if you are the type of person who loves to tear down engines or build your own computer.  Go to this page for further info, or go back to the selection diagram.


4) Using NT

If you are using NT Workstation or Server, and your ISP can route multiple IP addresses to you, you can use its built-in routing capabilities.  Routing of multiple addresses (usually all or some of a Class C subnet) is not supported by all ISPs, and if they will do it, you'll be charged an extra fee.  So you'll probably have to use one of the other sharing options.

Advantages

  • Free (if you're using NT)

Disadvantages

  • Moderate learning curve.

  • Difficult to set up by non-technical users.

For more information on using NT, go to this page, or go back to the selection diagram.


5) "Analog" routers

Yes, you can actually go buy a dedicated box to handle sharing your network connection.   This solution may be suitable more for business applications with many users. Prices, however, are coming within home user range, as "home networking" is recognized as a growing market.

Advantages

  • Very high throughput

  • Doesn't require a dedicated computer.

  • Only need one NIC per computer.

  • Reliable and runs without much, if any attention, once you set it up.

  • May also provide firewall protection

Disadvantages

  • Higher cost (>$400 for even the smallest routers) than using a software solution on an existing computer.

  • Still requires configuration.

  • May not support VPN or tunneling at all, or may have only limited support.

For more information on hardware routers and firewalls, go to this page, or go back to the selection diagram.

 



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