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If you ended up on this page, you probably need some help deciding how to get started in sharing your cable modem
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) Purchasing multiple IP addresses from your ISP.

An IP address is a unique identifier that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) uses to tell your computer apart from the millions of other computers on the Internet.

This whole business of having to "share" your cable modem is usually due to the fact that your cable ISP will only support one IP address per cable modem.  Some ISPs, however, will gladly sell you more than one IP address for your other computers for a nice monthly fee.  This is less expensive than buying an entire cable modem for each computer, but more expensive than other "sharing" methods.

Advantages

  • Simplest to set up... and your ISP will help you, since they sell this service!

  • Gives you the most flexible connection.  You get the same access from all your computers.

  • Doesn't require multiple NICs in a computer.

  • Computers operate independently.  Only the computer accessing the network (and the hub it's connected to) need to be on.

  • Works with any operating system, as long as TCP/IP is supported

Disadvantages

  • There is usually a monthly cost.

  • All of your LAN traffic could be exposed to the Internet.

  • All of your computers are exposed to possible hacking, if they are not properly secured.

If this sounds like a good deal to you, go to this page to get set up. 
If it's not, you'll have to choose another method.  You can either read on or go back to the selection diagram.



2) 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.  (This is a major pain if one of your Client machines is a laptop that you use in more than one network.)

  • 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.


3) 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 on the Client computers.  (If you have a laptop that you want to run as a sharing Client computer, I definitely recommend a NAT vs. a proxy program.)

  • 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.


4) 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 cable modem 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.


5) 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 common for cable modem 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.


6) Hardware routers / Firewalls

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

  • Higher throughput than software + computer solutions

  • 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.

  • Provides firewall protection

Disadvantages

  • Higher cost than using part of 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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