There are some concepts that, if understood, may come in handy on this subject when one uses any kind of internet connection. Even if one is not an expert on the subject, a basic grasp of these will generally help keep an internet connection going, and make it easier if you are to explain to a technician what, if anything, might have gone wrong with it or if he/she is to walk you through corrective steps when it goes down.
In sequence, from far to close to the user, these elements are:
Another name for the Internet, the term derives from the preferred way to represent it in diagrams and flow charts (as a cloud). The apparent reason for that it allows for a way to represent something that has no shape or a constant changing shape, but also conceals its actual complexity. Also in diagrams and such it is of no particular interest compared to the other internal elements of a network, which get more attention, definition and precise form. In any case, the cloud (Internet) is simply a collection of computers interconnected via a specific network protocol that allows for rapid transmission of data, be it websites, email, sound or video.
This refers to the line that runs from the cloud to the entry-point device at your site. There are several types of connections that can be classified by method, media, or speed. For more details see next week’s article about these.
Regardless of what kind of connection is used, the entry-point device of your Internet connection is, as of this writing, always a modem. What is a modem, and what’s with the funny name? It’s a coined word from mo(dulator)-dem(odulator). Well that’s fine you might think, but what the blazes is modulation and demodulation then? Simply stated, modulation is transforming data into a suitable medium (audio for example) that can be transmitted over the chosen carrier (such as a telephone line); demodulation is merely reverting that process so that the data at the receiving computer matches what emanated from the originating computer.
Now that we have brought the internet connection inside (with a modem), and if one has more than one computer, normally one wants to split it. This is where the router comes in. Consider the router an intelligent signal splitter that knows what data to send to which computer. This splitting of the signal can be achieved through network cables that go from the router to each individual computer or, as it has become increasingly popular in recent times, in a wireless fashion. Remember, if you have only one computer connected to the Internet, it is possible to omit this device.
Sometimes in the name of technological convergence, a gateway is used instead of a modem and a separate router. a gateway is a multi-use device that includes a modem and a router, all in one. So it can take the internet signal from the street, demodulate it, and distribute it to more than one computer, wired or wirelessly.
The next stop in your internet connection, your computer must have a network card to be able to plug a network cable coming from the modem, router or gateway (or a wireless network card to receive the wireless signal if your router or gateway is capable of supplying a wireless signal). The only exception to this is if you are using dial-up, since there are internal modems that can be in your computer and that will connect straight to a phone jack through a normal telephone cable for internet connectivity.
It would constitute a useful drill to locate and identify each of the above elements in your current setup.
Free tip of the day: Sometimes you might be asked, by your Internet Service Provider for example, to reset your internet connection by turning off and back on all the elements in this line that are under your control in order to resolve am internet connection problem you might be experiencing. Now you understand why it’s important, once powered off, to turn them back on in the proper sequence. The proper sequence is of course, modem, then router (if there is one), then your computer.
Need help with anything related to your Internet connection? Contact me.