Using an Internet Appliance
Those cable modem or DSL customers lucky enough to get an Internet appliance from their service providers often do so because they pay extra to hook two or more computers up to the Internet through their connection. In this case the Internet appliance acts as the link to the Internet, and includes a built-in network hub, with ports to connect anywhere from two to eight computers to its services. In more technical terms, the device bridges between DSL or cable media and a local network connection, for which it acts as a hub.
Many such Internet appliances also include simple, pre-configured software to provide additional protection, including basic firewall, DHCP, and address translation services. We'll talk about those components in the next section, since some or all of them are part of typical do-it-yourself, software-based approaches. For now, suffice it to say that the Internet device provides simple, automatic access to this software and its services in reasonably idiot-proof ways. This approach costs more (either in monthly service fees or to purchase devices in a typical $200 to 500 price range) but makes the end-users job quick, painless, and incredibly easy. Big phone and cable companies appreciate this convenience because it means less support work for them. Vendors who offer such hardware include companies like LinkSys, Allied Data Solutions, and TurboComm. (Anyone interested in cable modem or DSL topics from hardware to security will find the Web site speedguide.net an invaluable resource. Check it out!)