Despite the word "bridge" being used in the previous paragraph, a router is different then a bridge. A bridge connects two LANs together using the same protocol. This example topology doesn't use a bridge, but we'll get back to bridges in a little bit.
Hubs and switches are very similar. The serve the same function, but do their jobs in different ways. A hub allows a central connection point for several computers. Hubs are fairly dumb pieces of equipment. All they do, in a sense, is take a data signal and split it up into multiple ports.
Now a switch is a bit smarter than a hub. A switch still allows several computers to connect to a common connection, but a switch direct network packets to only the ports those packets were intended for. This speeds up the network by not feeding all data to all ports.
And now for the topology in my house. Feel free to laugh. I did too once I put it to paper...
Actually, this is what it would look like if you were to put it on paper, but it's really not as bad as it looks.
The Internet enters the house via a cable modem. The cable modem is hooked up to a router. I use an SMC Barricade, so my router, switch and print server are actually all built into one.
I'm using all four ports on my Barricade's built in switch. One port for each PC in the living room, one port to a Netgear Home PNA bridge, which is a bridge because it bridges a CAT5 media based network with a Home PNA phone line based network, and one port plugged into the Intel 2011 Access Point, which is technically another bridge since it bridges the CAT5 media with a wireless network.
I have the Netgear Home PNA bridge because I live in an old house with high ceilings and a low roof leaving me with virtually no attic. Add to this that most of the walls are concrete and the floors are Terrazzo (I have run under carpet before). I wasn't about ready to drop cable in this place. Taking this and the cost of materials (cables, ends, wall plates, etc) and it was easy for me to conclude that my time was worth more than a $125 bridge.
The Intel 2011 Access Point is actually just a toy. But I can see it having its uses.
The photo above is a shot of the floor underneath my wife's desk. The cable modem is on the desk so we can make sure we have connectivity and a cable drops down to the SMC Barricade, which then goes of to the Netgear Home PNA switch, a printer, two PCs and the Intel 2011
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