There are a whole range of different "boxes" that can be used to connect your network together. Some are a separate device while others combine two or even more devices into the same box allowing you to use fewer boxes to connect everything up.
Let's take a look at what the different devices do and what purpose they serve so that you know which combination of devices you will be looking for to set up your network.
This is the simplest of the devices for hooking up a network and it basically works the same way a double adapter works for electricity. All the signals that come in on one line are retransmitted out on all the lines in the hope that they will reach the computer that they are intended for.
A more sophisticated device than the hub. This device learns what is attached to each of the connected lines so that it can direct messages where they are intended rather than broadcasting them.
Where switches can only handle passing messages within the one network, a router also provides an external connection allowing messages not addressed to the local network to be passed on to some other network. This is the device you'll need to use to give your network access to anything outside your local network.
This device connects to the wide area network (WAN) connection on your router to translate the network signals into a form suitable for transmission over different media such as a phone line or cable.
This works exactly like a hub or switch except that instead of there being network cables running to each computer a wireless connection is used instead.
This device can be used to either connect two networks together or to connect two parts of the same network together so that messages originating on one side where the destination is on the other side can be passed across.
This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.