Saturday, December 16

First Time on a Network?

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First time on a network?  Or, you’re familiar but don’t know the technicalities?  It’s not that difficult, but there are some ground rules to follow.

            In today’s technology-driven business, local area networks (LANs) linking several C’s together are becoming commonplace.  But how many people understand the basic do’s and don’ts of using a network?

            If you are new user on a local area network you may have a few things to learn, even if you’re an experienced PC user.  As a LAN user, you work in a shared, perhaps company-wide environment.  This means you have access to potentially great resources; more and varied applications, more file space, more computing power, more printers, more modems, plus interesting things like fax servers and CD-ROM disks.  It also means that as you work it’s important to remember you’re sharing the network with others.

            Here are a few tips on how to be a responsible member of the LAN, and how to work safely and effectively.  Start at the beginning.  If you are given any user manuals, read them, or at least skim through them and save them.  Mark the important parts and browse through them periodically.  You’ll be amazed what new parts make sense and what valuable tips you’ll pick u.  If your organization has put together its own “new user’s guide”, read it carefully.  Add your own notes.  Learn where all the important switches to your PC are and what they do: power and reset for the central processing unit (CPU); and power, brightness and contrast for your monitor.  Many apparent failures are often no more complicated than an incorrect setting.  Also, learn where the fuses are.

            Familiarize yourself with the various cables and wires connecting everything, and any wires going into the wall.  If these cables and the places to which they attached aren’t marked, you may want to label them, so you’ll know where to reconnect them if necessary.  Learn how to reset your workstation.  There should be several ways to do it: pressing a certain combination of keys on the keyboard; pushing a button somewhere on the workstation; or turning the power off and on again.

            You’ll probably be given an “account” on the LAN.  Learn your username, memorize your password.  If appropriate, change it to something un-guessable.  Don’t write your password down anywhere obvious, like under your keyboard.  Don’t post it on the wall.  Learn about your account.  What applications and services can you use?  Who else is on the LAN?  Can you communicate with them by electronic mail?  How?  Who should you call for advice or help with applications, network service or hardware?

            Try to acquire most of this knowledge in your first few days as a network user.  It may be the last time you learn how to use your LAN, except when things go wrong.  The more you know, the more easily and productively you’ll work.  Practice safe computing as a LAN user, you are responsible not only for the security of your own data and PC, but also to some extent for the entire network community.                       

            There will be problems.  Some will affect only you, some will affect others in your group, some will affect everyone.  But remember that anything and everything that can go wrong on a LAN already has to someone, somewhere.  Also, occasionally things will happen which may look like problems, but actually are legitimate operational characteristics of your LAN.  So don’t be hasty in assuming you know what the problem is.  Often, in fact, a problem can have any number of causes.  Take failure of a file to print.  Is the file going to the right printer? Is the printer connection broken?  Did someone reset the printer?  Is the printer out of paper?

            Working effectively on a LAN takes a little technical know-how, liberal amounts of common sense and some practice.  The reward will be improved productivity – not only for yourself but for the others who can now communicate more easily with you. 

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