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For many lawyers, networking means attending bar association functions, meeting with clients and prospective clients, and generally getting the word out about the services they provide. But another form of networking is just as important – networking computers throughout the office. A solo practitioner without any office support probably doesn’t need to network, but once a second computer is introduced into the practice setting, a network, even a rudimentary one, becomes important. On a basic level, two or more computers networked together can provide a law office with the ability to share files, printers and Internet connections and facilitate backups. And at today’s prices, networking has never been so reasonable or easy to achieve for the computer novice. Two or more computers running Windows 2000 or XP can be networked together without any special hardware or software. For as little as $50, a four-port cable/DSL router can be purchased from such as Linksys or Netgear, which will connect up to four computers to the Internet connection and to one another. In order to create this simple network, run the DSL or cable wire into the router. Then run a network cable from each computer and plug it into the router. The computers are now connected, although some configuration will need to be done on each PC. Most PCs these days come with network connections. The network jack looks like a phone line, although a bit wider. If no network cables exist in the current setup, they can be purchased for about $10. For both computers to see each other, they need to be in the same Workgroup, users have to be created on both machines, and both machines need to be shared. To add the machine into the Workgroup on Windows XP, from the Start button, right-click on My Computer, then click on Properties. Click on the Computer Name tab, then click on Change. Where it says Member Of, click on the Workgroup tab and then simply type Workgroup in the space provided. To add a user, right-click on My Computer, then click Manage. Click on Local Users and Groups and then click on Users. Under Action, click on New User and fill out the user name and password information from the other computer or computers that may be using this machine. I usually recommend deselecting User Must Change Password at Next Login and clicking Password Never Expires. The password and user name can always be changed at a later date. When this is done, hit Create, which will create the new user. Now that the user of the second machine is set up on the first machine, the computer needs to be “shared” so that the other computers can see the hard drive or printer. The easiest way to do this is to right-click on the Start button and then click Explore. On the icon for the C drive under My Computer, right-click, then click on Sharing and Security. Click on the New Share button in the lower right. A dialog box will pop up, asking for a name. Simply put C in the box and disregard the comment box. Under User Limit, select Maximum Allowed. In the Permissions box, I recommend checking the Full Control and Change boxes to Allow. Now repeat this process for the other computer and reboot both computers. Once both computers have started, right-click on the Start menu and click on Explore, then double-click on My Network Places. What you should see is Entire Network. Then click on Microsoft Windows Network and then Workgroup. After double-clicking on Workgroup, the name of the other computer will be visible, preceded by C. For example, if the other computer is called Computer1, the display will say C on Computer1. When double-clicking on this icon, it will display the contents of the C drive on the other computer. Computer names are arbitrary. Often they come with a default name based on the make and model of the computer or with a generic name or the user’s name. To change the name to make it more comprehensible within the scheme of your office, from the Start menu, right-click on My Computer, then click Properties. Under the Computer Name tab, click Change, and then in the Computer Name field, type in a name that makes sense to you. A user’s name can be put in here, but it would need to be changed if that user is replaced, so something else may make more sense. An easier way to get to the drive of the other computer is to map a drive. To do this, right-click on My Computer and click Map Network Drive. A field that says Network Drive, along with a drop-down list with letters up to X, will be displayed. Click on the drop-down box until you get to X. I recommend starting with the last letter and then working backward. That way, if peripherals are added to the computer, such as an external hard drive or DVD drive, they will assume the ascending alphabetized order (Drive A is the floppy, Drive B is a second floppy, Drive C is the hard drive, Drive D is the CD Drive, etc.). The field below is the Folder field. Click Browse, and then browse as described previously to connect to that computer. Make sure Reconnect at Login is selected. The X drive is now mapped to the other computer, and that drive can be utilized just as if it were on the first machine. Printers, CD drives, external hard drives and other peripherals can all be shared using this process, as well as the Internet connection. The small network is now complete. While this setup will accommodate the needs of a few people in the firm setting, it is not a full-fledged network. In future articles, we’ll discuss what is needed to get a fully functioning network with e-mail and Web hosting, remote access, file and printer servers, and backup systems. BRIAN R. HARRIS is the database administrator for the American Lawyer Media-Pennsylvania division and the former editor-in-chief ofThe Legal Intelligencer . Harris can be contacted at [email protected].

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