Managing your Network Equipment with your Web Browser
As you install and expand the network in your home or small office, you will probably purchase a variety of low-cost, hardware modules or - "black boxes" - that will help you with specific tasks.
For example, almost every sophisticated home network or small office
has at least one router. Many such networks add a second, wireless
router (or a "Wireless Access Point") so that wireless equipment can be
supported along with traditional, wired ethernet. You may also want to
install a - "Print Server" - so that one or more printers is always
available for use by all of your computers. You may want to install a -
"File Server" - so that one or more large, shared disk drives is always
Although you could configure some of your - computers - to host these services, you would then need to leave those computers running all of the time. The associated noise, electrical power consumption, heat generation, and management tasks are, however, undesirable. Furthermore, because these computers are susceptible to programming that can teach them new - "tricks", malevolent - "hackers" - and unscrupulous opportunists have polluted the Internet with - "stinkware" - evil software that can corrupt, compromise, and subvert computers that are constantly left running without a lot of supervision. When this - "stinkware" - gets into the computers that are used to optimize or control your local network, all kinds of bad things can happen. Eventually, most home office and small office managers conclude that simpler, low-cost, specialized hardware modules are better.
All of the popular, low-cost hardware modules of this type are designed so that you can - "talk"- to them with any popular, modern web browser. You will use your web browser to configure these hardware devices for compatibility with one another, with your ISP, with all of the computers in your network, and with the client and server applications that will be needing their services. You will also use your browser to configure an appropriate level of security so that strangers, opportunists, and criminals cannot make unauthorized changes.
Each time your network grows, if you purchase an additional, new hardware module, it will come with an installation procedure that will try to integrate it into your existing network infrastructure. Look for prominent charts, or - "Read Me First" - papers for guidance. Generally, these installation procedures are well thought out and more-or-less automatic, but unless your network is very basic, you will need to use your browser again, to access the built-in web server within your new equipment, so that you can teach it some additional details about the other modules and computers that are already present in your network. You may need to browse to the modules you've already configured, to teach - them - about the newcomer.
The opposite is true when you retire and delete or replace an existing hardware module; you may need to inform one or more of your other modules of the change.
All of this network equipment management can be done from any of the popular browser applications resident on any convenient PC within your Local Area Network. (You don't need to use the same browser each time).
This browser-based management activity is possible because all of the equipment designers have included some kind of a simple - "web server" - inside their network equipment. When you access those web servers, you will see web pages that will look very much like those with which you have become familiar on the Internet, but the services they offer will all be oriented toward configuration and management tasks associated with the equipment on which they are hosted.
Episode 13, Segment 2 of 3