Network Cards

Network cards, also called Network Interface Cards, are devices that enable computers to connect to the network.

When specifying or installing a NIC, you must consider the following issues:

  • System bus compatibility If the network interface you are installing is an internal device, bus compatibility must be verified. The most common bus system in use is the Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) bus, but some older systems might still use Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) expansion cards.

  • System resources Network cards, like other devices, need IRQ and memory I/O addresses. If the network card does not operate correctly after installation, there might be a device conflict.

  • Media compatibility Today, the assumption is that networks use twisted-pair cabling, so if you need a card for coaxial or fiber-optic connections, you must specify this. Wireless network cards are also available.

Even more than the assumption you are using twisted-pair cabling is that the networking system being used is Ethernet. If you require a card for another networking system such as Token Ring, this must be specified when you order.

To install or configure a network interface, you will need drivers of the device, and might need to configure it, although many devices are now plug and play. Most network cards are now software configured. Many of these software configuration utilities also include testing capabilities. The drivers and software configuration utilities supplied with the cards are often not the latest available, so it is best practice to log on to the Internet and download the latest drivers and associated software.

ISDN Adapters

Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) is a remote access and WAN technology that can be used in place of a Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) dial-up link if it is available. The availability of ISDN depends on whether your local telecommunications service provider offers the service, the quality of the line to your premises, and your proximity to the provider's location. ISDN offers greater speeds than a modem and can also pick up and drop the line considerably faster.

If ISDN is available and you do elect to use it, a special device called an ISDN terminal adapter is needed to connect to the line. ISDN terminal adapters can be add-in expansion cards, external devices that connect to the serial port of the system, or specialized interfaces built in to routers or other networking equipment. The ISDN terminal adapter is necessary because, although it uses digital signals, the signals are formatted differently from those used on a LAN. In addition, ISDN can create multiple communication channels on a single line. Today, ISDN is not widely deployed and has been replaced by faster and often cheaper technologies.