Establishing Windows Network Connections – CompTIA A+ 220-802: 1.6

Most of our modern computers are also connected to a network. In this video, you’ll learn about the different methods that Windows can use to provide us with access to resources across the network.

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There are so many different ways to connect your computer to a network of some kind. It might be a wired network. It might be wireless. There might be dial-up lines. You might be using a VPN.

And fortunately, there is a central place you can go in Windows to help set up these network connections. If you go to the Control Panel, there is an option for Network and Sharing Center. And inside of that, you can set up a connection or a network.

This is a step-by-step wizard. It will take you through the process of configuring and setting up these connections. And you’ll get confirmations that the connection has been set up because Windows will perform some tests for you. You’ll be able to connect through direct connections, VPN, dial-up. There are a lot of different configuration options in here. So you don’t have to worry about the details. You simply follow the step-by-step instructions and you can connect your computer to that particular network configuration.

It’s very common for us to have a wired connection where we would take an ethernet cable and plug it into a physical ethernet port that’s on our computer or our laptop device. This direct connection is usually the fastest one. So if you have multiple network connections on your computer, it’s going to choose whichever one is fastest to be able to send that traffic out. You’re generally not able to use multiple interfaces at the same time. Windows finds one interface to use and it uses that one until that interface is no longer available.

If you’re configuring your ethernet connection, you can see that you can define an IP protocol configuration. For instance, the IP version 4, there’s also a tab here for alternate configuration. If you find that a DHCP server is not available on a network, well that means you’re not going to get an automatic IP address configuration. So you can tell Windows when that happens, use this IP address configuration instead. That way you may want to set up a config where you leave the office and you connect to a network that doesn’t have a DHCP server, but you already have defined what that IP address configuration happens to be.

Our devices these days aren’t limited to just wired connectivity. We’re doing everything over wireless now. And if you look at the wireless configuration on your computer, you’ll look for a network name. Behind the scenes, this is really something called an SSID, which stands for Service Set Identification.

In your Windows configuration, you not only need to provide that network name, but you also need to provide a security type. This is going to match whatever the encryption configuration is on the access point that you’re connecting to. If you aren’t quite sure what this setting is, make sure you contact your network administrator because the configuration in Windows needs to match the configuration that’s on the access point.

You also need to set the encryption type for this. Again, make sure you match whatever the encryption type is on that access point.

And lastly, you’ll need a key. The security key can be something that everyone shares. We call those a PSK or a pre-shared key. But in a larger environment, you tend to have this configured to use your username and password, the same one you would normally use to log on to the network.

That’s using something called WPA2-Enterprise. It uses 802.1X authentication to automatically authenticate you using that well-known username and password that you might normally use. This is also useful because that way everyone isn’t sharing the same access password to be able to get onto the wireless network. It’s much more secure when you’re using that WPA2-Enterprise.

If you’re somebody who travels a lot, you may be using a technology called WWAN or Wireless Wide Area Network technology. This is using mobile networks to be able to access the network. So you don’t need a wireless access point. You’re effectively using the same network that’s being used by your mobile phones.

This is using usually this small PCI interface. And it’s got a connection on here for antennas. And it’s embedded inside of your mobile device. That hardware adapter usually can be removed or replaced or added if you’d like to add that capability to your laptop.

These usually require some type of third-party software. You can see the Verizon software here that’s used to access this device and be able to connect to that wireless network. So usually you’re combining both the hardware and the software together to be able to give you this capability.

So now you don’t have to worry about connecting to an 802.11 wireless network somewhere. You can simply take your laptop anywhere you’d like and you’re connected to the network.

We don’t see dial-up lines used extensively any longer. But there are certain applications where a dial-up line makes a lot of sense, using existing phone lines that might be in a facility to be able to connect to another device that’s also connected to these phone lines. The configurations usually require a username and password. And obviously, you need a phone line because you’re plugging directly into your computer and your computer is going to be dialing that phone number and hopefully connecting to a modem that’s on the other side.

Once you’ve configured this dial-up connection, it appears just like any other network under your network status icon. The same way you would connect to a wireless network, the same way you would configure settings for your wired ethernet network, is exactly the same place that you would use to connect and disconnect from that dial-up connection.

If you’re traveling in the field, you’ve got a wireless connection in a hotel or in a coffee shop, but you’d still like to access information back in your corporate environment, you may want to take advantage of a built in technology inside of Windows called a Virtual Private Network. This VPN technology usually requires that somewhere along the line is a VPN concentrator. This is a piece of hardware that’s responsible for taking the encrypted information you’re sending it and then decrypting it and sending it into your corporate network and reversing the process when it goes back to you.

That way you can communicate and get your secure files back at your corporate environment. But if anybody was to listen into that communication between the concentrator and your laptop, all they would see was encrypted data.

Windows includes a built-in VPN client that allows you to connect without loading additional software onto your computer. You simply define the internet connection for your VPN concentrator and you would then tell it if you’re using a particular smart card, maybe allow other people on your computer to use this connection, or maybe don’t connect right now, we’ll choose to connect at some later time.

When you’re connecting, it’s going to ask you for authentication. You’ll need to provide a username and password. You might also have to provide other information, things like a smart card that you’d have to slide into your laptop. Maybe there’s a token generator to provide a different type of access. Maybe your laptop has a fingerprint reader for biometrics. So you’ve got this multi-factor authentication of something you know, like your username and password; something you have, like your smart card; and something you are, like your fingerprint.

Just like any other network connection, to enable or disable the VPN, simply access it through the network resources on the network icon that’s in your task bar.