How to Configure the Network Settings of Your Tech Gear
The basics in connecting network-enabled technology to an IP network. While configuring network settings can seem tricky, it’s really a piece of cake.
Connecting network-enabled tech gear to an IP network can add some beneficial features to a setup. And is also a necessity for some tech gear to work at all. While configuring network settings can seem tricky, it’s really a piece of cake.
BASIC NETWORKING COMPONENTS
The first step is to know the basic components making up a network. A simple network may consist of a cable or DSL modem to provide Internet access and a simple router device, such as an Apple Airport Extreme. Routers like the Airport Extreme have network jacks to connect devices or additional switches with wires, a Wi-Fi access point to connect devices wirelessly, a router/gateway to route network traffic between devices and to the Internet, and a DHCP server to assign network settings to devices on the network for you.
In many instances, your gear will enable you to use dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) to configure your network setting automatically. Think of it as the “easy button” for network device configuration. Some pieces of gear will not allow you to use DHCP and will instead force you to use “manual” or “static” addresses. Other pieces of gear will allow you to use DHCP for its own configuration, but will require you to enter the IP address of a different piece of gear to which it wants to “talk.”
You can easily figure out what which network settings are using DHCP. Plug a computer into the network and set it to DHCP and see what IP Address settings it auto-configures. On a mac, you can see the addresses under the network settings in your system preferences. On a PC, you have to open a command prompt (type cmd into start menu search) and type ipconfig and then press enter to see your settings.
There are three common settings you should know about when properly configuring your gear (and a fourth setting that can be helpful to know). Each of these settings is a numerical address containing four number sets. Each set ranges from 0 to 255 with a dot between each of the four numbers (for example, 192.168.1.230 or 10.0.10.129). There are 4,294,967,296 possible combinations of IP addresses.
The first setting is your IP address. It uniquely identifies one piece of gear from another on a network. This means each device on your network needs an IP address different from that given to the other pieces of gear on your network. An example IP address would be 192.168.1.50.
The next setting is the subnet mask. A subnet mask always starts with the number 255, making it pretty easy to spot. The subnet mask separates your IP address into a more limited network segment so your gear doesn’t need to be concerned about all 4.29 billion addresses out there. For example, a commonly used subnet mask of 255.255.255.0 would separate an IP address of 192.168.1.50 into 192.168.1 (the Network ID) and 50 (the Host ID). Your subnet mask address will usually be the same for everything on your network.
The third setting is the router or default gateway address. This is simply the IP address of your router/gateway. A router/gateway is a device on your network that routes data traffic to the proper place and enables your gear to reach other networks or the Internet. A router/gateway commonly ends in .1 (an example would be 192.168.1.1), but it could really be any address. Your router/gateway address will be the same for everything on a simple network with a standalone router device like an Airport Extreme.
The fourth setting that is helpful to know about is the DNS address. Only some of your gear will require it. This is the IP address of the DNS server you would like to use. DNS stands for Domain Name Server. When you type a Web address (domain name) into your browser, the DNS server will look up the IP address of that website and send you there. It is like a phone book for websites. A common one to use is Google’s DNS, which is 126.96.36.199 or 188.8.131.52 although more sophisticated networks may have an internal DNS as well that could be nearly any address (192.168.1.5 for instance). You can use the same DNS addresses for everything on your network.
LEARNING ABOUT YOUR NETWORK
If you want to see what DNS addresses are being used on your network, use an open command prompt on a PC. Type cmd into the start menu search and then ipconfig /all. Sort through the extra information displayed. Store the subnet mask, router/gateway, and DNS addresses in a note on your smartphone. You can later type it into your gear. Take note of the IP address that is displayed on your computer. Use a different one by changing the last of the 4 groups of numbers in the IP address. If your computer’s IP address was 192.168.1.55, you might want to use 192.168.1.175 in your gear.
If you want to use a particular IP address and don’t know whether it’s in use, try to ‘ping’ it. You will see if any devices reply. You will want to do this when all of your gear is turned on. Gear that is off does not reply to a ping. You can use terminal on a mac or command prompt on a PC. Type ping 192.168.1.175 or other IP address and press enter. A device that replies from the IP address you typed in will do so quickly. It will display the reply time in milliseconds. If there is no device at that IP address, the ping will time out. A message that says timeout or timed out will display.
If you set static or manual IP addresses for some of your gear, it is a good idea to keep track of it. Keep it in a spreadsheet or other application as you may forget about it in a few days. Ping is also useful to confirm that each device is responding to the proper IP address after configuration.
Now that you have configured your tech gear to work on your network, it is time to start playing with the additional features. You have now gained access — just do yourself a favor and wait until after services have ended to start playing.
JEFF HARTMAN is video engineer for Amarillo, Texas-based Trinity Fellowship Church (tfc.org). He is a certified broadcast networking engineer with the Society of Broadcast Engineers.