A network interface card is an Ethernet card, which is simply an electronic device for enabling a computer to connect to a network. For example, the home network, or a local area network, through the Internet, using an Ethernet cable with a connector known as the RJ-45 connector.
The network interface card is a piece of hardware that is built into the motherboard of most computers today. Earlier, in the 1990s and early 2000s, it was required to be installed by computer owners themselves. Newer cards have become a common staple for computers and laptops. They use the Peripheral Component Interconnect or the PCI standard for connection and are usually installed by the manufacturer in the motherboard themselves.
The Ethernet standard or protocol is popular as well as cheap to set up and run, which makes a network interface card an attractive choice for connecting to a network. It helps to communicate with other network interface cards over the same network, or with two computers directly through a direct connection. It is a vital requirement for exchanging data with the network.
Network cards operate at different network speeds, depending upon the protocol standard they satisfy. Cards were earlier capable of only the 10 Mbps maximum speed, but modern adapters fulfill the 100 Mbps fast Ethernet standard. The most recent standard, the 1 Gbps or 1000 Mbps standard is also increasingly offered in many hardware units. They provide good, reliable speeds when it is possible to use cables for network access.
Network cards serve as a reliable means of exchanging data in wired cable environments and make local connections and communication within the network fast and hassle-free. They are easy to set up, and function well after installing and configuring the drivers for the card.
The color shown by the indicator lights in a typical network interface card is either green– indicating that the card is receiving electricity– or orange or red – indicating network activity, which includes sending and receiving of data. Each network card carries its unique address called a MAC address, which makes it identifiable among all the network cards in the world for proper configuration and communication.
The network card ultimately converts the data from the computer into a form that can be transferred by the network cable and then transfers the data to another computer. It also translates data it receives into bytes for the computer to read. The device that does so is called the transceiver. The card also controls the speed of data flow as well, depending on the standard it supports.
Nowadays, cards fulfilling the 1GBps are the standard now. Increasingly, these network cards are being replaced by Wi-Fi, which is more preferred for wireless networking in mobile devices, including laptops and tablets. Wi-Fi services are easier to use and have become more widely available in public spaces and workplaces.