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Home and small office networking features

Updated: January 21, 2005

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

Home and small office networking features

Home and small office networking uses the following features to simplify the implementation and administration of small networks.

Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) and Windows Firewall

Home and small office networking offers computers that are directly connected to the Internet the added security of firewall protection. The firewall checks all communications that cross the connection between your network and the Internet and is selective about which responses from the Internet it allows. ICF and Windows Firewall protect only the computer on which they are enabled. However, if ICF or Windows Firewall are enabled on the Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) host computer, ICS clients that use the shared Internet connection for Internet connectivity are protected because they cannot be seen from outside your network. For this reason, you should always enable ICF or Windows Firewall on the ICS host computer. In addition, if there are clients on your network with direct Internet connections, or if you have a stand-alone computer that is connected to the Internet, then it is recommended that you enable ICF or Windows Firewall on those Internet connections as well.

For more information about ICF, see Internet Connection Firewall. For more information about Windows Firewall, see Help: Windows Firewall.

Network Bridge

Network Bridge removes the need for routing and bridging hardware in a home or small office network that consists of multiple LAN segments. With Network Bridge, multiple LAN segments become a single IP subnet, even if the LAN segments are of mixed network media types. Network Bridge automates the configuration and management of the address allocation, routing, and name resolution that is typically required in a network that consists of multiple LAN segments.

For more information see Network Bridge.

Internet Connection Sharing (ICS)

ICS allows you to provide Internet access for a home or small office network by using one common connection as the Internet gateway. The ICS host is the only computer that is directly attached to the Internet. Multiple ICS clients simultaneously use the common Internet connection and benefit from Internet services as if the clients were directly connected to the Internet service provider (ISP) (for more information, see Dial-up credentials). Security is enhanced when ICS is enabled because only the ICS host computer is visible to the Internet. The addresses of ICS clients are hidden from the Internet rendering ICS clients invisible to the Internet. In addition, ICS simplifies the configuration of small networks by providing local private network services, such as name resolution and addressing.

For more information about ICS, see Connecting to the Internet in a home or small office network.


  • Internet Connection Sharing and Network Bridge are not included in Windows Server 2003, Web Edition; Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition; and the Itanium-based versions of the original release of the Windows Server 2003 operating systems.

  • Internet Connection Firewall is included only in the original releases of Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition, and Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition.

  • Windows Firewall is not included in the original release of the Windows Server 2003 operating systems.

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