am i able to connect devices like an external HD and printer to my network?
i want to be able to access files from my HD or print from the computers on my network
is this the same thing as a "homegroup?"
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As TNS_2 has said, this all depends on the devices themselves and if they can be shared with the network or not. If your printer has "Network Printing" then it should work.
As for your external HDD, what kind of hard drive is it? Can you only access it over USB, or is it a NAS (Network Attached Storage) type of hard drives (such as the Western Digital "My Cloud")
If it is USB only, you could use a computer to share it to the network, however that computer would have to be turned on when you want to be accessing it over the network.
How-To Geek has a pretty good write-up on how to share hard drives (and more!) on windows: http://www.howtogeek.com/school/windows-network-sharing/lesson9/all/