Wireless (or wired) home networking can be relatively straightforward or a complex nightmare. Think about it. If you’re like most families, you have a few smartphones with WiFi capabilities, a laptop or two (and maybe a desktop computer), not to mention an Apple TV or other media streaming player. There’s not really much you can use those devices for without a good home network, so let’s look at your options and figure out the best solution for you! 🙂
Today, we’re going to cover some potentially unfamiliar terms in the networking space, but don’t worry, I will help you better understand what they mean and how they apply to you. Some of those terms include: CAT5/6, broadband, router, modem, and WAN.
Let’s start with something easy. Wired Networks use ethernet cables to connect the computers in your home to the internet via a router. Already, we have two key components to your home network, which are Ethernet cables and routers, both of which work together to ensure you remain connected. You’ve likely heard the terms “router” and “modem” used in conjunction with your internet service, and most ISP’s (Internet Service Provider) provide a router/modem combination. To make it simple, a standalone router is a device with multiple ports used to connect to your local network and route traffic between devices. We’ll explore what a modem is later in this post. Ethernet cables (also known as a Category 5, or Cat 5) cable, carries broadband data signal across your modem, routers, computers, or other wired devices.
A modem basically acts as a bridge to carry the signal between your local network and the Internet. Depending on the type of modem you have, it can be connected to pull data from your service provider into the modem in a few different ways, such as telephone, cable, satellite, and now fiber. From here, you also have output options (ports on the modem used for sending that same data out to your local network). Those outputs can either be plugged in to a router or computer, depending on your needs and configurations.
I mentioned another new term: broadband. Broadband is defined as a high-capacity transmission method using a wide range of frequencies, enabling a large number of messages to be transmitted simultaneously.
😛 That’s a lot of mumbo jumbo, even for me. In plain English, broadband is the most common way to connect your computer to the internet. Broadband is essentially the replacement for what we all used to love so much, dial-up internet. (I’m kidding. If you don’t cringe when you hear that dial-up noise, you’re not human!) 😛
Also, be sure to understand that when you have all of these connections in place, the connections themselves are referred to as LAN, or Local Area Network. When you think of your Local Network, this is referring to the internet connection in your home. With that said, you now need to know about WAN, or Wide Access Network. This is basically your internet port. You use this port to connect to your broadband source, via modem.
Your broadband modem, as we said earlier, is the device that bridges your internet connection from your ISP to a router (or computer), which allows your internet to be accessible. You may also hear it referred to as a DSL or Cable Modem, depending on your service provider. I personally have a modem/router combo device provided by Comcast (my ISP) and most providers require you to pay a monthly fee for that device. I currently pay $10 per month, but the good news is that I can shop for a high-quality modem online or in-store and save that $10/month.
Moving on, wireless networking is the other method of delivering high-speed internet to your devices. As you’ve probably guessed, the difference between wired and wireless networking is,… no wires!! 🙂 The devices you use to access the internet in a wireless setting don’t rely on wired connections, but in its place you need what’s called an Access Point.
To put it simply, an access point is a separate device that sends out a WiFi (short for Wireless Fidelity) signal for WiFi-enabled devices to connect to it. Detecting the signal that is being broadcast from that access point (AP) is the other device you need, called a WiFi client (AKA WLAN client). The WiFi client, after detecting the signal from the AP, connects to that signal and holds the connection while you use the internet. Unless you’re using much older devices, the computers, smartphones and other devices come with built-in WiFi capabilities. Don’t worry if you have older devices, because you can easily find WiFi adapters to plug into your USB port that will pick up and connect a wireless signal to your computer!
There is plenty more detail that I could go into, like the different levels of wireless frequency bandwidths, wireless encryption, and current standards for WiFi signals. In a future post, I’ll discuss some important things regarding these networking topics that will help you further configure your network to meet your needs.
Until next time, remember that you can always leave questions or comments below. I would love to hear how you have your network set up!
*Please note: The product images/links are from Amazon.com and I am in no way affiliated with, nor do I receive any compensation for linking to this products, neither from Amazon or the product manufacturers. These items are general recommendations that I feel would be good for you.