Domestic computer networks can sometimes be as complex as small office ones, depending on the amount of net-enabled devices that you want to run. Smart phones, printers, tablets, notebooks and televisions can all demand access to your home broadband, so which network type makes the most sense in a home?
Wireless Home Networks – The Pros and Cons
Wireless networks are commonly referred to as WLANs and they tend to use a Wi-Fi connection between your home’s router, which transmits to all the devices in its vicinity. This means that multiple devices can connect and you are not limited to the number of physical ports your router has, apart from any computer accessories you might have. In addition, Wi-Fi offers a great deal of flexibility. Simply put, you can move your devices around from room to room and even set up in the garden so long as there is a sufficiently good signal and machines are well protected. There are different standards of Wi-Fi, such as 802.11b which is a standard option and 802.11a which is slightly faster but consequently more expensive.
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Although a wireless router is dearer than a normal one, there is usually a cost saving in a home environment because there is no need to run Ethernet cable around the house. Remember that some internet-enabled devices, like televisions, only have Ethernet ports and not Wi-Fi functionality, so you may face the cost of upgrading them if you opt to go entirely wireless. In addition, you need to consider security very carefully and to limit access to a wireless network, especially if you live close to public area. A final limiting factor of wireless networking is the range of the signal. A hundred meters can usually be expected, but reduce this figure if you live in a home with thick walls or with other obstructions.
Wired Home Networks – The Pros and Cons
Unlike wireless networks, wired ones can be shut off from the outside world other than the communications that enter it through your firewall. This means that – as long as you restrict physical access to your home – wired networks are more secure. In addition, reliability and network transmission speeds are that much higher. If you download and handle large files, like movies for instance, a wired network may be for you. However, one of the disadvantages is that wired networks need an infrastructure to work. In other words, you need to install Cat 5 or Cat 6 cable around your home. Chasing this into the walls of your home can be expensive, although a cheaper option is to hide it within trunking.
[Suggested reading: Understanding The Differences In Computer Cables]
Costs of a wired network installation vary according to the number of ports you want in your home and their locations relative to one another. Remember that moving a device around, once it is plugged in, is also much trickier. However, it is also possible to utilize the mains wiring of your home to run a network, which can reduce installation costs. In such cases, so-called powerline adapters, which are usually sold in pairs, convert a section mains wiring into a network cable, although you also need an Ethernet patch cable at either end to plug the device into the router. Cleverly, these adapters still allow you to use the socket to run power.
Because wireless home networks offer reduced costs and flexibility they can seem ideal. But to gain the best of both worlds use powerline adapters as well as a little Ethernet wiring to gain the faster speeds demanded of certain devices. A blend of the technology available makes sense in most homes.
[Image credit: caitlin, Flickr]