There is essentially two ways of setting up a home network, wired or wireless. A wired network involves connecting up the computers using cables, and if often referred to as an Ethernet network. An Ethernet network transfers data at high speeds, faster than wireless networks as it is very rare for the connection to be interrupted.
Although data transfer speeds of 1 Gbps can be achieved, the average speed is 100 Mbps, and this is why you will often see "10/100" next to Ethernet ports on computers or in product data specs. A wireless network transfers data via radio waves and is the preferred, and most often convenient, method of setting up a home network. It is especially useful for the use of laptops as it allows the user to roam throughout the house, and even the garden, without having wires trailing behind them. A wireless network is often referred to as a Wi-Fi network, which stands for Wireless Fidelity and is based on the 802.11 wireless standard. It is also possible to create a home network which combines both wired and wireless technology.
There are distinct advantages and disadvantages as to whether you opt for a wired or wireless network in your home. A wireless network offers you more freedom to move around your house with your laptop and of course without the need to trail wires from each fixed computer. It is also easy to add more computers to the network without having the need to buy more networking equipment. However, where a wired network offers less freedom, it is cheaper to install and potentially faster due to the connection being rarely interrupted. A wireless network also has restricted boundaries, whereas a wired network is only restricted by the length of cables you have. In order to set up a home network you will need to purchase some specific hardware.
Knowing what hardware to buy is often quite daunting due to the amount on the market, and the fact that you do not know exactly what something is and what it does! Essentially the main piece of equipment that you will need is known as an ACCESS POINT. This is the small box with all the flashing lights that allows the connection between the computers in the network to take place. There are several types of Access Point, and although they essentially do the same job, the type you need (and you may need more than one) depends on your computer, internet connection and they type of network you wish to set up. To make sure that you choose the right Access Point, we have constructed a guide to the various pieces of hardware to ensure you purchase the parts you need to set up your own home network. Router: The most important piece of hardware on a home network setup.
The router is the part which routes the data to the computers on the network. It basically connects all the computers together so that they can share the internet connection and browse it at the same time. The router also acts as a line of defence between the internet and your computer.
Most have built-in software to protect your identity and your computer from viruses. Hub: The device used to connect the computers to the network via Ethernet cabling or via Wi-Fi. Wired hubs come with a number of ports which can transmit data at speeds ranging from 10 Mbps to multi-gigabyte speeds per second. The hub transmits the data it receives, often from the households' main computer, to the other computers that are connected to it. The amount of computers that can be connected to a hub depend on it size. The average hub can connect 4 computers.
A larger hub could connect nearer 50. A wireless hub can connect hundreds. Switch: This is a type of hub that controls the way that multiple devices use the same network so that each can operate at optimal performance. A switch acts as a networks traffic police: rather than transmitting all the packets of data it receives to all ports as a hub does, a switch transmits packets to only the receiving port. Switches are fast replacing hubs as a preferred choice of data management as prices are more in line with hub prices. NIC (Network Interface Card): A type of PC adapter card that either works without wires (Wi-Fi) or attaches to a network cable to provide two-way communication between the computer and network devices such as a hub or switch.
A Network interface card can be installed internally into a desktop PC or slotted into a Type 2 PCMCIA slot on a laptop or PDA. Combined switch/router: A popular choice of Access Point as it combines both the functionality of a router and switch in one unit.
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